Vatican City (Fides Service) – Receiving on 17 June the Bishops of Burkina Faso and Niger, who form one Conference, for their visit ad limina, Pope John Paul II launched a new appeal to the international community “to manifest concretely and permanently its support for the sorely tried people of the Sahel”. In fact because of difficult climatic conditions in the area and progressive desertification, the people here live in growing poverty and desperation. Nevertheless “the missionary vitality of your diocesan Churches has expressed itself in various ways” the Pope said, mentioning the recent Centenary of the evangelisation of in the region in 2000. “While giving thanks with you for the patient and courageous work of the first missionaries with the help of valorous catechists, I encourage the Pastors and faithful to show that they are worthy of their successors – said the Holy Father -, giving rise to Christian communities ever more joyous and attractive, signs of communion and brotherhood”.
Pope John Paul II then underlined that “ evangelisation is a fundamental mission for the Church” and “ehe proclamation of the Gospel cannot be fully achieved without the contribution of all believers at all levels of the Particular church”. Among the priorities of evangelisation the Pope spoke of the development of “a missionary conscience in the heart of every believer” and inculturation “so that the Church may incarnate the Gospel in the different cultures”. The vitality and testimony of Basic Christian Communities bears witness to the Church’s commitment to pastoral of inculturation, but at the same time it is necessary to pay attention to certain threats: tendency to return to ancient customs, difficulty in considering themselves members of the same family saved by Christ, the dangers of modern civilisation which weaken family ties. The Pope recommended “Christians to find new energy to overcome obstacles to the proclamation of the Gospel and to work effectively for its inculturation: it is essential that the faith is ever more firmly rooted and educated”.
To help the laity to realise their role in the Church, promote the dignity of Christian marriage, help families to educate their children prepare young couples for matrimony, give special care to the formation of candidates to the priesthood, cultivate dialogue with Islam: these were some of the pastoral priorities underlined by the Pope who also recalled “the difficult conditions” in which priests are often called to carry out their ministry and he praised the Bishops for being close to their clergy. He also voiced satisfaction for the sending of priests and lay missionaries to neighbouring local Churches: “I hope that the spirit of communion thus created…may give new missionary impulse to your diocesan communities and preserve their bold desire to spread the Kingdom of God”. SeeSL (Fides Service 18/6/2003 EM lines 35 Words: 451)