West African Bishops Exhorted to Work for Peace

Pope Says Charity, Interreligious Dialogue and Family Are Keys

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VATICAN CITY, FEB. 18, 2003 (Zenit.org).- John Paul II underlined the Church's commitment to the promotion of peace in Liberia, Gambia and Sierra Leone by highlighting the importance of charitable aid, genuine interreligious dialogue and the family.



The Pope addressed these issues when he met with the bishops of the three west African countries, which have been devastated by violence and war in the past decade.

"I call on you, my brother bishops, to work tirelessly for reconciliation," the Pope said in his address Saturday.

The Pontiff encouraged the bishops "to bear authentic witness to unity by gestures of solidarity and support for the victims of decades of violence."

"The Church, which has suffered enormously from these conflicts, must maintain her strong stance in order to protect those who have no voice," he stressed.

Aware of the tragic situation of millions of refugees, the Holy Father urged the bishops "to continue to love and care for these brothers and sisters just as you would for the Holy Family, reminding them always that their condition makes them no less important in God's eyes."

Referring to relations between Christian communities, African traditional religions and Islam, the Pope pointed out the need to foster "an attitude of mutual respect which avoids religious indifference and militant fundamentalism."

In his message John Paul II also highlighted the family as a fundamental element of African culture and "the source of hope and stability."

In Liberia, Gambia and Sierra Leone the family is being threatened "by widespread polygamy, divorce, abortion, prostitution, human trafficking and a contraceptive mentality," the Pope warned.

"These same factors contribute to irresponsible and immoral sexual activity leading to the spread of AIDS, a pandemic which cannot be ignored, " he added. "Not only is this disease destroying countless lives, but it is threatening the social and economic stability of the African continent."