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Wednesday, April 1, 2009


VATICAN CITY, 1 APR 2009 (VIS) - As he announced during last Sunday's Angelus, Benedict XVI dedicated his general audience to an analysis of his recently-concluded apostolic visit to Cameroon and Angola. The audience, held this morning in St. Peter's Square, was attended by 20,000 people.

  The Pope began his remarks by explaining how, with his visit, he had "sought to embrace all the people of Africa, and bless them in the name of the Lord", beginning with Cameroon, a country that incorporates many characteristics of the African continent, including "a profoundly religious soul which unites the numerous ethnic groups that inhabit it".

  He went on to mention his meetings with bishops, first of Cameroon then of Angola and Sao Tome and Principe, to whom he had "reaffirmed the vital importance of evangelisation, which is first and foremost the responsibility of bishops, highlighting the collegial dimension based on sacramental communion. ... I also encouraged them to promote the pastoral care of marriage and the family, of the liturgy and of culture, also by putting lay people in a position to be able to resist the attack of sects and esoteric groups". Finally, he had invited the episcopate to continue "to exercise charity in defence of the rights of the poor".

  At the apostolic nunciature in Yaounde, Cameroon, the Holy Father had met with representatives of the local Muslim community, "reiterating the importance of inter-religious dialogue and of collaboration between Christians and Muslims in order to help the world open itself to God".

  The Pope recalled how one of the culminating moments of his Africa visit came at the stadium of Yaounde on 19 March, at the end of Mass for the Feast of St. Joseph, when he consigned the "Instrumentum laboris" of the Second Special Assembly for Africa of the Synod of Bishops. "The Synod will take place in Rome but it has in a certain sense already begun in the heart of the African continent, in the heart of the Christian family that lives, suffers and hopes there. For this reason I was pleased that the publication of the 'working document' coincided with the Feast of St. Joseph, a model of faith and hope like the first patriarch, Abraham. Faith in the 'neighbour God', Who in Jesus showed us His face of love, is the guarantee of a reliable hope for Africa and for the whole world, the guarantee for a future of reconciliation, justice and peace".

  During his meeting with members of the Special Council for Africa of the Synod of Bishops, Benedict XVI reflected upon the continent's history "from a theological and pastoral perspective", recalling the deep Christian roots in African soil. "At the present time, as Africa is busy consolidating her political independence and constructing national identities in a now globalised world, the Church accompanies Africans, recalling the great message of Vatican Council II".

  "Amidst the unfortunately numerous and dramatic conflicts still afflicting various parts of the continent, the Church is aware she must be a sign and instrument of reconciliation, so that all Africa may come together to build a future of justice, solidarity and peace, implementing the teachings of the Gospel", said the Holy Father.

  He also reserved some words for the sick people of the Cardinal Leger Centre with whom, in the midst of their suffering, he had shared "the hope that springs from faith".

  Turning then to consider the second stage of his African journey, which took him to Angola, the Pope recalled how that county, "having emerged from a long civil war, is now committed to reconciliation and national reconstruction". This, however, could not hope to be successful if it came about "at the expense of the poorest who, like everyone else, have the right to share in the resources of their land.

  "This is why, with my visit, the primary aim of which was to confirm the Church in her faith, I also sought to encourage the ongoing social processes", the Holy Father added. "In Angola there is a palpable sense of something my venerated predecessors oft repeated: everything is lost with war, everything can be reborn with peace. But great moral energy is required to build a nation; and here, once again, the Church has an important part, called to play an educational role, and working to renew and form people's consciences".

  In the cathedral of Luanda, which is dedicated to St. Paul, the Pope recalled how he had spoken of the risen Christ "Who is capable of transforming individuals and society. Historical contexts change - something we must not forget - but Christ remains the true force for radical renewal of mankind and of human communities".

  Remarking then upon two special meetings he had held, with young people and with women, the Pope first reiterated his sorrow for the death of two girls killed in a stampede at the Stadio dos Coqueiros in Luanda, then said: "Africa is a very young continent, but too many of her sons and daughters - children and adolescents -have suffered serious wounds. Only Jesus Christ, crucified and risen, can heal them, infusing them ... with the power to love and to commit themselves to justice and peace".

  In his meeting with women, Benedict XVI recalled how he had reaffirmed "their full right to participate in public life, yet without compromising their role in the family, which is a fundamental mission that must always be carried out through shared responsibility with husbands and fathers".

  "I told the African people that if, like ancient Israel, they base their hope on the Word of God, in the richness of their religious and cultural heritage, they can truly build a future of reconciliation and stable peace for everyone".

  Finally, the Pope dwelt on "the generous activity of missionaries, religious, volunteers, priests and catechists, in young communities full of enthusiasm and faith". And he asked everyone to pray "for the people of Africa, who are so dear to me, that with courage they may face the great social, economic and spiritual challenges of the present time".
AG/AFRICA/...                            VIS 20090401 (1020)

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