Why should I visit Sudan



Saturday February 18, 2006


Your Eminence, Cardinal Gabriel Wako,
Your Excellency, Dominique Mamberti, Apostolic Nuncio in Sudan,
my dear bishops!

I would like to once again express my deep gratitude for the invitation to visit this country and the Church of Sudan. Also in the name of the Holy Father Benedict XVI. I am here among you as a token of his solidarity with you and of the concern of the Church about the deplorable situation you face in your pastoral activity. I bring you his greetings and his special apostolic blessing. I want to assure you that the Holy Father is paying special attention to everything that is happening in Sudan and that he will continue to pray for your nation, which has suffered setbacks in various areas due to hatred, war and religious extremism. Yes, the whole Church helps you and carries you through faith and love.

I have always been deeply moved by your pastoral zeal and willingness to continue your evangelizing mission. I must admit that, despite the troubled and uncertain situation, as well as the social and political difficulties that have affected your nation for over two decades, there are many encouraging signs in the work of the Church, which is not only evident from the five-year reports that you prepared for the "ad limina" visit in 2003, but also from other reports and information that we received.

I thank you for the pastoral, apostolic and social activities that you carry out to make the Church in Sudan a real tool of salvation for the people. The Church's participation in social life is a positive response to the call made by John Paul II in the Apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia in Africa has expressed. “Announcing Christ means revealing to man his inalienable dignity” and letting him know the following: “Since man is endowed with this incomparable dignity, he cannot live under inhumane social, economic, cultural and political living conditions. This is the theological basis of the struggle for the defense of personal dignity, for justice and social peace, for the advancement, liberation and full development of man and every person ”(no. 69).

In your reports you have outlined very specific tasks for yourself and for the whole Church that are to serve to remedy the evils in your society that have developed as a result of the long civil war. One only has to think of what has happened in the Darfur region, not to mention the other parts of your country, where violence, guerrilla warfare, vandalism etc. have been the order of the day and even ecclesiastical institutions have not been spared in most dioceses. In this complex situation, your Church is called again to bear witness to Christ, taking a courageous and prophetic stand in the face of all these appearances (cf. Redemptoris missio, 43).

Do not be afraid and be sure that the Church is really present among you, that God is present, who works through the Church and through all people of good will who are ready to work together with her for the gospel of love, justice and to promote peace, as His Holiness Benedict XVI. said in his message to celebrate World Day of Peace this year: “The United Nations Organization must become an ever more effective instrument in promoting the values ​​of justice, solidarity and peace. For its part, the Church never tires of preaching the "Gospel of Peace" everywhere, faithful to the task it received from its founder. Imbued with a firm awareness of indispensable service to those who are dedicated to promoting peace, it reminds everyone that peace, to be authentic and lasting, is on the rock of the truth of God and the Truth of man must be built up. This truth alone can make hearts sensitive to justice, open them to love and solidarity and encourage everyone to work for a genuinely free humanity based on solidarity. Yes, the foundations of genuine peace rest on the truth of God and man alone ”(January 1, 2006; in O.R. German., No. 51/52, December 23, 2005, p. 10).

I am very pleased to learn from the minutes of the Bishops' Conferences and from the various pastoral letters that we receive about the way in which you have launched concrete initiatives and plans, starting with the analysis of social reality who want to meet social needs. Your last message to the believers in October 2004, which we received last year, "It is time for renewal" is very indicative of your striving to change society as it calls on the Church in Sudan to play a leading role in it necessary change.

Care for social life must therefore not be an end in itself, but rather it should lead to the proclamation of the Good News to non-believers, to strengthening the faith and the missionary spirit among Catholics and also to consolidating the image and the role of the Church. It is of the utmost importance to give believers a solid formation to protect them from proselytism and the influence of other religions, from the spread of sects, and from the tendency to carry on traditions that do not correspond to the gospel. And here I appeal to you to take care of the image of the Christian family, which is in an identity crisis. A healthy family, embracing Christian values ​​and receiving spiritual assistance, also represents a future for the Church and will produce callings to the priesthood and consecrated life.

In this complex religious and social situation, I invite you to consolidate your fellowship in order to tackle pastoral tasks such as drawing up a joint project for the Catholic University and tackling the problem of marriage. I also invite you to pay special attention to the life and ministry of your priests. Indeed, it is necessary to have holy priests who are convinced of their calling and their choice. I am particularly grateful to you for the Healing The Healer program that you have developed to help Church workers, including those priests who have suffered severe trauma as a result of the civil war. No less important is the area of ​​religious institutes for men or women who are in your dioceses and who are indispensable, especially in view of the fact that reconstruction and evangelization are urgently needed in Sudan. They need close support as they work together to respond to the challenges facing this nation today. Special attention should also be paid to the role that lay people must play in the Church in Sudan. The emphasis you put on the formation of catechists has already received wide attention and recognition.

I would like to close this address by thanking you for the pastoral work that you have done so far and I encourage you to continue your mission so that your Church can grow in the missionary and gospel spirit of the Church. I call on you to promote cooperation and unity within the Episcopal Conference and among all your pastoral workers. On this subject I would like to recall the words of Pope John Paul II in the Apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia in Africa wrote that evangelization and “the credibility of the Church in Africa depended on bishops and priests capable of giving testimony of an exemplary life, following the example of Christ; of religious, who are really faithful, credible witnesses because of their way of life corresponding to the evangelical counsels; of a dynamic lay class, with deeply religious parents, educators who are aware of their responsibility, and political leaders inspired by a deep sense of morality ”(No. 22).

Thank you for your attention. The Lord bless you.