Pope: let us remember Saint Paul, "woe to me if I do not preach the Gospel!"
In Angola, Benedict XVI meets with pastoral workers and reaffirms the "necessity" of mission, in a country where many "are living in fear of spirits, of malign and threatening powers. In their bewilderment they end up even condemning street children and the elderly as alleged sorcerers."

Luanda (AsiaNews) - For a Christian, proclaiming the Gospel is a duty, even today, just as it was at the time of St. Paul, including by presenting the person of Jesus to those who believe in spirits, in "threatening powers." This does not mean not letting them live their lives in peace, but offering them that which they need to "complete" their lives. Benedict XVI spoke about the mission of the Christian in the face of those who follow traditional religions, today in Luanda, the capital of Angola, a large country rich in raw materials, but half destroyed by 27 years of civil war, in which Catholics are more than half of the more than 12 million inhabitants.

The pope talked about the "duty" of mission this morning during the Mass celebrated in the church of São Paulo, where the bishops, priests, religious, members of ecclesial movements and catechists from Angola and São Tomé had gathered. Benedict XVI arrived there from the nunciature where he is staying, and was greeted along his route by a festive and enthusiastic crowd, which completely filled the square in front of the church. Leaving the church, the pope addressed them with a spontaneous greeting, and gave them a blessing.

St. Paul, patron of the city of Luanda and of the church where the Mass was celebrated, was at the center of the pope's homily. "The decisive event in Paul’s life," he said, "was his encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus: Christ appeared to him as a dazzling light, he spoke to him and he won him over. The Apostle saw the Risen Jesus; and in him he beheld the full stature of humanity. As a result Paul experienced an inversion of perspective; he now saw everything in the light of this perfect stature of humanity in Christ: what had earlier seemed essential and fundamental, he now considered nothing more than 'refuse'; no longer 'gain' but loss, for now the only thing that mattered was life in Christ (cf. Phil 3:7-8). Far from being merely a stage in Paul’s personal growth, this was a death to himself and a resurrection in Christ: one form of life died in him, and a new form was born, with the Risen Christ."

Following the example of Paul and of the first evangelizers of the country, who made Angola an "officially Catholic" kingdom as early as the 16th century, "today it is up to you, brothers and sisters, following in the footsteps of those heroic and holy heralds of God, to offer the Risen Christ to your fellow citizens. So many of them are living in fear of spirits, of malign and threatening powers. In their bewilderment they end up even condemning street children and the elderly as alleged sorcerers. Who can go to them to proclaim that Christ has triumphed over death and all those occult powers (cf. Eph 1:19-23; 6:10-12)? Someone may object: 'Why not leave them in peace? They have their truth, and we have ours. Let us all try to live in peace, leaving everyone as they are, so they can best be themselves.' But if we are convinced and have come to experience that without Christ life lacks something, that something real – indeed, the most real thing of all – is missing, we must also be convinced that we do no injustice to anyone if we present Christ to them and thus grant them the opportunity of finding their truest and most authentic selves, the joy of finding life. Indeed, we must do this. It is our duty to offer everyone this possibility of attaining eternal life." "Let us enable human poverty to encounter divine mercy . . . Let this, then, be our common commitment," he concluded, "together to do his holy will: 'Go into all the world and preach the Gospel to the whole creation' (Mk 16:15). Let us embrace his will, like Saint Paul: 'Preaching the Gospel … is a necessity laid upon me; woe to me if I do not preach the Gospel!' (1 Cor 9:16).

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