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Wednesday, October 14, 2009


VATICAN CITY, 14 OCT 2009 (VIS) - In his general audience, held this morning in St. Peter's Square, the Pope spoke about Peter the Venerable, whom he described as "an admirable example of a man rigorously ascetic with himself yet understanding towards others".

  Peter the Venerable, the Holy Father explained, was born around the year 1094. In 1122 he "was elected as abbot of Cluny", and died in 1156. "He cultivated friendship, particularly that of his monks, who were wont to confide in him sure of being accepted and understood".

  "This holy abbot is an example for monks and other Christians in our own time, with its frenetic pace of life in which episodes of intolerance and lack of communication, of division and conflict, are not infrequent", said the Pope. "His witness invites us to unite our love for God with love for neighbour, and never to cease creating bonds of fraternity and reconciliation".

  Benedict XVI highlighted how Peter the Venerable, "with profound ecclesial sensibility, affirmed that the vicissitudes of the Christian people must be felt 'in the depths of the heart' by everyone who considers themselves to be 'members of the Body of Christ'. And he added: 'they are not nourished by the Spirit of Christ who do not feel the wounds of the Body of Christ' wherever they may occur".

  The Pope went on to explain how Peter "also showed great concern and solicitude for people outside the Church, particularly Jews and Muslims. In order to favour understanding with Muslims, he commissioned a translation of the Koran".

  The Pope also emphasised the abbot's "love for the Eucharist and his devotion to the Virgin Mary", as well as his "predilection for literary activities, for which he had a talent".

  "Although he was not a systematic theologian, he was nonetheless a great investigator of the mystery of God. His theology had its roots in prayer, especially liturgical prayer. Among the mysteries of Christ he preferred that of the Transfiguration, which prefigures the Resurrection. It was, in fact, he who introduced this feast to Cluny" with the aim of favouring "contemplation of the glorious face of Christ".

  For Peter the Venerable the ideal for monks to follow "consists in 'tenacious adherence to Christ' through ... silent contemplation and constant praise of God".

  "If this lifestyle, associated with daily work represents ... the ideal for monks, it can, to a large extent, also represent an ideal for all Christians who wish to become true disciples of Christ, characterised by their own tenacious adherence to Him through humility, hard work and a capacity for forgiveness and peace".
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VATICAN CITY, 13 OCT 2009 (VIS) - The Fourteenth General Congregation of the Second Special Assembly for Africa of the Synod of Bishops - dedicated to the presentation of the "Relatio post disceptationem" (report after the discussion) - began today at 4.30 p.m. in the presence of the Holy Father and 223 Synod Fathers. The president delegate on duty was Cardinal Francis Arinze, prefect emeritus of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments.

  The "Relatio post disceptationem" was read out in English by Cardinal Peter Kodwo Appiah Turkson, archbishop of Cape Coast, Ghana. Extensive extracts from the document are given below:


Very many positive changes have been registered both in the Church and in the larger society in Africa since the First Special Assembly for Africa. ... Nonetheless, there are still many shadows within the Church and in society, fifteen years after the conclusion of the First Assembly.

The Synod Fathers have cited many instances and reflections of these "shadows" at various sittings of this assembly. Thus, in the:

Local Churches:
The Synod Fathers candidly recognised insufficient appreciation for the role of women and youth in their local communities, and their poor faith-formation. Politicians and other civil servants have not always enjoyed the accompaniment and formation that would have enabled them to properly witness to their faith in their life and work. The use of the media must be developed beyond the use of local radio stations. The witness of the Church is sometimes compromised by the difficulty that some pastoral agents have in being faithful to their vows, vocations and states of life.

Socio-Cultural Sphere:
Many Synod Fathers bemoaned the fate of the family in Africa, ... and considered the institution under serious threat of instability and dissolution by poverty, conflicts, traditional beliefs and practices (witchcraft), and disease, principally, malaria and HIV-AIDS. ... But the Synod Fathers also described in various ways a ferocious onslaught on the family and the related fundamental institution of marriage from outside Africa something they attributed it to diverse sources.

