Luanda (Agenzia Fides) – On Sunday, November 18, Cardinal Fernando Filoni, Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, presided at the solemn Eucharistic Concelebration of thanksgiving in the parish of N.S. of Fatima in Luanda, for the conclusion of the celebrations of the 50th anniversary of the Episcopal Conference of Angola and São Tomé (CEAST), main reason for his pastoral visit (see Fides, 9/11/2018).
In the afternoon, during the meeting with the Bishops, the Prefect of the Missionary Dicastery recalled the joy expressed by the liturgical assembly, which "manifests the vitality of your Church", and continued: "In this joyful atmosphere, dear Brothers in the Episcopate, I wish to express once more gratitude and concern for your Church. I am happy to live with you this particular moment, as episcopal body of the two countries, thanking the Lord for the fifty years since the creation of the Episcopal Conference".
Therefore the Cardinal recalled that the promotion of the African ecclesiastical hierarchy and the valorisation of African cultures were the concern of Pope Paul VI, and the role of "spiritual lung" for humanity assigned to Africa by Pope Benedict XVI. "The Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, embracing this ardent and prophetic aspiration of the last Popes, rejoices in the continuous progress in this dynamic of growth towards an increasingly responsible Church" emphasized the Cardinal, recalling the tireless work of the missionaries who contributed decisively to the current positive and encouraging aspects, such as the increase in vocations and lay faithful engaged in apostolic movements.
The joy for the growth of the Church in Angola and São Tomé must however lead us to look ahead, to the pastoral work that awaits us, with its challenges ad intra and ad extra, to be faced with a new missionary zeal. Among these, Cardinal Filoni cited the lack of spiritual life and the desire to make a career regarding some priests and consecrated persons, the decline of moral life, the lack of seriousness with which one lives celibacy and chastity ... "Even among lay people, despite the traditional and cultural values of families, we begin to see a growing relativistic culture, where there is indifference towards the poor. Among young people, a culture that transmits the logic of the provisional and favors the so-called individual rights begins to establish itself ".
"These, and others, are the challenges to be faced, but in great communion and collaboration among yourselves", highlighted the Prefect of the Missionary Dicastery, emphasizing that "union within the Episcopal Conference is essential", and that "episcopal communion is first of all a missionary communion, as well as ecclesial communion.
The latter comes from the encounter with the Son of God, Jesus Christ. The Church becomes 'communion' from the Eucharist and an authentically Eucharistic Church is a missionary Church". Hence he urged the Bishops to "always foster the missionary communion in their diocesan Church".
The paternity and brotherhood of the Bishop, he continued, must be expressed first of all towards priests, his first and direct collaborators, making them feel members of a single family: being always available for them, helping them in difficulties, taking care of their formation , and taking them back when needed, like a good father does. It is then necessary for the Bishop to take care of new vocations, making sure that the seminaries are guided by men of God and capable and mature formators, spiritually and culturally prepared.
The diocesan communion must also manifest itself in the constant collaboration with the religious, men and women. "In your countries, you have a good presence of institutes of consecrated life, also thanks to the historical help of Portugal - said the Cardinal -. These years of untiring missionary work, of formative, educational and catechetical work, of silent work in the field of health, really deserve to be recognized. Try to support this precious collaboration, helping all the Institutes present in your territory, also in vocational research".
Finally, Cardinal Filoni urged the Bishops to exercise their paternity also towards the laity, taking special care of the family, "founded on marriage between a man and a woman, the fundamental cell of the Church and society, the first and irreplaceable school of social virtues", and the young people, to whom the recent Synod of Bishops was dedicated: "Let us continue to listen to them, let us welcome their desires, doubts, criticisms and crises. They are the present and the future of the Church and of society: a better world depends on them". (SL) (Agenzia Fides, 19/11/2018)