Pope to CAR bishops: Promote inter-religious dialogue
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Friday (May 15th) urged Catholic bishops of the Central African Republic (CAR) to promote inter-religious dialogue and peaceful co-existence and encourage their flock to respond to hatred and violence with forgiveness and love. The Pope’s appeal came in a speech that was handed to the bishops of the African nation during an audience with him in the Vatican. CAR is just emerging from two years of violent conflict between Muslim and Christian armed groups that killed thousands of people and displaced around a million others.
Listen to this report by Susy Hodges:
In his address to the CAR bishops who are in Rome on their ad-limina visit, Pope Francis referred to the recent sectarian violence in the African nation and the huge suffering this has caused to many of its population. He said he was particularly grateful for the assistance that many Catholic communities provided to victims of the violence and to those who were displaced. “Your task is difficult,” he told the bishops but stressed that when violence and hatred are unleashed, that’s when Christians “are called to respond with forgiveness and love.” The Pope expressed regret that this was “not always the case” during the recent fighting and said this was a sign that “the Gospel has not yet penetrated sufficiently deeply into the hearts of the people everywhere” to prompt them to “change their reflexes and behaviour.”
Despite this, Pope Francis urged the bishops not to feel discouraged by the conflict that has swept through their nation but instead find through faith and hope, a renewed sense of enthusiasm and dynamism to continue their work of evangelization.
Referring to the ongoing efforts to guide the CAR towards peace, the Pope said the bishops have an “irreplaceable prophetic” role to play in bearing witness to the key values of justice, truth, honesty which form the cornerstone of any renewal process. In this context, he also urged them to continue their efforts “to promote dialogue and peaceful co-existence between members of different religions and ethnic groups,” saying this will encourage reconciliation and social cohesion.
Turning next to the question of priestly formation, Pope Francis said there was a need for a particular emphasis on the human and affective formation of the seminarians so that they are able to remain faithful to their celibacy vows, saying no compromise on this can be accepted.
The Pope’s address concluded with words of encouragement and support for the family, which he described as the best place to learn to practice the culture of forgiveness, peace and reconciliation which is so badly needed in the CAR.