Women, referred to at the First Special Assembly for Africa as "beasts of burden", have begun to emerge in certain countries to prominence and to leadership roles in law, politics, economics and engineering. But they are also "undeveloped resources" in certain countries, suffering exclusion from social roles, inheritance, education and decision-making places.

The issue of "migration" came up for special mention, on account of emerging legislations in Western countries, which appear designed to keep out Africans. The assembly was also invited to consider the issue of "ethnicity". When it develops exclusivist traits, it destroys community living, becomes intolerant of other cultures and ethnic groups, like racism.

Socio-Political Sphere:
Apart from the lone mention of Senegal's political stability, South Africa's democratic governance and Ghana's increasing success with democratic governance, most of the references to politics and governance on the continent were very critical for various reasons, and proposed that local Churches establish chaplaincies and accompany politicians with formation in the "Doctrine of the Social Teachings of the Church".

Socio-Economic Sphere:
"Poor" and "poverty" were two recurrent expressions which the Synod Fathers generally used about their countries, governments, people and Churches. The poverty of the people had justified, in several interventions, development projects undertaken by the Church. ... On the national and governmental level, the assembly criticised the incidence of corruption and bribery, and the negotiation of contracts with investors, particularly of extractive industries, which bring no profit to the people, but cause conflicts and environmental degradation.

Industrialisation is low in most African countries; and their economies are agricultural and producers of raw material ... needing assistance from foreign Governments, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund to finance their budgets and carry out development projects.

The Church may see the present and persistent shadows in Africa as challenges and opportunities to grow in intimacy with the Lord. The challenges above and the very many more which were mentioned in the assembly (environment, arms-trafficking, etc.), invite us to a true conversion of hearts.


The assembly was reminded once that "a Synod of Bishops cannot be understood as a special session for Africa of the United Nations with its public declarations". This was a powerful reminder to the synodal assembly of its being a Church-gathering and a faith-assembly that, in the power of the Holy Spirit, professes faith in God and in Christ, His Son, and has gathered to discern God's will and direction for His family in Africa.

Thus, the Synod Fathers variously affirmed in their interventions the Christ-centeredness of the synodal theme, and the need to approach and to live it Christ-centred. ... Thus all forms of experience and practice of the synodal theme (reconciliation, justice and peace) need to be "evangelised" by the Gospel.


It is our relationship in Christ with God and with one another which requires reconciliation; and its purpose is to repair and to restore the communion that God's covenant and our sonship in Christ establish, but which sin threatens and breaks up.

The Synod Fathers listened to testimonies of the ... urgency of reconciling enemies, and observed on its being an exercise in truth and merciful love. The liturgy and the Sacrament of Penance offer privileged moments for [its] celebration.

The Synod Fathers also recounted several traditional methods of reconciliation, and wondered whether elements of these traditional celebrations could not enrich the forms of celebration of the Sacraments in the Church. In doing so, there should be no confusion about the efficacy of the celebration; for as was said in the assembly, it is "the Good News of the Precious Blood of Christ, given for the redemption of the whole world which transforms the cup of suffering of the very many victims of bloodshed on the continent". It requires a spirituality, and not a strategy!


Reconciliation, as was also observed in the assembly, is the restoration of justice and the just demands of relationships.

The justice (righteousness) of God and of His kingdom is a revelation of God, which is destined to be the righteousness of human beings. ... It is the revelation of Christ, "Who while we were still sinners died for us" to prove God's love for us. It is, therefore, the revelation of Christ as our justice/righteousness.

The justice of Christian "diakonia" and the justice of our Christian living in the Church in Africa is the justice of the kingdom; and its principal characteristic is that it is justice exercised in love and mercy. ... Compensation is not [its] main purpose. [It aims] at healing through admission of guilt and pardon.


Peace is the one term whose definition (as "education", as "development" and as "justice") was popularly cited by the Synod Fathers. ... The "peace" that is Christ does not have just a secular sense, it being the absence of conflict, the presence of harmony in the home and within the family, individual and communal (national) security and prosperity. "Peace", is not just when human beings and their societies fulfil their respective duties and recognise the rights of other persons and societies; and it is not just one of the results of working for justice. "Peace" essentially transcends the world and human efforts. It is a wholeness determined by God and bestowed on the man/woman of justice.

