Lunes, 07 de noviembre de 2016

Después de presidir la consagración de la catedral de Karonga, en la tarde del sábado 5 de noviembre de 2016, el Card. Fernando Filoni, Prefecto de la Congregación para la Evangelización de los Pueblos, se ha reunido con los obispos de Malawi en el obispado de la diócesis. (Fides 05/11/2016)

Visit of His Eminence Card. Filoni to Malawi

3-7 November 2016

Meeting with Bishops, Karonga, Malawi

Address to the Bishops of Malawi

Saturday, 5 November 2016


Your Excellency, the Nuncio to Malawi,

Dear President of the Episcopal Conference of Malawi,

My Brothers in the Episcopacy,


1. Greeting: It is a great joy to be with you today, and I am privileged to have been chosen by Pope Francis as His Special Envoy to Malawi on the occasion of the Dedication of the Cathedral in Karonga, but also as an expression of the Holy Father’s closeness to each of you. I have the unique honor of conveying to you Pope Francis’s personal greeting as well as his Apostolic Blessing. My time in your country affords me the opportunity to encounter many components of the People of God in Malawi: priests, religious men and women, seminarians, civic officials and many dedicated lay faithful. This particular occasion is one of honor as I meet with you, the Shepherds of the Church here in Malawi. Accordingly, I would like to thank the Episcopal Conference as a whole and each of you individually for the cordial welcome and for your dedicated service to the Church’s mission of evangelization.

2. The Church in Malawi: I am well aware of the challenges facing your beloved Country at this time: the food crisis caused by drought in the North and flooding in the South, the economic challenges caused by these same occurrences as well as by other factors, the resulting poverty felt by many, and the lack of social services for people, many who suffer from all sorts of ailments, not the least of which is HIV/AIDS. Nevertheless, I am also aware of the good work carried out by the Church in these times of need. Your support of those affected by this past year’s misfortunes is praiseworthy. The continued good work of education and care for the poor is also worthy of mention. This confirms the presence of a Church alive and growing, despite the struggles of daily life. I have seen with my own eyes the strengths of your Community of Faith. I know of the valuable presence of Religious men and women as well as the dedicated service of the lay faithful. Also, I know of your dedication to bring about further growth and development in both the Church and the society.


3. Evangelii Gaudium: Dear brothers, the Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium is a valuable document, because it represents the vision of Pope Francis for the Church in the coming years. The Pope says that the joy of the Gospel is the foundation of evangelization. The joy of the Gospel grows from and is renewed by a personal encounter with Jesus Christ, which results in a change of life and renewed desire to share the love of Christ with others. In fact, joy, by its nature, always wants and needs to be shared. “For if we have received the love which restores meaning to our lives, how can we fail to share that love with others?” (EG, n. 8). The desire to evangelize is the natural consequence of this joy, which consists in having encountered the Lord and having been renewed by Him.


The work of evangelization, built upon and renewed by a personal encounter with the living God, takes place in the context of personal relationships, of which the foremost is the family. Pope Francis, quoting Evangelii Gaudium, highlighted this important aspect when he addressed you during your Ad Limina visit in 2014. He reminded you of the following: “‘Pastoral activity needs to bring out more clearly the fact that our relationship with the Father demands and encourages a communion which heals, promotes and reinforces interpersonal bonds’ (n. 67) – a humanizing and sanctifying process that begins, and finds its natural fulfillment, in the family.”[1] You know well the “admirable spirit of the Malawian people…who remain strong in their commitment to family life.” You also know the challenges they face. Thus, “as fathers and shepherds, you are called to nurture, protect and strengthen [family life]” by “keep[ing] always before you the needs, experiences and realities of families in your efforts to spread the Gospel.”[2]


4. Ad Gentes: Less than a year ago we celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Conciliar Decree Ad Gentes, on the missionary activity of the Church, which, the document reminds us, springs directly from the very nature of the Church (n. 2). Through this missionary impulse, the seeds of the faith were brought here to Malawi, first by the Jesuits and then by the White Fathers and Montfort Fathers. Small seeds were already present in the culture and customs, such that today the faith has entered into the life of many here. In 2001, the Church in Malawi celebrated the 100th Anniversary of Evangelization, marking a century since the first official mission was established in this area, located in Nzama. The solemn celebration was blessed with the presence of the Pope’s Special Envoy for the occasion, in the person of Francis Cardinal Arinze. Today we remember with grateful hearts so many blessed years since the first evangelization took place here. The beginning of the creation of a local hierarchy indicated the passage from the status of Missio to the initial ecclesial configuration, and eventually Bishops began to assume a direct responsibility over the local Church. Today, this responsibility rests on you. And “as the Church in Malawi continues to mature, it is imperative that the strong foundations laid by generations of faithful missionaries be built upon by local men and women evangelizers.”[3] Your apostolate to families will bear the great fruit of religious vocations and lay missionaries.


