Vatican City (Fides Service) – “In all areas of Church life formation is of primary importance. People who have never had the chance to learn cannot really know the truths of faith, nor can they perform actions which they have never been taught. For this reason "the whole community needs to be trained, motivated and empowered for evangelisation, each according to his or her specific role within the Church".(141) This includes Bishops, priests, members of Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, members of Secular Institutes and all the lay faithful.
Missionary training has to have a special place. It is "the task of the local Church, assisted by missionaries and their Institutes, and by the personnel from the young Churches. This work must be seen not as peripheral but as central to the Christian life". » (Ecclesia in Africa, n.75).
The world of today places many challenges to Christians such as the uprooting of families, urbanisation, unemployment. Christians are also challenged by the powerful seduction of materialism in many fields, by creeping secularisation and intellectual decadence accentuated by an avalanche of ideas not sufficiently confuted and by the never ending influence of the media. Indispensable for tackling these challenges are growing in faith, that is, embracing the Mystery of Jesus letting Him take hold of our entire existence and draw us to follow Him and sound Christian formation in moral and social matters. However it is important to stress the centrality of a life of holiness. In fact personal holiness is the primary objective of all formation.
Formation given to pastoral workers must lead to Christian perfection. “Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect ” (Mt 5.47). The aim of Christian formation is to help Christians strive for ever fuller knowledge of Christ and the doctrine of the faith. Formation should lead Christians along a path of spiritual growth towards concrete spiritual maturity and wisdom of heart which is not learned from books, but is a gift of God. Good Christian formation imbues Christians with a desire to strive for authentic communion with God and to follow Christ putting their life and their energies at his service. It should lead them to enter with courage and out of love, into the Will of God, to be guided by this Will through the paschal mystery the only source of the Church’s fecundity in her evangelising mission. Over and above all the different roles in the Church, the holiness of all the baptised, pastoral workers especially, is leaven and hope for our world today. At the beginning of 2004, we pray therefore for our sanctification, “this, in fact, is the will of God” (cfr. 1 Th 4,3).
We turn to the Virgin Mother and to the Saints. Through Mary and the Saints, God speaks to all men and women of our day, showing them the path which, through the vicissitudes of the world, will make them more perfect images of his Son, messengers of the Good News and builders of God’s Kingdom on earth. The testimony of the lives of Mary Most Holy and all the saints is always valid. This testimony attracts, challenges and guides, because it reveals a transparent human experience filled with the presence of Christ, Son of God, the Holiest of holy "who shared our human condition in everything except sin. ” (cfr IV Eucharistic Prayer). Archbishop Robert Sarah
(Fides Service 29/12/2003, lines 38, words 546)