But it is also as such righteous bearers on earth of the peace of Christ that we need to recall, as we did with "justice", that "peace" is an activity that goes beyond strict justice and requires love. It derives from communion with God and is aimed at the wellbeing of man (humanity).


To ensure its mission of reconciliation, justice and peace, the Church-Family of God in Africa should become aware of her identity, ponder her being and act attentively to the truth and faithfully to her mission. Her members should themselves be reconciled within her and be a model of Christ the Servant. The communion among pastors, the witness of their life, their relationships with co-workers and their treatment of employees, are several areas which deserve consideration.


All African cultures hold the family in great esteem. ... The Synod Fathers vigorously denounced the ideology and international programmes which are imposed on African countries under false pretexts or as conditions for development assistance. They are harmful for the family. ... There is the urgent need to re-define the family as the "domestic Church" and the primary place for education in love, reconciliation, justice and peace.


Women engender life and train other members of the family to be truly human. But their personal growth and development remains thwarted, frustrated by cultural traditions (genital mutilation) and their dignity wounded by modern situations (pornography, prostitution, violence and many kinds of humiliations in society). ... The Church-Family of God is invited to do something about the grave injustices which have been meted out to them. Women need to be recognised in society as well as in the Church as active members engaged in the life of the Church. Their contribution to the development and the protection of the human family, even in times of conflicts, must be recognised and appreciated. ... The Synod Fathers are called upon to give serious consideration and thought to women and to courageously highlight the potentialities of women already demonstrated in the management of their family life. They are certainly capable of doing a lot for the Church.

Consequently, an in-depth evangelisation of traditional culture will help free them from certain customs and practices that are contrary to the Gospel, but which are still very much in vogue in certain societies today.


Fear and insecurity characterise the life of faith among many of the peoples of Africa (doubt, suspicion, self-defence, aggression, fear of evil spirits, divination, occultism, syncretism). ... The Catholic faithful find the sects appealing, because of problems in society that they may have, and because of their desire for quick solutions to their physical and psychological problems. ... The Synod Fathers were invited by some speakers to return to teaching basic elements of the Christian faith in order to help the faithful to live their daily lives in coherence with their faith. A balanced spirituality can help Christians to resist the pressures of the sects.

As for injustices suffered (armed conflicts, violence), the Synod Father heard moving testimonies by persons who have experienced pardon - which show that Justice-Forgiveness-Truth are inseparable. What has been an injury inflicted cannot be repaired, unless the evil is recognised and confessed. Upon confession, forgiveness, requested and granted, frees both victim and perpetrator to establish a new and stronger relationship.

It is crucial to convince the Christian faithful that the fraternal bonds established by Christ through the waters of Baptism and through His Blood are stronger than blood ties. ... Consequently, the sacred character and dignity of each person are recognised and respected no matter who a person is and whatever the situation in which he finds himself. ... The Eucharist as source and summit of Christian life should be where reconciliation and peace are best expressed. The same Body of Christ feeds us and the same Blood of Christ flows in our veins.

The celebration of the Sacrament of Penance should vividly manifest its double aspects: personal and communitarian. In certain cases everything points to the communitarian celebration of reconciliation in order to dress and heal the wounds of families and societies ripped apart by situations of violence, conflict and war. As sin has a social dimension, so reconciliation should also engage the whole community.


The Church-Family of God, by her nature, her coherent social doctrine, her geographical extension and her solicitude for the good of the human person is in a better position than other organisations to assume the work of reconciliation, justice and peace in Africa. ... To speak of reconciliation, justice and peace and to guarantee a more sensible and better co-ordinated engagement between conflicting parties, bishops must speak with one voice within their episcopal conferences (national, regional or continental). It is necessary to create a synergy between all ecclesiastical institutions. ... in order to engage the Church's many aspects of life and activities in the service to reconciliation, justice and peace.

