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Friday, March 20, 2009


VATICAN CITY, 19 MAR 2009 (VIS) - At the apostolic nunciature in Yaounde, Cameroon, at 6.30 p.m. today, the Holy Father met with the twelve members of the Special Council for Africa of the Synod of Bishops who come from the following African States: Nigeria, Tanzania, South Africa, Algeria, Cameroon, Mozambique, Congo, Burkina Faso, Zambia, Madagascar and Egypt.

  The Pope began his address by indicating once again how the African continent "has been blessed by our Lord Jesus Himself. ... God chose your continent to become the dwelling-place of his Son. In Jesus, God drew near to all men and women, of course, but also, in a particular way, to the men and women of Africa".

  Highlighting then "some significant moments in the Christian history of this continent", Benedict XVI recalled how Mark the Evangelist "bore witness in Africa to the death of the Son of God on the Cross".

  "The Good News of the coming of the Kingdom of God spread rapidly in North Africa, where it raised up distinguished martyrs and saints, and produced outstanding theologians. ... With the arrival of Europeans ... in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, the sub-Saharan peoples encountered Christ. ... In the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, sub-Saharan Africa saw the arrival of missionaries, men and women from throughout the West, from Latin America and even from Asia".

  The Holy Father described African catechists as "the inseparable companions of the missionaries in evangelisation. ... In evoking their glorious memory, I greet and encourage their worthy successors who work today with the same selflessness, the same apostolic courage and the same faith as their predecessors. May God bless them generously!"

  He also mentioned the "numerous saints" of Africa, including "the martyrs of Uganda, the great missionaries Anne-Marie Javouhey and Daniele Comboni, as well as Sr. Anuarite Nengapeta and the catechist Isidore Bakanja, without forgetting the humble Josephine Bakhita".

  Turning his attention to the theme of the Second Special Assembly for Africa, which focuses on reconciliation, justice and peace, the Holy Father pointed out that in order "to carry out her mission well, the Church must be a community of persons reconciled with God and among themselves. In this way, she can proclaim the Good News of reconciliation to contemporary society, which unfortunately experiences in many places conflicts, acts of violence, war and hatred".

  "The local or regional wars, massacres and genocides perpetrated on the continent must challenge us in a special way: if it is true that in Jesus Christ we belong to the same family and share the same life - since in our veins there flows the Blood of Christ Himself, Who has made us children of God, members of God's Family - there must no longer be hatred, injustice and internecine war".

  He continued: "The Church, as the Family of God in Africa, made a preferential option for the poor at the First Special Assembly of the Synod of Bishops. In this way she showed that the situation of dehumanisation and oppression afflicting the African peoples is not irreversible; on the contrary, she set before everyone a challenge: that of conversion, holiness and integrity.

  "The Son, through Whom God speaks to us, is Himself the Word made flesh", the Holy Father added, underlining the urgent need "that Christian communities increasingly become places of profound listening to the word of God and meditative reading of Sacred Scripture".

  "In the Eucharist, it becomes clearly evident that our life is a relationship of communion with God, with our brothers and sisters, and with all creation. The Eucharist is the source of a unity reconciled in peace", he said.

  "In His flesh He has reconciled all peoples. In the power of the Holy Spirit, I appeal to everyone: 'Be reconciled to God!'. No ethnic or cultural difference, no difference of race, sex or religion must become a cause for dispute among you. You are all children of the one God, our Father, Who is in heaven. With this conviction, it will then be possible to build a more just and peaceful Africa, an Africa worthy of the legitimate expectations of all its children".

  The meeting over, the Pope dined with members of the special council, and with the cardinals and bishops of his entourage.

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