Children gather around a South African helicopter that dropped food supplies to families affected by flooding in Quelimane, Mozambique, Jan. 20. Pope Francis urged the Togo bishops to spend time with their people to share the positive aspects of family life, such as a culture of new life and respect for elders, in Africa. CNS photo/Kevin Sutherland, EPA

Church must promote dialogue, education, families in Africa, Pope says

By  Cindy Wooden, Catholic News Service
  • May 11, 2015

VATICAN CITY - Promoting dialogue, education and strong families, the Catholic Church in Africa fulfills its mission to proclaim God's love and to work for the common good, Pope Francis said in separate meetings with the bishops of Mozambique and of Togo.

The bishops were making their "ad limina" visits to the Vatican to report on the situations in their dioceses in meetings with the Pope and Vatican officials.

"Jesus asks only one thing of you," Pope Francis told the bishops of Mozambique May 9: "Go out, seek and encounter those most in need."

Although Mozambique's civil war ended more than 20 years ago, he told the bishops that "tensions and conflict have undermined the social fabric and destroyed families and, especially, the future of thousands of young people."

"The most effective way to tackle the mentality of arrogance and inequality, as well as social divisions, is to invest in an education that teaches young people to think critically and helps them mature in values," the Pope said.

Pope Francis urged the bishops to strengthen their pastoral work at universities and other schools and support projects to help young people learn a skill and mature as responsible adults ready to take their place in society.

To truly understand what their people need, he said, bishops must spend time with them and must listen to the priests' council, the pastoral council and the finance council of their dioceses. The bodies are there "to advise and help you," the Pope said, and "it is unimaginable that a bishop would not have these diocesan organizations."

Meeting the bishops of Togo May 11, Pope Francis focused on the family and on meetings held in Togo to help the bishops prepare for the world Synod of Bishops on the family in October. He encouraged the Togo bishops to share with the wider church the positive aspects of family life in Africa, particularly the openness to new life and the respect shown to elders.

"This heritage must be preserved and serve as an example and encouragement for others," Pope Francis said.

In a country where half the population follows traditional African religions, close to 30 per cent are Catholic and about 20 per cent are Muslim, polygamy is still widespread.

The Pope told the bishops, "I encourage you to persevere in your efforts to support families in their difficulties, including through education and social work, and prepare couples for the demanding but beautiful commitment of Christian marriage."

Togo, he said, has not been "spared the ideological and media attacks that have spread everywhere today, offering models of union and families incompatible with the Christian faith."

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