CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy – The Catholic Church in Nicaragua must educate the country’s Catholic majority to recognize that politics is not about power, but about serving the common good, Pope Benedict XVI said.
At the papal villa in Castel Gandolfo Sept. 6, the pope met with the bishops of Nicaragua, who were making their “ad limina” visits to report on the status of their dioceses.
He told them he was pleased with how they had shared the lot of the Nicaraguan people and “scrupulously respected” the obligation to stay out of partisan politics.
At the same time, the pope said, they had worked to promote a climate of dialogue and calm in a situation of great political upheaval and efforts to build democracy.
Pope Benedict said the bishops had worked “to defend basic human rights, to denounce situations of injustice and to promote an understanding of politics that, more than being an ambition for power and control, is a generous and humble service of the common good.”
Pope Benedict said charity, solidarity and education are key church tasks in Nicaragua, a country marked by extreme poverty and often battered by natural disasters. Nearly 90 percent of the 5 million inhabitants are Catholic.
“One of the key challenges you must face is precisely the solid religious formation of your faithful, ensuring that the Gospel is deeply impressed in their minds, their lives and their work so that they would be leaven for the kingdom of God with their witness in various spheres of society,” the pope said.
He said the church in Nicaragua owes much to the lay catechists and the lay “delegates of the word,” who educate people in the faith and lead prayer services when priests are not available to celebrate Mass.
The lay church workers, he said, “are a channel through which the gift of faith grows in children and enlightens the various stages of life in far-off places where the stable presence of a priest who guides the community is practically impossible.”
“The church owes much to these persons who proclaim the good news and Christian doctrine,” the pope said.
“These generous servants and collaborators in the evangelizing mission of the church” must receive the encouragement of their bishops and priests, serious opportunities for study and training, and guidance to ensure they remain faithful to the doctrine of the church, the pope said.
He also praised the country’s Catholic schools, religious and priests and encouraged the bishops to be close to their seminarians and vigilant in determining which candidates to ordain.
Archbishop Leopoldo Brenes Solorzano of Managua told the Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano, “The church in Nicaragua is working so that the faithful feel that an essential part of their identity is to be missionaries, to be disciples of Christ and to preach, not only with their words, but also with their witness.”
He told the newspaper Sept. 5, “The people of Nicaragua are people of hope, a people who know how to rise from the ashes.”