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Pope Francis met with representatives of the Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar on February 7 and urged those in attendance to proclaim the Gospel.

“To fulfill this mission, it is important that SECAM remain faithful to its identity as a vibrant experience of communion and of service to the poorest of the poor,” the Pope said, as he called upon bishops to “remain free from worldly and political concerns, that they continually strengthen the bonds of fraternal communion with the Successor of Peter.”

Recommending “streamlined pastoral structures” instead of “large bureaucratic structures,” the Pope called the African bishops to proclaim the Gospel to youth and “encourage every initiative to strengthen the family.”

After paying tribute to the Church’s witness of charity in Africa, he added:

The great work of evangelization consists in striving to make the Gospel permeate every aspect of our lives so that we, in turn, can bring it to others. For this reason, it must always be borne in mind that evangelization implies conversion, that is, interior renewal. The process of purification, which is inherent in evangelization, means accepting the call of Christ to “repent and believe the Good News” (cf. Mk 1:15). As a result of this conversion to salvation, not only individuals but the entire ecclesial community is transformed, and becomes an ever greater and more vital expression of faith and of charity.