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Friday, March 20, 2009


VATICAN CITY, 19 MAR 2009 (VIS) - At 4 p.m. today, the Holy Father went to Yaounde's Cardinal Leger National Rehabilitation Centre which specialises in assisting young people suffering from handicaps or traumas. The centre was founded in 1972 by Cardinal Paul-Emile Leger P.S.S., archbishop emeritus of Montreal, Canada, who at the end of his pastoral mandate retired to Africa to dedicate himself to humanitarian activities.

  On arrival, Benedict XVI was greeted by the Cameroonian minister for social affairs, the director of the Cardinal Leger Centre, and the bishop in charge of health pastoral care. The ceremony was attended by pupils of the centre and by two hundred sick people from various hospitals in Cameroon.

  "You are not alone in your pain, for Christ Himself is close to all who suffer. He reveals to the sick and infirm their place in the heart of God and in society", said the Pope in his remarks, noting how in the Gospels Christ often shows us, "through specific actions, His fraternal tenderness and benevolence towards all the broken-hearted, all whose bodies are wounded.

  "This centre is named after Cardinal Paul-Emile Leger", the Pope added, "a son of Canada who came among you to bring relief to bodies and souls. As I stand here today, I am mindful of all the people in hospitals, ... who suffer from a disability, mental or physical. I also think of those whose flesh bears the scars of wars and violence. I remember too all the sick and, especially here in Africa, the victims of such diseases as HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis. I know how actively engaged the Catholic Church in your country is in the fight against these terrible afflictions, and I encourage you to pursue this urgent task with great determination".

  In the presence of atrocious torment "we feel powerless and we cannot find the right words. Before a brother or sister plunged into the mystery of the Cross, a respectful and compassionate silence, a prayerful presence, a gesture of tenderness and comfort, a kind look, a smile, often achieve more than many words. This was the experience of a small group of men and women, including the Virgin Mary and the Apostle John, who followed Jesus in the depths of His suffering at the time of His Passion and His death on the Cross".

  Among this group, the Pope explained "was an African, Simon of Cyrene, ... [who] took part, at the price of his own suffering, in the infinite suffering of the One Who ransomed all men, including His executioners".

  "It is hard to accept to carry someone else's cross. Only after the resurrection could he have understood what he had done. Brothers and sisters, it is the same for each of us: in the depths of our anguish, of our own rebellion, Christ offers us His loving presence even if we find it hard to understand that He is at our side. Only the Lord's final victory will reveal for us the definitive meaning of our trials.

  "Can it not be said", the Holy Father asked, "that every African is in some sense a member of the family of Simon of Cyrene? Every African who suffers, indeed every person who suffers, helps Christ to carry His Cross and climbs with Him the path to Golgotha in order one day to rise again with Him. ... Since the resurrection, and right up to our own time, there have been countless witnesses who have turned, with faith and hope, towards the Saviour of mankind, recognising His presence at the heart of their suffering. May the Father of mercies graciously grant the prayers of all who turn to Him. He answers our call and our prayer, as and when He wishes, for our good and not according to our desires".

  Pope Benedict invited sick people to "gaze upon the Crucified One, with faith and courage, for from Him come life, comfort, and healing", and to turn to St. Joseph, "an intercessor for bodily health ... [and] for the health of the soul".

  "All of you, doctors and researchers, have the task of putting into practice every legitimate form of pain relief; you are called, in the first place, to protect human life, you are the defenders of life from conception to natural death. For every person, respect for life is a right and at the same time a duty, since all life is a gift from God.

  "With you", he concluded, "I would like to give thanks to the Lord for all who, in one way or another, work in the service of the suffering. I encourage priests and those who visit the sick to commit themselves to an active and friendly presence in their hospital chaplaincy, or to assure an ecclesial presence in the home, for the comfort and spiritual support of the sick".

  Having blessed the sick people and the students of the Cardinal Leger Centre, the Pope returned to the apostolic nunciature where he met with members of the Special Council for Africa of the Synod of Bishops.
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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.


VATICAN CITY, 20 MAR 2009 (VIS) - Having bid farewell to the staff of the apostolic nunciature in Cameron's capital city of Yaounde, at 9 a.m. today the Pope travelled to the city's Nsimalen airport, where he was met by head of State, President Paul Biya, and other civil and religious authorities.

