|Yesterday afternoon the Pope met with the Evangelical Communities of the Central African Republic in the Evangelical Theological Faculty of Bangui (FATEB), instituted by the “Association des Evangeliques en Afrique” (AEA) in 1974 to respond to the needs of this Church in the African continent and where over 650 leaders have completed their preparation, going on to serve in the churches and evangelical institutions of 21 African countries.
Francis was received by the dean of the Faculty and by three members of the “interreligious Platform” which has supported the process of national peacemaking: the Archbishop of Bangui, Dieudonne Nzapalainga, C.S.Sp.the president of the “Alliance des Eglises Evangeliques Centrafricaines” (AEC) and the Imam of Bangui.
“We are all here in the service of the risen Lord Who assembles us today; and, by virtue of the common baptism we have received, we are sent to proclaim the joy of the Gospel to men and women of this beloved country of Central Africa”, began the Pope, following greetings from the dean of the FATEB and the president of the AEC.
“For all too long, your people have experienced troubles and violence, resulting in great suffering. This makes the proclamation of the Gospel all the more necessary and urgent. For it is Christ’s own flesh which suffers in his dearest sons and daughters: the poorest of his people, the infirm, the elderly, the abandoned, children without parents or left to themselves without guidance and education. There are also those who have been scarred in soul or body by hatred and violence, those whom war has deprived of everything: work, home and loved ones”.
“God makes no distinctions between those who suffer. I have often called this the ecumenism of blood. All our communities suffer indiscriminately as a result of injustice and the blind hatred unleashed by the devil. Here I wish to express my closeness and solidarity to Pastor Nicholas, whose home was recently ransacked and set on fire, as was the meeting-place of his community. In these difficult circumstances, the Lord keeps asking us to demonstrate to everyone His tenderness, compassion and mercy. This shared suffering and shared mission are a providential opportunity for us to advance together on the path of unity; they are also an indispensable spiritual aid. How could the Father refuse the grace of unity, albeit still imperfect, to His children who suffer together and, in different situations, join in serving their brothers and sisters?”
Francis reiterated that the lack of unity among Christians is a scandal, above all because it is “contrary to God’s will. It is also a scandal when we consider the hatred and violence which are tearing humanity apart, and the many forms of opposition which the Gospel of Christ encounters. I appreciate the spirit of mutual respect and cooperation existing between the Christians of your country, and I encourage you to continue on this path of common service in charity. It is a witness to Christ which builds up unity”.
He concluded by expressing his wish that, with a view to achieving the hoped-for full communion, that those present, “with increasing intensity and courage, … perseverance and charity, a commitment to prayer and common reflection”, seek to achieve greater “mutual understanding, trust and friendship. I assure you of my prayerful support along the path of fraternal charity, reconciliation and mercy, a path which is long, yet full of joy and hope”.
“I ask the Lord Jesus to bless all of you, to bless your communities, and also to bless our Church. And I ask you to pray for me. Thank you”.