Bishops Urged to Promote Reconciliation in Rwanda

Benedict XVI Meets Prelates at Vatican

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VATICAN CITY, MAY 22, 2005 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI encouraged the bishops of Rwanda to work tirelessly to instill the Gospel in their nation which was torn by genocide a decade ago.



The Pope directed this message to the Rwandan bishops whom he met Saturday at the conclusion of their five-yearly visit to the Holy See.

In response to the words addressed to him on behalf of the prelates by Bishop Alexis Habiyambere, president of the Rwandan episcopal conference, Benedict XVI expressed words of hope for the citizens "harshly tried by the 1994 genocide and its consequences."

The tragedy broke out April 7 that year, when clashes took place between Hutus and Tutsis. In just three months, 800,000 people were massacred and 3 million fled the country.

The Holy Father appealed to Rwandan Catholics to "remain firm in the faith, persevere in the hope that the risen Christ gives, overcoming all temptations to discouragement."

"To work actively in peace and reconciliation, you must give preference in particular to a pastoral program of closeness, founded on the commitment of small lay communities in the Church's missionary pastoral endeavor in harmony with pastors," he told the bishops.

Warns of sects

Benedict XVI continued: "I encourage you to support these communities so that the faithful will accept the truths of faith and its exigencies, developing in this way a more intense ecclesial and spiritual life, without allowing any falling away from the Gospel of Christ, in particular, because of the numerous sects present in the country."

About 48% of the central African nation's 8.4 million inhabitants are Catholics.

The Pope told the bishops: "Work tirelessly so that the Gospel will penetrate ever more profoundly in the heart and life of believers, inviting the faithful to assume increasingly their responsibility in society, in particular in the field of the economy and politics, with a moral sense nourished by the Gospel and the social doctrine of the Church."