AFRICA: A GREAT STORE OF VITALITY FOR THE FUTURE
VATICAN CITY, 18 NOV 2011 (VIS) - This morning, during his flight to Benin, the Holy Father responded to a number of questions put to him by Holy See Press Office Director Fr. Federico Lombardi S.J. in the name of the journalists accompanying them on the papal plane.
(IMAGE RADIO VATICANA)
Explaining why he chose Benin to launch the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation "Africae munus", which is addressed to the entire continent of Africa, Benedict XVI said: "There are a number of reasons. The first is that Benin is a country at peace, both externally and internally. Its democratic institutions work; they were created in a spirit of freedom and responsibility, and therefore justice and commitment to the common good are possible and guaranteed. ... The second reason is that, as in most African countries, there are a number of religions, peacefully existing one next to the other. There are Christians of different denominations, ... Muslims and traditional religions, and these different faiths live in mutual respect and share responsibility for peace and reconciliation, both internally and externally. ... Inter-religious dialogue is a factor for peace and freedom, and it is also an important aspect of the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation.
"Finally, the third reason is that this is the country of my dear friend, Cardinal Bernardin Gantin, and I had always wanted to come and pray one day over his grave. Truly he was a great friend to me. ... To visit the country of Cardinal Gantin, a great representative of Catholic Africa, of humane and civil Africa, is one of the reasons I chose to come here".
Another question put by Fr. Lombardi referred to the growth of Evangelical and Pentecostal movements in Africa. They "present an attractive faith, a simplification of the Christian message which lays great emphasis on healing and mixes their own rites with those of African tradition". How, he asked, can the Catholic Church react to this challenge? In his reply the Pope noted that the phenomenon also exists on other continents, especially Latin America and Africa. Such communities are characterised by a lack of institutions, an easily understandable message, and "a participative liturgy which lays emphasis on the expression of feelings and local culture, and on syncretic combinations among different religions. In a way, this guarantees their success but it also leads to instability. We also know that many return to the Catholic Church, or migrate from one of those communities to another.
"We must not imitate such communities", the Pope added. "Rather, we must ask ourselves what we can do to give fresh vitality to the Catholic faith. One point, is certainly a simple, profound but comprehensible message. It is important that Christianity should not be seen as a difficult, European system, ... but as a universal message that God exists, that He is concerned with us, knows and loves us, and that religion produces collaboration and fraternity".
Another vital factor is that "Church institutions should not too cumbersome, that the initiative of the community and of the individual should prevail. I would also draw attention to the importance of a participative but not a sentimental liturgy. Liturgy must not be exclusively based on the expression of feelings, but characterised by the presence of the mystery, into which we enter and by which we allow ourselves to be formed. Finally, I would say that it is important not to lose sight of the universal aspect of inculturation. Indeed. I would prefer to speak more of 'inter-culturality' than of inculturation; in other words, of the meeting of cultures in our shared truth of being human in our time. Thus will we grow in universal fraternity, not losing the great gift of catholicity which makes us brothers and sisters all over the world, a family which collaborates in a spirit of fraternity".
The third question put to the Holy Father focused on the Church's specific contribution to building lasting peace in Africa, in light of peacekeeping operations and reconstruction initiatives in various African States.
"It is true", said Benedict XVI in his reply, "that many international conferences have been held for Africa, for universal brotherhood. Fine things have been said and sometimes positive actions have been accomplished, we must recognise this. But it is clear that words, intentions and desires are greater than achievements, and we must ask ourselves why this is. One fundamental factor, I believe, is that renewal and universal brotherhood call for sacrifice; they require us to abandon our selfishness and to exist for others. This is easy to say but difficult to achieve. ... Only by love, and belief in a God Who loves us, can we achieve this, daring to lose our lives, daring to give ourselves because we know that we will gain by it".
The Holy Father then went on to explain why he believes that Africa can bring faith and hope to the rest of the world. "Humanity", he said, "is undergoing an increasingly rapid transformation. The last fifty or sixty years in Africa, from postcolonial independence to our own day, have been a very trying and difficult time, with many problems some of which have still not been overcome. ... Nonetheless the freshness of the 'yes' to life which exists in Africa, ... its enthusiasm and hope, show that it possesses a great store of humanity, a freshness of religious feeling and hope. ... Thus I would say that the new humanism in the young soul of Africa, despite the problems which exist and will continue to exist, are proof of its great stores of life and vitality for the future".
VATICAN CITY, 18 NOV 2011 (VIS) - This afternoon, the Holy Father travelled by popemobile to the cathedral of Our Lady of Mercy in Cotonou, where numerous faithful were waiting to greet him.
