Bata (Agenzia Fides) - On the last day of his pastoral visit to Equatorial Guinea on Thursday, May 25, Cardinal Filoni spent the day in the diocese of Bata, where he celebrated Mass in the Cathedral, in the Solemnity of the Ascension, he then met priests, religious men and women.
"Today, in this Church of Bata, the words of Jesus resound again, as soon as they are heard and addressed to his disciples on the Day of Resurrection. The Risen Jesus sends his disciples on a mission. He sends them to all peoples to evangelize and baptize", said the Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples at the beginning of his homily. After reiterating that "the Church was born to evangelize and this mission is open to all baptized, no one excluded," he recalled the beginning of evangelization of Equatorial Guinea, paying the first missionaries "a tribute of gratitude and esteem for the great work of evangelization carried out".
He then highlighted the essential interweaving between mission and testimony: "Mission is carried out through testimony ... Each according to his or her own identity, Christian or religious, is called to bear witness to the Risen Christ. We are all called to be the light of the world and the salt of the earth to illuminate the darkness of our world: for example think of the immorality of every day, drug use, theft as a system of life, sorcery, violence within family and in society, to those who sow discord and confusion in faith".
To lay persons, the Cardinal recalled that "the Church accomplishes its mission in particular through its lay members, who make it present and active in the life of the world", and told them: "You lay people have a great role to play in society. I urge you whole heartedly to assume your responsibilities in the political, economic and social fields. Be careful of sects".
In the concluding part of the homily, Cardinal Filoni urged those present: "As members of this Church, you are invited to contribute to its growth. I urge you to witness the Gospel with courage, bringing hope to the poor, the suffering, the abandoned, the desperate, those who have thirst for love, freedom, truth and peace". Finally, he encouraged: "Do not be afraid of the demands of the mission, reject fears and uncertainties, for the Lord Jesus himself has made us a solemn promise: 'And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age' (Matt. 28, 20)".
In the afternoon the Cardinal met the clergy, religious men and women of the Diocese of Bata before returning to Malabo and then leave from here for Rome. "I express my gratitude and appreciation for your active presence and your generous commitment to the evangelizing work, the diocesan pastoral care, and in particular in catechesis, in the world of education and health. Your diverse and multi-faceted pastoral activities are a precious and necessary aid to the missionary activity of the Church", said the Prefect. He then went back to emphasize "the fundamental need for the witness that the Church is called to give to the world. And if the testimony of the Church is required from all its members, it is required in particular from priests and consecrated persons, by virtue of the special union with Christ ... To be, today and in this country, true witnesses to the vivifying presence of his Love, it is imperative for priests and consecrated persons, to return to the source, namely to Christ, in order to do well in the future".
After reiterating that priests and consecrated persons are called to "bring the joy of the Gospel to the poor", the Cardinal continued: "Evangelical poverty makes us overcome all selfishness and teaches us to trust in the Providence of God. True poverty teaches us to be in solidarity with our people, to know how to share with charity. It also expresses itself in a sobriety of life, and warns us of material idols that obscure the authentic meaning of life".
Among the reasons of concern, the Cardinal Prefect mentioned, in particular, "the exodus of priests to European countries, who after their studies no longer return to serve their Diocese. The refusal of priests and religious to reach some places where they are sent because they are distant or poorer places, is equally disturbing", and warned: "the search for the well-being of ourselves is a danger we must look at. It is a counter-testimony for priests and consecrated persons to get involved in business, looking for some materialistic interests".
Cardinal Filoni concluded his speech with an exhortation to the clergy and to the religious: "Make the announcement of the Gospel joyful with all your person in poverty, chastity and obedience. Evils that afflict our societies and appease the face of the Church cannot be defeated except through the rediscovery and the experience of the evangelical values of poverty, chastity and obedience. And you, you are called to be the models". (SL) (Agenzia Fides 26/5/2017)