"Ad limina Apostolorum": Zimbabwe Bishops'
July 7, 1992
Elements of African culture can be fitting vehicles for the
On Tuesday, 7 July, the Holy Father received the Bishops of Zimbabwe in
audience to conclude their ad limina visit. The Pope
addressed them in English about some of their concerns and the needs of the
Church in Zimbabwe.
Dear Brother Bishops,
1. I have eagerly looked forward to this meeting with you, the
Bishops of Zimbabwe, on the occasion of your ad limina
visit, and I greet you with the words of Saint Paul: "My love be with you all in
Christ Jesus" (1 Cor 16:24). In welcoming you, I embrace the clergy, the men and
women religious, and the lay faithful of the Archdiocese of Harare and the
Dioceses of Bulawayo, Chinhoyi, Gweru, Hwange and Mutare, and in a particular
way the new Diocese of Gokwe. Please assure them that the memories of my visit
to your country in 1988 have not grown dim. I am grateful to Bishop Reckter for
his kind words, and I send a special greeting to Bishop Muchabaiwa and pray for
his full recovery.
Your presence testifies to the communion in grace which binds you, in the
One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church, to the Bishop of Rome, the visible
focus of unity in every age. In making your pilgrimage to the tombs of the
Apostles you renew your conviction that the concrete historical reality which is
the Church traces its origins back to the Twelve and to our Lord Jesus Christ
himself, who established this living Body as the channel and instrument of the
salvation he won for us in his death and resurrection.
All things African find meaning in Christ
2. This conviction about the Church as the efficacious sign of salvation (cf.
Lumen gentium, n. 1) is the source of your tireless efforts to
carry the Gospel to all those entrusted to your pastoral care. It is the basis
of the pressing duty of all the Church's Pastors to inspire and guide the
plantatio Ecclesiae and the Church's subsequent development in
every place and every culture (cf. Gaudium et spes, n.
44). My visits to Africa have made me even more clearly aware of the many
elements in the social and cultural life of the continent which can be fitting
vehicles for the communication of the Gospel and the Church's teaching, just as
there are other elements in need of healing through contact with the grace of
Your desire that all things African should find their true significance in
Christ has already led you in your National Episcopal Conference and in the
Inter-regional Meeting of Bishops of Southern Africa (IMBISA) to devote much
attention to the theme of inculturation. Such work by
you and your brother Bishops, in preparation for the Synod of
Bishops' Special Assembly for Africa, holds great promise for the
future of the People of God. However, in this as in all things, we, the
Shepherds of the flock, must always be conscious that we are instruments of the
Holy Spirit, who "searches everything, even the depths of God" (1 Cor 2:10). We
need constantly to turn to him and ask him to enlighten our judgment so that we
may accurately discern which human realities are in harmony with the truth and
grace revealed by Christ Jesus and handed on to us by the Apostles.
Inculturation, which is not merely a question of externals, matures when the
Good News of Christ's triumph over suffering and death effectively shapes the
thinking and everyday life of Christians. It culminates in frequent, joyous and
devout participation in the Sacraments of Penance and the Eucharist as central
moments of the experience of faith.
3. The priests whom God has given you as your
coworkers are consecrated for the building up of the Body of Christ.
How grateful you must be to the many missionary priests who have sown the seed
of faith in your part of Africa and have laboured with humble love for the
development of its peoples! How great is the challenge faced by your indigenous
priests in continuing the same commitment and dedication, and in bringing to
maturity the harvest which the Lord awaits among your people!
All priests have received a "call" which they and the Church have subjected
to testing and discernment during the years of preparation leading to priestly
ordination. After prayer and with trust in God's unfailing grace, they have
agreed to renounce home, wife, children, social position and wealth (cf. Mt
19:29), not grudgingly, but gladly, in order to serve the Kingdom and to devote
themselves to their brothers and sisters in Christ. I join you in praying to
Jesus the High Priest that he will grant your priests the grace of perseverance
and the intimate joy which comes from fidelity to the Redeemer.
Since sacramental configuration with Christ the Shepherd and Head of the
Church is inseparable from the following of his example of self-giving love,
priests must be encouraged to cultivate genuine asceticism.
In order to remain faithful to the gift of celibacy in perfect continence, it is
essential, as the Second Vatican Council says, that they should pray humbly and
perseveringly, make use of all the helps available to them for this purpose, and
observe the prudent norms of self-discipline tested by the experience of the
Church (cf. Presbyterorum ordinis, n. 16). With regard
to the loneliness which sometimes accompanies the pastoral ministry, it is worth
recalling the words of the Encyclical Sacerdotalis caelibatus
which Paul VI published 25 years ago last month: "One cannot sufficiently
recommend to priests a life lived in common and directed entirely towards their
sacred ministry; the practice of having frequent meetings with a fraternal
exchange of ideas, counsel and experience with their brother priests; the
movement to form associations which encourage priestly holiness" (l.c., n. 80;
cf. also Pastores dabo vobis, n. 74).
Seminary formation a chief priority
4. Because the ministry of priests is so essential to the life of the local
training of your seminarians should continue to be one
of your chief priorities. It is vital that future ministers of the Gospel should
be not only well instructed academically but also, at the deepest level, totally
dedicated to shepherding their brothers and sisters in the ways of salvation. I
am sure that your seminary staff are grateful for the many ways in which you
support them in their difficult and demanding task of helping candidates for the
priesthood to grow towards the new "identity" conferred at ordination. They
themselves ought to be "convinced" models of priestly life. They must be clear
about the behaviour expected from candidates to the priesthood, for it would be
an injustice to let seminarians go forward to ordination if they have not
internally and consciously assimilated the objective demands of the grace which
they are to receive.