Benedict XVI paused for a moment of prayer before the Blessed Sacrament then went on to visit the tombs of two former archbishops of Cotonou, Isidore de Sousa and Christophe Adimou. Following the "Te Deum" and a greeting by the current archbishop, Msgr. Antoine Ganye, the Pope pronounced his address. "They were heroic workers in the vineyard of the Lord", he said referring to the two deceased prelates, "and their memory lives on in the hearts of Catholics and innumerable other citizens of Benin. These two bishops were, each in his own way, pastors full of zeal and charity. They spent themselves, without counting the cost, in the service of the Gospel and of the people of God, especially the most vulnerable. You know well that Archbishop de Sousa was a friend of the truth and that he played a decisive role in your country's transition to democracy".
"I invite you to meditate for a moment on [God's] infinite mercy. The history of salvation, which culminates in the incarnation of Jesus and finds its fulfilment in the Paschal Mystery, is a radiant revelation of the mercy of God", which "consists not only in the remission of our sins" but also "in the fact that God, our Father, redirects us, sometimes not without pain, affliction or fear on our part, to the path of truth and light, for He does not wish us to be lost. ... Looking back upon the personal history of each individual and of the evangelisation of our countries, we can say together with the Psalmist, 'I will sing of thy steadfast love, O Lord, for ever'".
The Holy Father continued his remarks: "The Virgin Mary experienced to the highest degree the mystery of divine love. ... By her 'yes' to the call of God, she contributed to the manifestation of divine love in the midst of humanity. In this sense, she is the Mother of Mercy by her participation in the mission of her Son: she has received the privilege of being our helper always and everywhere. ... In Mary, we have not only a model of perfection, but also one who helps us to realise communion with God and with our brothers and sisters. As Mother of Mercy, she is a sure guide to the disciples of her Son who wish to be of service to justice, to reconciliation and to peace. ... Let us not be afraid to invoke her with confidence, she who ceaselessly dispenses to her children abundant divine graces".
Benedict XVI then prayed to Our Lady to intercede to obtain peace for child victims of hunger and war, for the sick and the afflicted, for sinners, for Africa and for all humankind.
The ceremony concluded with the praying of the Our Father and the Salve Regina, after which the Holy Father travelled by car to the apostolic nunciature.
VATICAN CITY, 19 NOV 2011 (VIS) - Shortly before 9 a.m. today Benedict XVI arrived at the presidential palace in Cotonou, a building constructed in 1960 to mark the proclamation of Benin's independence from France. There he met with members of the government, representatives of State institutions, the diplomatic corps and representatives of the principal religions. Thomas Yayi Boni, president of Benin, welcomed the Holy Father who, having greeted those present, pronounced an address extracts of which are given below.
"When I say that Africa is a continent of hope, I am not indulging in mere rhetoric, but simply expressing a personal conviction which is also that of the Church. Too often, our mind is blocked by prejudices or by images which give a negative impression of the realities of Africa, the fruit of a bleak analysis. It is tempting to point to what does not work; it is easy to assume the judgemental tone of the moraliser or of the expert who imposes his conclusions and proposes, at the end of the day, few useful solutions. It is also tempting to analyse the realities of Africa like a curious ethnologist or like someone who sees the vast resources only in terms of energy, minerals, agriculture and humanity easily exploited for often dubious ends. These are reductionist and disrespectful points of view which lead to the unhelpful 'objectification' of Africa and her inhabitants.
"To talk of hope is to talk of the future and hence of God. ... It is upon this mixture of many contradictory and complementary elements that we must build with the help of God. ... In the light of this experience which ought to encourage us, I would like to mention two current African realities. The first relates in a general way to the socio-political and economic life of the continent, the second to inter-religious dialogue".
"During recent months, many peoples have manifested their desire for liberty, their need for material security, and their wish to live in harmony according to their different ethnic groups and religions. Indeed, a new State has been born on your continent. Many conflicts have originated in man's blindness, in his will to power and in political and economic interests which mock the dignity of people and of nature. ... These ills certainly afflict your continent, but they also afflict the rest of the world. Every people wishes to understand the political and economic choices which are made in its name. They perceive manipulation and their revenge is sometimes violent. They wish to participate in good governance. We know that no political regime is ideal and that no economic choice is neutral. But these must always serve the common good. Hence we are faced with legitimate demands, present in all countries, for greater dignity and above all for greater humanity. Man demands that his humanity be respected and promoted. Political and economic leaders of countries find themselves placed before important decisions and choices which they can no longer avoid".
