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Wednesday, March 18, 2009


VATICAN CITY, 17 MAR 2009 (VIS) - This morning, during his flight to Cameroon, the Holy Father responded to a number of questions put to him by journalists accompanying him on the papal plane.

  "For some time, and in particular since your Letter to Catholic bishops concerning the remission of excommunication on the four bishops consecrated by Archbishop Lefebvre", asked one journalist, "many newspapers speak of the 'solitude' of the Pope. What is your view on this? Do you really fell alone?"

  "To tell the truth I cannot help laughing a little about this myth of my solitude. I do not feel alone at all. Every day I hold meetings with my closest collaborators, first among them the secretary of State. ... Truly, I am surrounded by friends in a marvellous collaboration with bishops, with my collaborators, and with lay people, and I am grateful for this".

  Asked about the impact of the world economic crisis on poor countries, and whether he would examine this theme in his forthcoming Encyclical, the Holy Father said: "A fundamental element of the crisis is precisely a lack of ethics in financial structures; it has been understood that ethics are not something 'outside' the economy but 'inside' it, and the economy does not work if it does not contain the ethical component".

  Referring then to his next Encyclical on social themes, the Holy Father said: "It was on the point of being published when this crisis broke out and we held the text back in order to respond more adequately; within the ambit of our competencies, within the ambit of the Church's Social Doctrine, but with reference to the real facts of the current crisis. Thus I hope that the Encyclical may also become an element, a force to help overcome the current difficult moment".

  The Pope also replied to a question concerning the specific relevance for Africa of the Catholic Church's position on sects.

  "We, unlike some of them, do not announce a Gospel of prosperity, but Christian realism. We do not announce miracles, as some do, but the sobriety of Christian life. We are convinced that all this sobriety and realism which announce a God Who became man (therefore a profoundly human God a God Who also suffers with us) give meaning to our own suffering. In this way, announcement has a broader horizon and a greater future. We also know that these sects are not very stable. ... The announcement of prosperity, of miraculous healing, etc., may do good in the short term, but we soon see that life is difficult, that a human God, a God Who suffers with us, is more convincing, truer, and offers greater help for life".

  Answering a question on the Catholic Church's approach to HIV/AIDS, considered by some as unrealistic and ineffective, the Pope said:

  "It is my belief believe that the most effective presence on the front in the battle against HIV/AIDS is in fact the Catholic Church and her institutions. ... The problem of HIV/AIDS cannot be overcome with mere slogans. If the soul is lacking, if Africans do not help one another, the scourge cannot be resolved by distributing condoms; quite the contrary, we risk worsening the problem. The solution can only come through a twofold commitment: firstly, the humanisation of sexuality, in other words a spiritual and human renewal bringing a new way of behaving towards one another; and secondly, true friendship, above all with the suffering, a readiness - even through personal sacrifice - to stand by those who suffer".
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VATICAN CITY, 17 MAR 2009 (VIS) - At 4 p.m. today, the Holy Father arrived at Nsimalen airport in Yaounde, Cameroon, on the first stage of his apostolic visit to Africa. The Pope was received by the country's president, Paul Biya, after which he also received greetings from Archbishop Simon-Victor Tonye Bakot of Yaounde, president of the National Episcopal Conference of Cameroon, and from Cardinal Christian Wiyghan Tumi, archbishop emeritus of Douala.

  Having greeted other high-ranking State officials, and diplomatic, religious and military figures, the Holy Father pronounced his address.

  "I come among you as a pastor", he said, "to confirm my brothers and sisters in the faith. This was the role that Christ entrusted to Peter at the Last Supper, and it is the role of Peter's successors. When Peter preached to the multitudes in Jerusalem at Pentecost, there were visitors from Africa present among them. And the witness of many great saints from this continent during the first centuries of Christianity ... guarantees a distinguished place for Africa in the annals of Church history. Right up to the present day, waves of missionaries and martyrs have continued to bear witness to Christ throughout Africa, and today the Church is blessed with almost a hundred and fifty million members"

  The Pope told his audience that he had come "to celebrate with you the life-giving faith in Christ that sustains and nourishes so many of the sons and daughters of this great continent". Then, turning his attention to the forthcoming Second Special Assembly for Africa of the Synod of Bishops, he said: "This moment of grace is a summons to all the bishops, priests, religious and lay faithful of the continent to rededicate themselves to the mission of the Church to bring hope to the hearts of the people of Africa, and indeed to people throughout the world.

  "Even amid the greatest suffering, the Christian message always brings hope", he added. "In the face of suffering or violence, poverty or hunger, corruption or abuse of power, a Christian can never remain silent. ... Here in Africa, as in so many parts of the world, countless men and women long to hear a word of hope and comfort. Regional conflicts leave thousands homeless or destitute, orphaned or widowed

  "In a continent which, in times past, saw so many of its people cruelly uprooted and traded overseas to work as slaves, today human trafficking, especially of defenceless women and children, has become a new form of slavery. At a time of global food shortages, financial turmoil, and disturbing patterns of climate change, Africa suffers disproportionately: more and more of her people are falling prey to hunger, poverty, and disease. They cry out for reconciliation, justice and peace, and that is what the Church offers them".

