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Outgoing Nuncio in Gabon Urges Church to “urgently” Address Divisions amid Tribalism

Archbishop Francisco Escalante Molina in procession during the Mass at Our lady of Assumption Cathedral of Gabon’s Libreville Archdiocese/ Credit: Archdiocese of Libreville/Facebook

The outgoing Apostolic Nuncio in Gabon has called upon the people of God in the Central African nation to “urgently” address the challenge of tribalism that seems to be behind divisions, blocking an authentic “exchange of charisms, faith experiences.”

In his address during the farewell Holy Mass at Our lady of Assumption Cathedral of Gabon’s Libreville Archdiocese on Sunday, July 4, Archbishop Francisco Escalante Molina said, “The Church in Gabon urgently needs to overcome tribalism, divisions at all levels, even for appointments to high positions of responsibility, so that it does not close itself up into small groups because of its geographical origin, preventing a true exchange of charisms, faith experiences and organization between all members.”

Archbishop Molina who was also representing the Holy Father in the Republic of Congo (Congo-Brazzaville) challenged the people of God in Gabon to practice the faith they profess in the Creed saying, “In the Creed, we all profess to be ONE in the same faith. Let us put this truth into practice.”

“The Church in Gabon is rich in faith that is manifested in all the Eucharistic celebrations and in other popular manifestations of piety with great joy, with beautiful songs and dances,” the native of Venezuela said.

The Gabonese Church is rich, he explained, “in the commitment of many lay people who collaborate actively in the parishes; it is rich in the apostolic movements, in the fraternities that make the parishes live in their actions; it is rich in the parishioners who do not belong to any fraternity but who want to live their faith actively.”

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The Archbishop who has represented the Holy Father in the Central African nation since May 2016 further said, “The Church of Gabon is rich in Priestly vocations, even if it is necessary to insist on discernment. Let us hope that there will also be an awakening of vocations to Religious Life.”

He continued, “The Church in Gabon is rich in the presence, work and witness of so many Religious men and women, who continue to give their all for this church and this country.”

The variety of richness is acknowledged in the country, Archbishop Molina said, “even if the Diocesan and Religious men and women still need to work in greater harmony and collaboration, because they are the manifestation of the different charisms of the Church.”

On June 4, Pope Francis appointed Archbishop Molina as his representative in Haiti. The Venezuelan Archbishop succeeds Archbishop Eugene Nugent, a native of Ireland.

In his July 4 address to the people of God in Gabon, Archbishop Molina said, “It is true that I have to leave, but I leave with good memories of Gabon, a blessed, peaceful and welcoming country.”

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“In five years, I have visited practically all the Dioceses of Gabon. Everywhere I was very well received, I was always struck by the hospitality of the Gabonese people, not only the Catholics, but the entire Gabonese population,” the 56-year-old outgoing Apostolic Nuncio said.

He continued, “I arrived in Gabon in 2016, and now we are in 2021, so I have fully completed my five years of pastoral and diplomatic service. The time has come for me to continue the same mission of the Church in the service of the Holy Father elsewhere.”

“I am not happy because I have to leave Gabon, but because God has given me the grace to come and live with you for these five years of my life, and to exercise my priestly and episcopal ministry as Nuncio,” Archbishop Molina further said.

He noted that Gabon was the first country in sub-Saharan Africa to sign a Framework Agreement with the Holy See, on 12 December 1997, on the principles and legal provisions concerning collaboration and relations between the two States.

Archbishop Molina encouraged the fostering of the Framework Agreement saying, “I consider this agreement to be the privileged instrument and the appropriate space to maintain a constant and constructive dialogue with the State authorities so that each one, in its independence and with its own identity, can work for the common good of all. Do not neglect this instrument that has been forged with dedication and effort.”

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He expressed his appreciation to the Catholic Bishops in the country for their fraternity and collaboration over the years saying, “I would like to thank my brother Bishops for their fraternal and episcopal warmth on the occasion of every visit I have had to make to their Dioceses, as well as the fruitful working sessions held on the subject of the local Church in Gabon.”

“I ask you all to pray for Pope Francis, whom I had the grace to meet a few days ago and to greet personally to take stock of my mission in Congo and Gabon and my next mission in Haiti,” he said.

“May God keep us all, for His greater glory and under the protection and blessing of the Blessed Virgin Mary, patroness of Gabon,” Archbishop Molina implored.