The tragedy of the pandemic of HIV-AIDS was not overlooked by the Synod Fathers. ... The mission of the Church-Family of God in Africa, in living fidelity to the Gospel of Christ, is committed to the fight for the reduction of the social stigmatisation of the persons affected by HIV/AIDS, as it is in the effort to replace violence through building bridges of reconciliation, justice and peace and as it is committed to engaging public authorities in order to speak in the name of and on behalf of those who have no voice. An appeal was made for synergy and solidarity among all, so that diseases in Africa receive the same attention (treatment) as those of Europe.


The conflicts in Africa force us to look at their recent history (the danger of exaggerated nationalism and the concept of race which are anti-Christian). Many Christians are in public offices, in political life and in places where decisions are taken (the parliament). Despite this, however, some laws contrary to Christian morals have been passed, especially concerning the family. ... The Synod Fathers recognised that it is not enough to train the lay faithful in political leadership in various countries on the continent, but it is also necessary to support them in their work in order to make them agents of change in society (good management of families, social responsibility and political organisations).


The coverage of African conflicts and their manipulation by the media constitute a challenge to the Church-Family of God in Africa. ... The power of the media can also be useful in spreading the Good News in a continent that is still largely characterised by the oral tradition and culture.

A good technical and religious formation of Catholic agents of communication (especially in the social teachings of the Church) is a priority. ... Particular attention is to be given to youth. They are the first to be victimised by the devastating effects of globalisation on their moral standards and value system.


It is necessary to create a "ratio nationalis institutionis sacerdotalis", to help favour discernment and spiritual and affective formation, adapted to circumstances and persons. This rigorous discernment and a spiritual, affective formation adapted to situations will make of priests persons firmly rooted in their cultures and faithful to the teaching of the Church.


The Synodal Fathers are called upon to help religious life remain faithful to its prophetic mission by supporting it to carry out its mission.


The Church-Family of God in the north of the Sahara has the same mission of service as the Church south of the Sahara. However, it is still not entirely integrated in the Church-Family of God in Africa. It is a "crossroad" Church (with many paths coming together), which, however, is called to be the "Church of the Pentecost", because it becomes a multi-cultural Church on account of the increasing number of sub-Saharian students. ... Despite its situation of being a Christian minority in the midst of Muslims, the Church has good dialogue rapport with Islam and is involved in different services to society: social, cultural and educational. The Synod Fathers from these Churches invited their brother-bishops to engage and to dialogue with other religions without "complexes": to overcome their fears and past burdens (relationships between the Arab world and black Africa), and to establish partnerships with Muslims of good will, so as to reduce tensions.


The task of the faithful lay person is to be "salt of the earth and light of the world", especially in those places where only the lay person is able to render the Church present.

In this Synod, the sense has been variously expressed that the Church-Family of God in Africa must be transformed from within; and that she must transform the continent, its islands and the world like "salt" and "light". She envisages an apostolic mission, which her pastors and other pastoral workers have variously articulated in this assembly as: (1) Liberating the continent's people from fear of all sorts. (2) Ensuring a conversion that is deep and permanent, and a solid formation of all kinds. ... (3) Dialogue on all levels, including the environment. (4) Advocacy roles for various social concerns and needs, especially the place of women in society, the education of children and youth. (5) Migration and various forms of population movement which require our pastoral care. (6) The challenging ministry of changing attitudes and mentalities, freeing them from effects of a past of colonialism, exploitation, etc. (7) Positioning the continent and its people to resist the onslaught of globalisation and the attendant challenges of a global ethic, unjust trade conditions, ethnocentrism, fundamentalisms, etc.

The polyvalent symbol, salt, expresses the very many forms of Paschal existence, under which the Church-Family of God in Africa must serve reconciliation, justice and peace (and now also truth, which this assembly has closely associated with them). The light of the Gospel leads us on.
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VATICAN CITY, 14 OCT 2009 (VIS) - This morning, while the Holy Father held his weekly general audience in St. Peter's Square, the Synod Fathers met for the second time in language groups, to begin discussing the "Relatio post disceptationem" (report after the discussion).

  The third session of language group meetings will be held today from 4.30 to 7 p.m.
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