  The Pope delivered a brief address expressing thanks for the warm welcome the country had shown him, and appreciation for the efforts made to ensure the success of his visit.

  He asked people "to continue praying that the Second Special Assembly for Africa of the Synod of Bishops will prove to be a time of grace for the Church throughout the continent, a time of renewal and rededication to the mission to bring the healing message of the Gospel to a broken world".

  The Holy Father also recalled some salient moments of his stay in Cameroon, including the visit to the Cardinal Leger Centre where "it was most moving to observe the care that is taken of the sick and the disabled, some of the most vulnerable members of our society. That Christ-like compassion is a sure sign of hope for the future of the Church and for the future of Africa".

  He also mentioned his meeting with representatives of the Muslim community. "As we continue on our journey towards greater mutual understanding", he said, "I pray that we will also grow in respect and esteem for one another, and strengthen our resolve to work together to proclaim the God-given dignity of the human person, a message that an increasingly secularised world needs to hear".

  Finally the Pope highlighted "the historic moment of the promulgation of the 'Instrumentum Laboris' of the Second Special Assembly for Africa of the Synod of Bishops. Truly this is a moment of great hope for Africa and for the whole world", he said and invited the people of Cameroon "to seize the moment the Lord has given you. Answer His call to bring reconciliation, healing and peace to your communities and your society.

  "Work to eliminate injustice, poverty and hunger wherever you encounter it!", he cried.

  Having completed his remarks, at 10.30 a.m. the Pope boarded his aircraft and departed for the Angolan capital Luanda, the second stage of his apostolic trip to Africa.
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VATICAN CITY, 20 MAR 2009 (VIS) - Following a two-hour flight from Yaounde, Cameroon, the Holy Father's plane landed at 4 de Fevereiro airport in the Angolan capital city of Luanda.

  As he descended from the aircraft, the Pope was greeted by President Jose Eduardo dos Santos of Angola, then by Archbishop Damiao Antonio Franklin of Luanda, president of the Episcopal Conference of Angola and Sao Tome.

  Having greeted other State dignitaries and listened to President dos Santos's welcome speech, the Pope pronounced his address.

  He began by explaining that, although his African trip was limited to Yaounde and Luanda, he wanted everyone to know "that I keep very much in my heart and in my prayers Africa in general and the people of Angola in particular, whom I warmly encourage to continue along the path of peace-building and reconstruction of the country and its institutions".

  After recalling John Paul II's visit to the country in June 1992, Benedict XVI pointed out that in his own country, Germany, "peace and fraternity are dear to the hearts of all people, in particular those, like myself, who have known war and division between family members from the same nation as a result of inhuman and destructive ideologies, which, under the false appearance of dreams and illusions, caused the yoke of oppression to weigh down upon the people. You can therefore understand how keenly aware I am of dialogue as a way of overcoming every form of conflict and tension and making every nation - including your own - into a house of peace and fraternity".

  "Your land is abundant and your nation is mighty", he told the Angolan people. "Make use of these advantages to build peace and understanding between peoples, based upon loyalty and equality that can promote for Africa the peaceful future in solidarity that everyone longs for and to which everyone is entitled. To this end, I ask you: do not yield to the law of the strongest! God has enabled human beings to fly, over and above their natural tendencies, on the wings of reason and faith. If you let these wings bear you aloft, you will easily recognise your neighbour as a brother or sister, born with the same fundamental human rights.

  "Unfortunately", he added, "within the borders of Angola, there are still many poor people demanding that their rights be respected. The multitude of Angolans who live below the threshold of absolute poverty must not be forgotten. Do not disappoint their expectations.

  "This is a huge task, requiring greater civic participation on everyone's part. It is necessary to involve the whole of Angolan civil society in this effort; but society needs to grow stronger and more articulated, both among its constitutive elements and in its dialogue with the government, before it can take up the challenge. Before there can be a society that is truly solicitous for the common good, there have to be common values, shared by all".

  The Pope concluded by reiterating the "immediate occasion" for his Angolan visit: "To be together with one of the oldest Catholic communities in sub-equatorial Africa, to strengthen it in its faith in the risen Jesus and to join its sons and daughters in praying that this time of peace in Angola, in justice and fraternity, may prove lasting, allowing the community to carry out the mission that God has entrusted to it for the good of its people within the family of nations".

  The welcome ceremony over, the Holy Father travelled to the apostolic nunciature where he had lunch.
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