Malabo (Agenzia Fides) - "I am happy to be in this beautiful country, a land of a young and promising church, for a second pastoral visit ... I chose to begin my stay with this meeting in order to get in touch with the local Church through her pastoral agents. You are the main protagonists in the life of the Church and her mission in Equatorial Guinea". This is what Cardinal Fernando Filoni, Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples said during this morning’s meeting with priests, religious men and women of the Archdiocese of Malabo, the first act of his pastoral visit to Equatorial Guinea (see Fides 17/5/2017).
The Cardinal highlighted the encouraging aspects of the local ecclesial situation (dynamism and growth of faith, renewed interest for the Gospel and mission), fruit of the work of priests and religious, without silencing some problems, such as the mediocre spiritual life of the clergy, divisions, resentment, carrierism among the priests and consecrated. "As priests and religious, leaders of the local Church", recalled the Cardinal, "you are called to be 'salt and light' in this society, following the example of Jesus the Good Shepherd. You must live faithfully and with joy your priestly and religious identity".
Therefore the Prefect reiterated that "the Church by nature is missionary. For this reason, evangelization is a priority" and emphasized that the Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium "should be the reference point for the Church in Malabo and throughout Equatorial Guinea, called at the same time to a path of conversion and a strong commitment to evangelization".
"It is necessary to proclaim Christ, to go to the suburbs", the Cardinal said, emphasizing in particular the value of witnessing and three aspects related to it: spiritual, moral, and pastoral life. "The spiritual life of the priest and the religious must be animated and guided by the Spirit of God that leads us to sanctity, perfected by charity"; "the priest and the religious will welcome celibacy ‘with free and loving decision to renew continuously’, being aware of the weakness of their human condition"; "in order to dedicate the entire life and all the forces at the service of the Church, we need the pastoral charity of Jesus who gave his life to his flock. We must imitate Jesus in giving himself and in his service". The Prefect also thanked priests and religious "for the zeal they bring to evangelization" and encouraged them: "Let us go forward, animated by the common love for the Lord and for the Holy Mother Church".
At the end of the meeting, Cardinal Filoni presided the Mass for priests, religious men and women in "San Isabel" Cathedral of Malabo. "Love and self-giving are two terms that emerge from today's readings, which offer valuable and useful teaching on how to behave and relate to the ecclesial, priestly, and religious community", he pointed out in his homily, and recalled that "the Christian, priestly and religious vocation, is a free gift of God. This choice is neither for merit nor for high social or cultural conditions. It is part of the same mystery of God full of mercy and full of love. It must be understood and lived with truths of faith and acts of charity ".
In community life "those who seek their own happiness live in selfishness, and move away from love. Those who want to live in love must renounce their happiness and open up to others". The Cardinal continued: "against the divisions that may exist in your communities, against the rivalries, exclusion and the refusal of the other because of ethnic diversity, class, religion, or opinion, I urge you to receive Jesus’ message of love, which embraces, gives himself and forgives".
Cardinal Filoni concluded the homily by recommending to imitate the Holy Curse of Ars, "who taught his parishioners especially with the testimony of his life. His heart was deeply rooted in the love of God and of his brothers". (SL) (Agenzia Fides 19/5/2017)