The Holy See
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Saturday, 18 February 2006

Your Eminence, Cardinal Gabriel Wako,
Your Excellency, Dominique Mamberti, Apostolic Nuncio in Sudan,
My dear Bishops,

Together with my cordial regards, I would like, once again, to express my gratitude for the invitation to visit this Country and the Church in Sudan. On behalf of the Holy Father, Benedict XVI, I am here among you to show his solidarity with you and the Church's concern for the deplorable situation you have encountered in your pastoral ministry. I extend to you his greetings and his special Apostolic Blessing.

Moreover, I want to assure you that the Holy Father is following with particular attention all that is happening and continues to pray for your Country which has suffered a serious regression in the various aspects of life because of hatred, war and religious extremism. Yes, the whole Church is with you and supports you in faith and in charity.

In actual fact, I have always been impressed by your pastoral zeal and readiness to continue the evangelizing mission, despite the situation of unrest, insecurity and socio-political difficulties that for more than two decades have characterized your Country.

I must admit that there are many encouraging signs of the activity of the Church, which I have seen not only in the Quinquennial reports you sent in view of the visit ad limina Apostolorum in 2003, but also in the various reports and information our offices have been receiving from you.

I thank you for the pastoral, apostolic and social activities you are carrying out in order to make the Church in the Sudan a real instrument of salvation to the people who benefit from her services. The involvement of the Church in the social realm of life has been a positive response to the call of Pope John Paul II, as expressed in the Apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia in Africa" proclaim Jesus Christ is therefore to reveal to the people their inalienable dignity", and it makes them understand that "endowed with this extraordinary dignity, people should not live in sub-human social, economic, cultural and political conditions". Such a duty, as affirmed by the Pope, is "for the defence of personal dignity, for justice and social peace, for the promotion, liberation and integral human development of all people and every individual" (n. 69).

In your Reports and Pastoral Letters you have delineated for your Church and for yourselves very concrete obligations that are designed to defeat the evils within your society which developed as a result of the long-standing civil war.

Here, it is enough to think of what has happened in the Darfur region, not to mention the other parts of your Country, where there has been endless violence, guerrilla wars, acts of vandalism, etc., that do not spare the structures of the Church, as has happened in the majority of your dioceses. In this complex situation, your Church has and is still called upon to bear witness to Christ, by taking courageous and prophetic stands in the face of all these phenomena (cf. Redemptoris Missio, n. 43).

Do not be afraid and be assured of the Church's presence among you, indeed, the presence of God who is working through her and all those people of good will, who are disposed to collaborate with her to promote the Gospel of love, justice and peace as it was affirmed by His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI in his Message for this year's celebration of the World Day of Peace:  "The United Nations Organization must become a more efficient instrument for promoting the values of justice, solidarity and peace in the world. For her part, the Church, in fidelity to the mission she has received from her Founder, is committed to proclaiming everywhere "the Gospel of peace'. In the firm conviction that she offers an indispensable service to all those who strive to promote peace, she reminds everyone that, if peace is to be authentic and lasting, it must be built on the bedrock of the truth about God and the truth about man. This truth alone can create a sensitivity to justice and openness to love and solidarity, while encouraging everyone to work for a truly free and harmonious human family. The foundations of authentic peace rest on the truth about God and man" (1 Jan. 2006).

I am very pleased to read in the minutes of the Meetings of the Episcopal Conferences, as well as in the few pastoral letters we receive, to see the way you have embarked upon analysing the social reality, followed by concrete initiatives and plans that are intended to respond to social demands.

Your last message to the people we received last year:  "The Time is now to make everything New" of October 2004, is very indicative of your commitment to changing the society while inviting the Church in the Sudan to be the agent of needed change.

Moreover, this concern in the social area of life should not be an end in itself; it should rather give rise and lead to the proclamation of the Good News to non-believers, as well as strengthening the faith and the missionary spirit among the Catholics and to consolidating the image and role of the Church. It is extremely important to give a solid formation to the faithful in order to protect them from the proselytism and influence of other religions, from the proliferation of sects, and from the attitude of persisting in traditions that do not conform to the Gospel.

And here I appeal to you to take care of the image of the Christian family which is also undergoing a crisis of identity. A healthy family, that embraces Christian values and is spiritually assisted, is also a future for the Church and will give vocations to the priesthood and to the consecrated life.

In this complex social and religious situation, I invite you to strengthen the spirit of communion among you, in order to face together different pastoral challenges such as developing a common project for the Catholic University and facing the problem of marriage.

Moreover, I invite you to pay special care and attention to the life and the ministry of your priests. It is urgent to have holy priests who are convinced of their vocation and of their choice. I thank you, in a special way, for the programme of "Healing the Healers" you developed in order to help the Church's personnel, including priests who have suffered a serious trauma attributed to the civil war.

Of no less importance is the area of the institutes of men and women religious who are ministering in your dioceses and are indispensable, given the urgent need of reconstruction and ever-consolidated evangelization in the Sudan.

It is necessary to help them, and work closely with them as you struggle to address the challenges of this Country today. Special importance should also be given to the role the lay faithful have to play in the Church of Sudan. The emphasis you put on the training of catechists has already been noted and is appreciated.

I would like to conclude, thanking you for the pastoral duties you have until now carried out and to encourage you to continue doing the same mission so that your Church may grow in the ecclesial, missionary and evangelical spirit. I exhort you to promote the spirit of collaboration and unity within the Conference and with all the pastoral agents who are cooperating in your pastoral ministry.

On this point, I wish to recall the words of Pope John Paul II, when he wrote in the Apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia in Africa that the evangelization and credibility of the Church depended "upon Bishops and priests who followed Christ's example and could give witness of an exemplary life; upon truly faithful men and women religious, authentic witnesses by their way of living the evangelical counsels; upon a dynamic laity, with deeply believing parents, educators conscious of their responsibilities and political leaders animated by a profound sense of morality" (n. 22).

Thank you for your attention and may the good Lord bless you.