04/01/2009, 00.00
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Pope: the Church accompanies Africa in the great challenges that await it

At the general audience, Benedict XVI recalls the stages of his first trip to the African continent. The presentation of the working document for the next African Synod. The need for evangelization, hope for the young, the role of women, the pursuit of interreligious dialogue with the Muslims.

Vatican City (AsiaNews) - A continent rich in human values and profound religious spirit, which is in need of reconciliation, justice, peace and respect for human values, which the Church "accompanies" in its growth, and for which the proclamation of the Gospel remains fundamental. This is the Africa that Benedict XVI evoked today, recalling for the 20,000 people present in St. Peter's Square for the general audience the main stages of the trip that he just made.

It was, he recalled, "the first of my pontificate in Africa, limited to Cameroon and Angola, but symbolically I wanted to embrace the entire African people." And he expressed his thanks for the "traditional warm African welcome that was extended to me everywhere."

Benedict XVI said that he arrived in Cameroon on March 17, "in the heart of Africa, and not only geographically," in this country that "sums up many of the characteristics of the continent, first of all its profoundly religious spirit." In Cameroon, "more than a quarter of the inhabitants are Catholic, and live together peacefully with the other religious communities. For this reason, John Paul II chose it to promulgate the exhortation Ecclesia in Africa, after the first synod assembly for Africa. This time, the pope went there to deliver the Instrumentum Laboris for the next assembly, the theme of which will be The Church in Africa, instrument of reconciliation at the service of justice and peace.

"In my meetings with the bishops' conferences, I wanted to recall the urgency of evangelization, which is the responsibility of the bishops in the first place. I urged them to be always an example for the priests and faithful, and to follow the formation of the seminarians, who thanks to God are numerous," and to care for the catechists. "I encouraged them to promote pastoral initiatives for marriage and the family, partly in order to resist the attack of sects and esoteric groups." "I urged the defense of the rights of peoples."

The pope then recalled that he met with representatives of the Muslim community at the nunciature of Yaoundé, "reiterating the importance of interreligious dialogue and of collaboration between Christians and Muslims.

"Certainly one of the culminating moments of the visit" was the presentation of the Instrumentum, "which took place on March 19, my name day, in the stadium of Yaoundé, at the end of the solemn Eucharistic celebration," conducted "in the plurality of the people of God," in a "climate of celebration." The Synod assembly "in a certain sense is an initiative in the heart of the African continent, in the heart of the African family, which suffers and hopes." In Yaoundé, a meeting with the members of the Council of the synod for Africa "was almost a first meeting of the Synod, in a fraternal exchange" between the representatives of the bishops' conferences and the pope. The Church thus accompanies an Africa that is "engaged in consolidating political independence, and in the construction of national identity in a globalized context." And "in the midst of the numerous and dramatic conflicts that still afflict the continent, the Church knows that it must be an instrument of peace and reconciliation."

And Angola, the second stage of the trip, is an "emblematic country, which has emerged from a long internal war, and is engaged in national reconciliation and reconstruction - but how can this be achieved if it takes place to the detriment of the poor, who like everyone else have the right to participate in the wealth of their land?

"In Angola, one can see up close that everything is lost with war, and everything can be reborn with peace." For this objective, "great moral energy is required," for which "it is important that the Church carry out an educational function to form and renew consciences."

Africa is a "young content, but too many of its offspring, children and adolescents, have already suffered grave wounds that only Jesus Christ can heal by infusing the power to love." In the stadium of Luanda, with the young people, "it was a celebration of joy and hope, which was unfortunately marred by the death of two young women who were crushed in a stampede at the entrance." Also in Luanda, "I paid homage to the women for the service that so many of them offer to faith, to life, to human dignity. I recalled the full right of women to be involved in public life, without compromising their role in the family, to be carried out with the rest of society, and, above all, with their husbands and fathers." "This is the message to women and families, which is then extended to all. If peoples set their hopes on the Word of God, they can truly build a future of reconciliation and stability for all."

Finally, he issued an invitation to "pray for the African populations so dear to me, that they may courageously address the great economic, social, and moral challenges of our time."


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