VATICAN CITY, MARCH 3, 2015(CISA) – Members of the Episcopal Conference of North African Bishops, CERNA on March 2 met with Pope Francis during their Ad Limina visit.
CERNA brings together prelates from Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia and Libya.
During the audience the bishops presented the Pope with a pastoral letter entitled “Servants of Hope” that addressed the reality of the Church’s presence in North Africa, reported Radio Vatican.
In the letter the bishops said they had not given up hope that was roused by the “Arab Spring” adding that the quest for democracy in their troubled region would not be simple or quick, and “any attempt to copy or impose existing models would be futile and inappropriate” but said that they feel called to be “servants of hope” for the people of Northern Africa.
On his part Pope Francis thanked the Church in Libya for the “courage, loyalty and perseverance” shown by clergy, consecrated persons and laypeople who have stood their ground in the face of danger.
“They are true witnesses of the Gospel,” said the Pope and encouraged them to continue in their efforts to contribute to peace and reconciliation throughout the region.
“You are one of the peripheries of the world and you are the face and the heart with which God reaches out to the people of this periphery,” said Pope Francis.
The Pope noted how in the past years North Africa has become a land of conquest for more freedom of conscience and dignity as well as a battleground for “those who impose change with weapons” and insisted on the necessity of inter religious dialogue “in order to build where many destroy.”
Pope Francis further told the bishops that it is essential that the religious in their dioceses be trained in ecumenical and inter-religious dialogue since the most effective solution to violence is getting to know differences and accepting them as wealth and richness.