Lusaka (Agenzia Fides) - Cardinal Fernando Filoni ended his pastoral visit to Malawi, and arrived in Zambia yesterday afternoon, November 7, and immediately met the Bishops' Conference, in Lusaka, conveying Pope Francis’s personal greeting as well as his Apostolic Blessing. As Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, the Cardinal thanked the Episcopal Conference for the cordial welcome and for their dedicated service to the Church’s mission.
"What a joy it is to be here with you - said the Cardinal -, in the midst of your Jubilee Celebration of 125 years of Catholicism in Zambia, inaugurated this past August! Dear brothers, you are standing on the shoulders of the great missionaries who so boldly and selflessly labored to bring the Good News to this blessed land".
He then quoted the tireless commitment of Fr. Van Oosten, M.Afr., and of his confreres, who despite malaria and poor living conditions, founded the first mission, and the first Bishop consecrated in Zambia, Mgr. Joseph Dupont, M.Afr. Following the lead of these first missionary fathers, many men and women have continued the work of evangelization here in Zambia up to the present day. "Each of you, dear brothers, must continue to assume the personal responsibility to evangelize", urged the Cardinal, saying he was pleased to hear that "the Church here in Zambia still enjoys a strong missionary spirit".
In his speech, Cardinal Filoni stressed the importance of the Apostolic Exhortation "Evangelii Gaudium" of Pope Francis, and recalled what the Pope said to the Bishops of Zambia on their ad Limina visit in 2014 and reiterated the timeliness of the Ad Gentes conciliar Decree. After emphasizing the common duty of every baptized person to be a witness of Christ, and in particular for the Bishop to promote, direct and coordinate missionary activity in his diocese, as well as encourage all the members of the People of God to participate in the work of evangelization, the Cardinal pointed out that "the path of evangelization is not easy". "As in many places around the world - he continued - here you are facing particular challenges regarding threats against family life and the Gospel values inherent in it". He then urged the Bishops to continue to support the "sanctuary of life" which is the family, with patience and firmness, also "missionary patience will also help promote a culture of dialogue, of which Pope Francis often speaks and which is much-needed on a social and political level here in Zambia".
Cardinal Filoni then encouraged the Bishops with regards to some particular aspects. First of all he commended them for using radio to spread the Gospel as well as their recent initiatives to involve the use of television. Then he recommended the promotion of priestly vocations accompanied by serious discernment and proper formation in seminaries, thanks to the guidance of priests who have deep human, spiritual and pastoral qualities. "In this light, I commend you for the efforts already undertaken, with the aid of the Pontifical Society of St. Peter, to properly form your priests for this important work", he noted.
He then warned the Bishops of Zambia on the need "to overcome temptations to distrust and skepticism caused by cultural differences", highlighting the importance of seeking and maintaining fraternal communion, important for the unity of the People of God and the Zambian society at large. Finally, he urged to always strive to love with a fatherly and brotherly love all those whom God entrusts to them, especially for priests, and to remain always present and available to the lay faithful, "who are an integral part in the work of evangelization in Zambia". (SL) (Agenzia Fides 08/11/2016)