The conciliar document Ad Gentes remains valid still today. The Holy Father Pope Francis, in Evangelii Gaudium, citing Redemptoris Missio, reiterated that “Indeed, ‘today missionary activity still represents the greatest challenge for the Church’ and ‘the missionary task must remain foremost’” (n. 15), especially as it pertains to the responsibility of bishops. The bishop, as head and center of the diocesan apostolate, must promote, direct and coordinate missionary activity, as well as encourage all the members of the People of God to participate in the work of evangelization. Priests and religious men and women, as the bishop’s close collaborators in spreading the Gospel, are called to live their proper vocation and charism, so as to become the salt of the earth and the light of the world. In the one Body of Christ, which is the Church, every baptized member has received from God a personal call to be a witness to the Gospel in every circumstance in which he finds himself. He must avoid an egoistic mentality that tries to possess the faith only for personal salvation, and, instead, he needs to contribute to the establishment and growth of the community, occupying himself with apostolic work. He must remember the following words of Pope Francis: “Every Christian is a missionary to the extent that he or she has encountered the love of God in Christ Jesus: we no longer say that we are ‘disciples’ and ‘missionaries’, but rather that we are always ‘missionary disciples’” (EG, n. 120). We must not forget that this missionary work can be realized only with the collaboration and prayer of the entire Church. It is worth noting that the duty of evangelization “is one and the same everywhere and in every condition, even though it may be carried out differently according to circumstances” (AG, n. 6). This means that the path of evangelization is not easy, in fact, “circumstances are sometimes such that, for the time being, there is no possibility of expounding the Gospel directly and forthwith” (ibid.). We certainly must not forget, though, that St. Paul urged that the Word of God be proclaimed regardless of “whether the time is favorable or unfavorable” (2 Tim 4:2).

Your task as Shepherds is to “preach Christ with conviction and love, thus promoting the stability of family life and contributing to a more just and virtuous culture.”[4] In this regard we can draw from the example of the African Martyrs who witnessed to hope and the Mercy of God through the exercise of kindness, patience and fortitude, even when faced with the pain of torture and death. Missionary patience will help promote a culture of dialogue, of which Pope Francis often speaks. In summary, as bishops “your first duty is to bring the good news of salvation to all.”[5] In this often daunting but necessarily task, know always of my prayers and support and those of the Holy Father.


5. Additional Encouragement: Dear brothers, please allow me to offer a few additional words of encouragement. First, I would like to reiterate the praise you received from Pope Francis during your Ad Limina Visit: “The effectiveness of your pastoral and administrative efforts is the fruit of your faith as well as of the unity and fraternal spirit that characterize your episcopal conference. The communion that you live, which is a sign of oneness with God and of the unity of the universal Church, has enabled you to speak with one voice on matters of importance to the nation at large,” as effectively expressed through your much-appreciated annual Pastoral Statement.[6] Continue to seek creative ways to integrate local, civil and social realities and draw together the strengths of the persons and groups that make up the Church, so as to effectively coordinate the work of evangelization, which is the primarily role of your Episcopal Conference.

Keep promoting vocations to the priesthood, while never being hasty in ordaining a man who may not be properly suited to assume the responsibilities of Sacred Orders. Assist with the good discernment of candidates through the generous support of your Seminaries, staffing them with an adequate number of qualified formators, chosen from among those priests who clearly exhibit, not only intellectual, but  good human, spiritual and pastoral qualities as well. In order to ensure the good formation of the priests of tomorrow, Bishops must be willing to staff seminaries with those priests who are already well-formed. In this light, I commend you for the efforts already undertaken to properly form your priests for this important work.

Finally, I urge you to always strive to love with a fatherly and brotherly love all those whom God entrusts to you. Foremost, have particular care for your priests. “They need to know that you love them as a father should.”[7] As Pope Francis gently reminded the bishops during the Seminar for New Bishops this past September, always remember that “your closest neighbor is your priest!” Thus, be always available to your priests and ever patient with them.[8] I thank you for your continued efforts to improve their overall sustenance. Support the religious so generously serving in your Diocese with prayers, remuneration and respect for their proper autonomy. Also, I encourage you to remain always present and available to the lay faithful, who are an integral part in the work of evangelization in Malawi. As Successors to the Apostles you are called to a life of fatherly service, not ‘being served as the authority figure,’ rather leading by example in generously giving of yourself in service to others, as Jesus himself teaches us.


        6. Conclusion: As I conclude this brief reflection, I would like to express to you, dear brothers in the Episcopacy, a word of appreciation, on behalf of Pope Francis and the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, for your hard work and dedicated service in our shared mission of evangelization, for your generosity in pastoral work and for your praiseworthy communion with the Holy Father.

I entrust each one of you, your Dioceses and your pastoral ministry to the maternal protection of Our Lady of Africa. May the Holy Spirit, through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the African Martyrs, strengthen in you the desire to serve the Kingdom of God, with all your heart and all your strength, in solidarity with the Holy Father and with one another. We remain always united in prayer. God bless you!


[1] Pope Francis, Address to the Bishops of the Episcopal Conference of Malawi on their Ad Limina Visit, 6 November 2014.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Pope Francis, Address to the Bishops of the Episcopal Conference of Malawi on their Ad Limina Visit, 6 November 2014.

[5] Pope Benedict XVI, Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Africae Munus, 19 November 2011, n. 103.

[6] Pope Francis, Address to the Bishops of the Episcopal Conference of Malawi on their Ad Limina Visit, 6 November 2014.

[7] Pope Francis, Address to the Bishops of the Episcopal Conference of Malawi on their Ad Limina Visit, 6 November 2014.

[8] Cf. Pope Francis, Homily at an Episcopal Consecration in St. Peter’s Basilica, Saturday, 19 March 2016.

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