Audience to Bishops from Africa January 31, 1994

Audience to Bishops from Africa January 31, 1994

S. John Paul II

Vatican City, Clementine Hall January 31, 1994

“One hundred years after the first evangelization, fertilized by the blood of the martyrs and by the testimony of many missionaries, Africa awaits new saints who carry the Gospel incarnated in them, new evangelizers with whom the Risen Christ acts confirming his word.” John Paul II has stressed this to the Cardinals and bishops of 30 African countries who participate in a Congress promoted by the Neocatechumenal Way. During the meeting, which took place on the morning of Monday, January 31 in the Clementine Hall, the Holy Father made the following address:

“Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate! Dearest brothers and sisters!

1. I welcome you with joy, dear Cardinals and bishops of 30 African nations, along with the initiators of the Neocatechumenal Way and numerous itinerant catechists who work on the African continent for the Kingdom of God. Peace be with you all. On the threshold of the third Christian millennium, you have gathered in Rome to ask the Lord for a new missionary impulse with a view to the Assembly of the Synod of Bishops of Africa, which will be held next April. Also on your young and dynamic continent, the Church looks forward to a broader and deeper acceptance of the theological-pastoral riches rediscovered by Vatican II. Today’s humanity needs a testimony that touches the heart. Only in this way will the new man be born. Only in this way will there be neither the Jew nor the Greek, neither the slave nor the free, neither male nor female, neither black nor white (cf. Col 3, 10s; Gal 3:28). The new man overcomes natural religiosity, his fear of the divine and the continuous temptation to venerate God for the sole purpose of obtaining an easy and safe life. The “naturally” religious man does not yet know the deep dimension of Christianity.

The African continent is experiencing, in this regard, a moment of historical significance. And this represents for you a “favorable time”, long awaited and prepared, in which the ecclesial communities are called to fully manifest their “walk together”. The impending meeting certainly constitutes an event providential, which is inserted in the promising pastoral station of the New Evangelization. Africa also needs a catechumenal itinerary that exceeds the natural religiosity and lead to true faith. In the Church of the first centuries this happened with the peoples of the Mediterranean basin,also fervent of a natural religiosity and at the same time ready to accept the evangelical message. The Gospel sows in the heart of man the charitas, love as Christ has loved us, the divine love, total love, love of the enemy as Jesus did, who gave His life for us when we were enemies of God (cf. Rm 5, 10). Love, which makes different men one thing, so that the world may believe that Jesus Christ is the one sent by the Father (cf. Jn 17).One hundred years after the first evangelization, fertilized by blood of the martyrs and for the testimony of so many missionaries, Africa hopes new saints who carry the Gospel incarnated in them, new evangelizers with whom the Risen Christ acts confirming his word (cf. Me 16, 20).

2. Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate! As bishops, you are above all “apostles”, sent to announce the Good News! You are primarily responsible for the proclamation of Christ in the Church. Such responsibility essentially involves two fundamental attentions: the first, that Christ be announced; the second, that the announcement, so to speak, “take shape” in the concrete life of people. We touch here a central knot of the pastoral: that of the so-called inculturation of the faith.

Evangelization, in effect, is renewed there where Christ is announced with the power of the Spirit and at the same time with sincere love for man and his history. Well, between the providential instruments of this inculturation is also the Neocatechumenal Way. I see with joy that in many of your diocese, in diverse cultures, such as in Zambia, in Zaire, on the Ivory Coast and in other nations, produces its fruits. Small communities have been formed in which the family is sustained and helped in its mission fundamental to proclaim Christ carrying the Cross of salvation in Him.

3. The Pastor, sent to discern and value the gifts given for the growth of the community, will watch, especially, so that the relationship between kerygma and local culture and the relationship between parish communities are raised in a timely manner. It is above all the duty of the bishop to guide the basic options on the Neocatechumenal Way, which, having been born and having developed in European and Latin American environments, needs the guidance of enlightened African pastors or expert missionaries to be adapted to the particular and missionary demands of the different nations.

Regarding the intra-ecclesial relations between the Neocatechumenal Communities and the parish, Providence has come to meet you, dear brothers, precisely through the synod experience. “Synod”, in fact, means “path made together”. Christianity, according to the primitive denomination, is itself the “way”. The Neocatechumenal itinerary, which has chosen this beautiful name of “way”, is put at the service of the rediscovery of the “way” of the Gospel, first of all for those who are far away. Therefore, it can be valued for the building of a parish capable of forming adults firmly grafted into Christ, in his word and in his Mysteries. I think of the exhortations of the apostle Paul to the Thessalonians: “Do not quench the Spirit” (1Ts 5, 19) and to the Corinthians: “All things must be done for edification” (1Co 14, 26). It is necessary to “walk together”, harmonizing the ecclesial communities and groups in order to grow the entire parish community under the guidance of the pastor and his collaborators.

The Neocatechumenal Way, well inserted in the pastoral plan of the community, in harmony with the other charismsthat act in it, will contribute effectively to print in the parishes the typical style of the New Evangelization: style made of essentiality and radical immersion in the mystery of Christ dead and risen and of brave openness to the needs of contemporary man.

4. From such renewed missionary action the family is undoubtedly a primary subject in the double sense of recipient and at the same time vehicle of the Good News. Such stupendous reality, which manifested itself immediately in the primitive community, has returned to full evidence after the Second Vatican Council, and represents a true supporting structure of the Church of all times. Isn’t it the family the natural cradle of saints? Do not vocations sprout more easily in a family faithful to the Gospel?

Within the Neocatechumenal Way, numerous families, driven by the strength of the word of God and by participation in the holy mysteries, have generously embraced the demands of the mission, offering precious help to you pastors, who are seeking not only priests and catechists, but also spouses and families capable of giving voice and heart to the message of salvation. Beloved, may Mary the Virgin of the Way help you and accompany you in your missionary effort. She, who undertook a journey to offer her elderly relative Elizabeth the fullness of charity and joy that she was filled with (cf. Lk 1, 39-45), make your service generous and rich in fruits for the edification of the ecclesial communities of Africa.

Walk in fidelity to Christ and to the brothers. Walk together! I bless you all from my heart ».

After the address to the participants in the meeting of the bishops of Africa, the Pope added:

“I would like to offer everyone present the blessing: to the Pastors, to so many bishops and priests, and to the representatives of the laity, especially families. I see many Europeans, but above all you can see the color black! This time on the Neocatechumenal Way the color black is a sign of hope. I thank you for the visit and I want to offer a blessing to everyone. Before we can recite the Angelus in Latin. You still study this language a little.

– Angelus prayer

Now the songs continue! The songs are an indispensable element in your Way, especially when Kiko is present.

Song: “Give thanks to the Lord”