VATICAN CITY, 5 MAR 2010 (VIS) - This morning in the Vatican, the Holy Father received bishops from the Uganda Episcopal Conference, who have just completed their "ad limina" visit. Before beginning his remarks to them, the Holy Father mentioned the recent landslides in the Bududa region of the country, saying "I offer prayers to Almighty God, the Father of all mercies, that He may grant eternal rest to the souls of the deceased, and give strength and hope to all who are suffering the consequences of this tragic event".
He then turned his attention to the Second Special Assembly for Africa of the Synod of Bishops, held last autumn. It was, he said, "memorable in its call for renewed efforts in the service of a more profound evangelisation of your continent. The power of the word of God and the knowledge and love of Jesus cannot but transform people's lives by changing for the better the way they think and act.
"In the light of the Gospel message", he added, "you are aware of the need to encourage the Catholics of Uganda to appreciate fully the Sacrament of marriage in its unity and indissolubility, and the sacred right to life. I urge you to help them, priests as well as the lay faithful, to resist the seduction of a materialistic culture of individualism which has taken root in so many countries. Continue to call for lasting peace based on justice, generosity towards those in need and a spirit of dialogue and reconciliation".
And he continued his English-language remarks to the prelates: "While promoting true ecumenism, be especially close to those who are more vulnerable to the advances of sects. Guide them to reject superficial sentiments and a preaching that would empty the cross of Christ of its power; in this way you will continue, as responsible pastors, to keep them and their children faithful to the Church of Christ. ... Continue to sustain all who with generous hearts assist displaced persons and orphans from war-torn areas. Encourage those who care for people afflicted by poverty, AIDS and other diseases, teaching them to see in those whom they serve the suffering face of Jesus.
"Renewed evangelisation gives rise in turn to a deeper Catholic culture which takes root in the family", said the Pope, noting how the bishops' reports show that "programmes of education in parishes, schools and associations, and your own interventions on topics of common interest, are spreading a stronger Catholic culture. Great good can come from well-prepared lay people who are active in the media, in politics and culture", he explained, highlighting how such people need to be well versed in Catholic social doctrine.
"Bishops, as the first agents of evangelisation, are called to bear clear witness to the practical solidarity born of our communion in Christ. In a spirit of Christian charity dioceses that enjoy more resources, both materially and spiritually, should assist those that have less. At the same time, all communities have a duty to strive for self-sufficiency. It is important that your people develop a sense of responsibility towards themselves, their community and their Church, and become more deeply imbued with a Catholic spirit of sensitivity to the needs of the universal Church".
The Holy Father concluded: "Your priests, as committed ministers of evangelisation, already benefit greatly from your fatherly concern and guidance. In this Year for Priests ... exhort them to prayer and vigilance, especially with regard to self-centred, worldly or political ambitions, or excessive attachment to family or ethnic group. Continue promoting vocations, providing for due discernment of candidates and for their proper motivation and formation. ... Priests and religious require constant support in their lives of celibacy and consecrated virginity. By your own example, teach them of the beauty of this way of life, of the spiritual fatherhood and motherhood with which they can enrich and deepen the love of the faithful for the Creator and Giver of all good gifts".
AL/.../UGANDA VIS 20100305 (670)