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Pope asks southern African bishops to combat abortion, divorce, corruption

Catholic World News - April 25, 2014

Pope Francis met on April 25 with the bishops of the Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference, representing the nations of South Africa, Botswana, and Swaziland. The African prelates were making their ad limina visits.

In his prepared remarks, the Holy Father spoke of the heroic work of missionaries who brought the faith to southern Africa, and took note of the current vigor of the faith, pointing to the “flourishing parishes, thriving often against very great odds.” Although a small minority, and lacking in material resources, the Catholic community bears witness to the Gospel by living out the faith and helping those in need, the Pope said.

Turning to the challenges that confront the Church in southern Africa, the Pope spoke about the toll of abortion, saying that the practice “compounds the grief of many women who now carry within them deep physical and spiritual wounds after succumbing to the pressure of a secular culture which devalues God's gift of sexuality and the right to life of the unborn.” He also spoke of the high divorce rate, the growing number of children living in broken homes, and the increase of violence against women and children. “All these realities threaten the sanctity of marriage, the stability of life in the home and consequently the life of society as a whole,” he said.

Pope Francis encouraged the African bishops to lead their people to a greater use of the sacrament of penance, noting that confession is “a fundamental dimension of the life of grace.” He urged strong support for marriage, and efforts to combat “illusory notions of sexual freedom.” And he spoke of the need for moral standards in public life, remarking that “corruption is theft from the poor.”

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