Castel Gandolfo (Fides Service) – Welcoming Uganda Bishops for their ad limina visit on 20 September Pope John Paul II said: “Your presence here today fills me with joy and brings back memories of my visit ten years ago to Uganda. Vividly etched in my mind are the various encounters with you and the faithful of your local communities, especially our gathering at the Shrine of the Ugandan Martyrs…” .
He continued, remarking on the violence in this country and the need to promote reconciliation and solidarity: “Sadly, parts of your country are currently embroiled in situations of armed conflict and anarchy. In the north especially, the bane of warfare is bringing untold misery, suffering and death, striking out even at the Church and targeting her ministers and her children. In the west and the northeast too episodes of violence and hostility afflict the land, draining the life and energies of your people. Assuring you and your people of my spiritual closeness in these dire circumstances, I join you in condemning every act of bloodshed and destruction”… “ The present political and social climate is a clarion call for concrete and far-reaching expressions of the collegial responsibility and communion that unite you in the service of the one "household of God" I urge you to do all that you can to foster among yourselves a true spirit of solidarity and fraternal concern, especially by sharing resources, both material and spiritual, with other local Churches that are in need.” The Pope encouraged the Church’s work in healthcare, education and development which “show clearly the Church’s commitment to the integral wellbeing of her sons and daughters and of all Ugandans regardless of religious creed”.
The Pope then recalled the priority of adequate formation – spiritual and doctrinal – of the laity who “must be effectively involved in the life of the parish and diocese, in pastoral and administrative structures” , and also efforts “aimed at overcoming tribal conflicts and ethnic tensions; for such rivalries have no place in the Church of Christ and serve only to weaken the overall fabric of society.” Among fields of apostolate requiring most attention, the Holy Father mentioned the family “the great antidote to the self-indulgence and sense of isolation so prevalent today”; youth: “The whole Catholic community must work to ensure that the younger generations are properly trained and adequately prepared to fulfil the responsibilities that will be theirs, and which in some ways already are theirs”; Catholic schools which must be “communities in which the faith is nourished and pupils are prepared for their mission in the Church and in society”; the formation of seminarians and religious men and women. “Nor can we fail to mention the catechists who play an essential part in meeting the spiritual needs of your communities – the Pope said - especially in those areas where there are simply not enough priests to preach the Gospel and exercise the pastoral ministry. They therefore need to have a deep awareness of their role and should be helped in every possible way to meet their responsibilities and obligations towards their own families”.
Lastly the Pope urged the Bishops to “walk always with those entrusted to your pastoral care, showing them a father’s love”, and he concluded: “Make it your aim always to bring your people to an ever deeper knowledge of their Christian faith and identity.” SL (Fides Service 22/9/2003 EM lines 45 Words: 598)