Catholics in Gabon need thorough formation to enable them face various challenges in life, the Pope told bishops from the West African nation.
In this way, said Benedict XVI, "ecclesial communities will be more vibrant and the faithful will draw strength from the liturgy and from individual, family and community prayer, so that, in all fields of social life, they become witnesses of the Good News and workers for reconciliation, justice and peace in this world of ours which needs these things more than ever."
The Pope met the bishops Friday at the close of their five-yearly visit to the Vatican.
He emphasized to them the need to pay particular attention to the youth of Gabon, so that they may become "the first evangelizers of their peers".
Responding to the bishops' concern over the low numbers of vocations to the priesthood and the religious life, the Holy Father noted that "the seminary in Libreville must be watched over with particular care because the future of evangelization and of the Church are at stake."
The Holy Father encouraged priests and religious and their families to "mobilize themselves through prayer, attention to the youngest and a concern for transmitting the call of Christ, so that the vocations your country needs may arise and spread."
With reference to priests, the Pope stressed that, "living in constant intimacy with Christ, they will have a sharper awareness of the need to remain faithful to the commitments made before God and the Church, especially ... chastity and celibacy. In this way, they will experience their priestly ministry ever more as a service to the faithful."
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