My recent Apostolic Exhortation Pastores dabo vobis
urges the whole Catholic community to have "a correct and in- depth awareness of
the nature and mission of the ministerial priesthood" (cf. n. 11). I hope that
you and your priests and seminarians will make this document a frequent theme of
reading and study.
5. One of the great joys of your ministry is surely the support you receive
from the men and women religious working in your local Churches.
The whole history of the Church in Zimbabwe is linked to the courageous and
generous service of the members of religious Institutes. Through the testimony
of their way of life and their loving service, they have been outstanding
heralds of the Gospel, especially in the fields of health care and education.
The recent centenary celebrations of the arrival in the region of the Jesuits
and of the Dominican Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart were yet another
reminder of the power with which God has lovingly been at work, generation after
generation, bringing forth from the labours of his zealous servants an abundant
harvest for his kingdom (cf. 1 Cor 3:6). I would ask you to convey to the
Religious of your Dioceses my gratitude and esteem, and my hope that they will
always be faithful witnesses to the Lord in the midst of his people.
6. I wish to refer briefly to another of your weighty responsibilities as
Bishops: namely, Zimbabwe's Catholic schools. In many
ways you are personally involved in guiding and directing the educational
apostolate, and in making sure that the necessary means are available (cf.
CIC, can. 794, ¶2). I have great hope that the forthcoming
Catechism of the Catholic Church
will be a substantial help to all Bishops in ensuring that the
fulness of the Church's faith is taught to children and young adults in Catholic
schools and religious education programmes. The success of your efforts depends
upon stimulating the generous collaboration of all those who work with you in
this field, and upon maintaining the high standards of the institutions and
organizations through which the work of education is carried out. I am pleased
to note that you hope to strengthen even further that cooperation with the civil
authorities which will enable the Church's schools to serve the needs of the
nation while maintaining their specific Catholic identity and their
Presence of laity strengthens society
7. Catechists and lay teachers carry on, as the Second Vatican Council
reminds us, "a distinguished form of the apostolate of the laity" (Apostolicam
actuositatem, n. 30), and so they must have the initial and
continuous formation they need in order to do this well. They should have a deep
awareness of their role within the ecclesial community and of the importance of
their contribution to the life of the nation.
The laity, because of their vocation to be the salt of the earth and the
light of the world (cf. Mt 5:13; 13:33), should be well-grounded in the Church's
social doctrine and, through their presence in public life, contribute to
strengthening the fabric of society through their diligence and industriousness,
reliability and fidelity in interpersonal relations, and courage in undertaking
responsibilities in the fields of economics and politics (cf.
Centesimus annus, n. 32).
Words and deeds of justice, peace and solidarity serve your country at a time
when it is facing serious challenges. Christian wisdom about the human person
and about the way to build a society worthy of man can be a fruitful point of
reference for Zimbabwe's efforts to adjust its economic structures, to respond
to the grave consequences of the present drought and to raise the ethical
climate of business and social life. It is therefore right for you the Pastors
to speak out clearly regarding the moral and ethical implications of policies
and actions, and thus to place the insights of Catholic social
doctrine at the service of the wider community.
8. The laity's task of ordering the temporal sphere according to the law of
Christ, as I noted in Christifideles laici, "begins in
marriage and in the family" (n. 40). Because the integrity and worth of the
family are increasingly threatened in our age, your Pastoral Letter of last
year, Save Our Families, was most timely. I fully
share your stated concerns about the way urbanization - which itself is often
the result of economic depression - and secularization are corroding the
strength of family bonds and replacing many traditional values. The anonymity of
the city, the absence of parental control, the often ruthless competitive ethic
of the world of work, all contribute to the alienation of many young people from
their families. You are rightly concerned at the imposition of demographic
control programmes, at the increase of abortion and the spread of AIDS.
The initiatives being implemented in your Dioceses to defend and foster
marriage and the family - especially providing engaged couples with a sound
catechesis in preparation for their new life together - are extremely valuable.
They are very helpful for the growth of the Christian community and for a true
inculturation of the faith. The strengthening of marriage and the family truly
constitutes an important service to the well-being of the whole nation.
Be committed to urgent task of evangelization
9. Dear brothers, I began these remarks by noting that your visit
ad limina Apostolorum is a profession of faith in the Church. It is
also an occasion for you to renew your commitment to the great and
urgent task of evangelization. Through episcopal ordination you are
members of the College which Christ established so that until the end of time
the Church, his beloved Bride, would never lack an Apostle's care. If we read
the Acts of the Apostles attentively, we see that one of the hallmarks of the
Apostles" service to the Church was the boldness with which they proclaimed the
Gospel. After Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit filled them with light and joy,
they tirelessly went forth to proclaim that in Christ Jesus God's kingdom had
come into this world (cf. Acts 2; 28:30-31).
I ask our Saviour to confirm you in that same confidence and sense of
urgency. It is my prayer that the Special Assembly for Africa of the Synod of
Bishops will do a great deal to enhance missionary zeal throughout your
cherished continent. As the whole Church in Zimbabwe prepares for that important
event, may the Holy Spirit increase in your hearts that steadfast faith which
remains undaunted in the face of every obstacle, a faith based on the unshakable
conviction of the power of God's word to save (cf. Rom 1:16). I commend you and
all those whom you serve to the loving care of the Virgin Mother of God, and I
impart my Apostolic Blessing.
Teachings of the
Magisterium on Abortion