  The Church does not propose "new forms of economic or political oppression, but the glorious freedom of the children of God. Not the imposition of cultural models that ignore the rights of the unborn, but the pure healing water of the Gospel of life. Not bitter inter-ethnic or inter-religious rivalry, but the righteousness, peace and joy of God's kingdom".

  The Holy Father praised the local Church's concern for sick people, describing the fact that AIDS sufferers in Cameroon are able to receive treatment free of charge as "particularly commendable". He also mentioned Church commitment to education, especially in the work of the Catholic University for Central Africa, "a sign of great hope for the future of the region".

  He went on: "Cameroon is truly a land of hope for many in Central Africa. Thousands of refugees from war-torn countries in the region have received a welcome here. It is a land of life, with a government that speaks out in defence of the rights of the unborn. It is a land of peace: by resolving through dialogue the dispute over the Bakassi peninsula, Cameroon and Nigeria have shown the world that patient diplomacy can indeed bear fruit. It is a land ... blessed with a young population full of vitality and eager to build a more just and peaceful world. Rightly is it described as 'Africa in miniature', home to over two hundred different ethnic groups living in harmony with one another".

  "As I come among you today", the Pope concluded, "I pray that the Church here and throughout Africa will continue to grow in holiness, in the service of reconciliation, justice and peace".

  Having completed his remarks, the Holy Father travelled to the apostolic nunciature in Yaounde where he spend the night.
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VATICAN CITY, 18 MAR 2009 (VIS) - Having celebrated Mass in private at the chapel of the apostolic nunciature in Yaounde, Cameroon, the Pope travelled to the Unity Palace to pay a courtesy visit to the country's president, Paul Biya.

  His meeting with the president over, the Pope moved on to the church of Christ-Roi in Tsinga, Yaounde, where he met with the 31 bishops of the National Episcopal Conference of Cameroon.

  "In this year dedicated to St. Paul", the Pope began his address, "it is most opportune to recall the urgent need to proclaim the Gospel to everyone".

  "The pastors of the Church must be united by a profound communion with one another", he said, noting that "effective collaboration between dioceses, particularly with regard to better distribution of priests in your country, cannot fail to promote relations of fraternal solidarity with the poorer dioceses, so that the proclamation of the Gospel should not suffer through lack of ministers".

  Explaining the importance of bishops and priests maintaining relations of close communion, the Pope emphasised how "the words and example of their bishop have a key role in inspiring [priests] to give their spiritual and sacramental life a central place in their ministry, spurring them on to discover and to live ever more deeply the particular role of the shepherd as, first and foremost, a man of prayer. The spiritual and sacramental life is an extraordinary treasure, given to us for ourselves and for the good of the people entrusted to us".

  The Holy Father also spoke of his joy at the fact that "many young men are presenting themselves as candidates for the priesthood. ... It is essential", he noted, "that serious discernment should take place", giving priority "to the choice and training of formators and spiritual directors".

  "From the earliest days of the Christian faith in Cameroon, men and women religious have made an essential contribution to the life of the Church. I join you in giving thanks to God for this, and I rejoice at the development of consecrated life among the sons and daughters of your country".

  The Holy Father also highlighted the fact that catechists "have played and continue to play a key role. ... Through their work, an authentic inculturation of the faith is taking place. Their human, spiritual and doctrinal formation is therefore indispensable", he said.

  Pope Benedict then turned to consider the "many challenges" facing the bishops, among which "the situation of the family is of particular concern. The difficulties ... inspire you to defend vigorously the essential values of the African family, and to give high priority to its thorough evangelisation", promoting "a better understanding of the nature, dignity and role of marriage, which presupposes an indissoluble and stable union.

  "The liturgy occupies an important place in the expression of your communities' faith", he added. "It is therefore essential that the joy expressed in this way does not obstruct, but rather facilitates dialogue and communion with God".

  "The spread of sects and esoteric movements, and the growing influence of superstitious forms of religion, as well as relativism, constitute an urgent invitation to give new impetus to the formation of children and young adults, especially in university settings and intellectual circles".

  The Pope spoke of his happiness at the large number of lay associations in dioceses. "In this regard", he said, "I am pleased to highlight and to encourage the active involvement of women's associations in several areas of the Church's mission, which shows a genuine recognition of the dignity of women and their particular vocation in the ecclesial community and in society".

  He concluded: "The bishop's mission leads him to be the defender of the rights of the poor, to call forth and encourage the exercise of charity, which is a manifestation of the Lord's love for the 'little ones'". This "leaves no room for ethnocentrism or factionalism, and it contributes towards reconciliation and co-operation among ethnic groups for the good of all".

  "So it is the duty of Christians, particularly lay people with social, economic and political responsibilities, to be guided by the Church's social teaching, in order to contribute to the building up of a more just world where everyone can live with dignity".


VATICAN CITY, 18 MAR 2009 (VIS) - The Holy Father appointed Msgr. Jan Romeo Pawlowski, nunciature counsellor at the Section for Relations with States, as apostolic nuncio to the Republic of Congo and Gabon, at the same time elevating him to the dignity of archbishop. The archbishop-elect was born in Biskupiec, Poland in 1960 and ordained a priest in 1985.
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