Ethical aspect of political and economic responsibilities
"From this place, I launch an appeal to all political and economic leaders of African countries and the rest of the world. Do not deprive your peoples of hope! Do not cut them off from their future by mutilating their present! Adopt a courageous ethical approach to your responsibilities and, if you are believers, ask God to grant you wisdom! ... Power, such as it is, easily blinds, above all when private, family, ethnic or religious interests are at stake. God alone purifies hearts and intentions.
"The Church does not propose any technical solution and does not impose any political solution. She repeats: do not be afraid! Humanity is not alone before the challenges of the world. God is present. There is a message of hope, hope which generates energy, which stimulates the intellect and gives the will all its dynamism. ... Hope is communion. Is not this a wonderful path that is placed before us? I ask all political and economic leaders, as well those of the university and cultural realms to join it. May you also be sowers of hope!"
"I do not think it is necessary to recall the recent conflicts born in the name of God, or deaths brought about in the name of Him Who is life. Everyone of good sense understands that a serene and respectful dialogue about cultural and religious differences must be promoted. True inter-religious dialogue rejects humanly self-centred truth, because the one and only truth is in God. ... Hence, no religion, and no culture may justify appeal or recourse to intolerance and violence. Aggression is an outmoded relational form which appeals to superficial and ignoble instincts. To use the revealed word, the Sacred Scriptures or the name of God to justify our interests, our easy and convenient policies or our violence, is a very grave fault.
"I can only come to a knowledge of the other if I know myself. ... Knowledge, deeper understanding and practice of one's religion, are therefore essential to true inter-religious dialogue. ... Everyone ought therefore to place himself in truth before God and before the other. This truth does not exclude and it is not confusion. Inter-religious dialogue when badly understood leads to muddled thinking or to syncretism. This is not the dialogue which is sought".
"We know that sometimes inter-religious dialogue is not easy or that it is impeded for various reasons. This does not necessarily indicate failure. There are many forms of inter-religious dialogue. Cooperation in social or cultural areas can help people to understand each other better and to live together serenely. It is also useful to know that dialogue does not take place through weakness but because of belief in God. Dialogue is another way of loving God and our neighbour without abdicating what we are".
Promoting a pedagogy of dialogue
"Having hope does not mean being ingenuous but making an act of faith in a better future. Thus the Catholic Church puts into action one of the intuitions of the Second Vatican Council, that of promoting friendly relations between herself and the members of non-Christian religions. ... I greet all religious leaders who have kindly come here to meet me. I would like to assure them, as well as those from other African countries, that the dialogue offered by the Catholic Church comes from the heart. I encourage them to promote, above all among the young people, a pedagogy of dialogue, so that they may discover that our conscience is a sanctuary to be respected and that our spiritual dimension builds fraternity".
"To finish, I would like to use the image of a hand. There are five fingers on it and each one is quite different. Each one is also essential and their unity makes a hand. A good understanding between cultures, consideration for each other which is not condescending, and the respect of the rights of each one are a vital duty. This must be taught to all the faithful of the various religions. Hatred is a failure, indifference is an impasse, and dialogue is an openness! Is this not good ground in which seeds of hope may be sown? To offer someone your hand means to hope, later, to love. ... Together with our heart and our intelligence, our hand too can become an instrument of dialogue. It can make hope flourish, above all when our intelligence stammers and our heart stumbles".
"To be afraid, to doubt and to fear, to live in the present without God, or to have nothing to hope for, these are all attitudes which are foreign to the Christian faith and, I am convinced, to all other forms of belief in God. ... Following Peter, of whom I am a successor, I hope that your faith and hope will be in God. This is my wish for the whole of Africa, which is so dear to me! Africa, be confident and rise up! The Lord is calling you".
Having concluded his address, the Pope held a brief meeting with the president of the Republic in the latter's private study, during which the two men exchanged gifts. Benedict XVI then signed the visitor's book and greeted members of Thomas Yayi Boni's family.
VATICAN CITY, 19 NOV 2011 (VIS) - At 11 a.m. today, the Holy Father arrived at the Seminary of St. Gall in Ouidah where he visited the tombs of Cardinal Bernardin Gantin, the first African to head a dicastery of the Roman Curia, and of his mentor, Msgr. Louis Parisot S.M.A., the first archbishop of Cotonou and apostolic vicar of Dahomey and Ouidah.
The Pope addressed the hundreds of priests, religious, seminarians and lay people who were awaiting his arrival in the courtyard of the seminary building, expressing his joy at meeting them and his gratitude for the pastoral work they carry out, often in difficult circumstances.
He recalled how the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation "Africae munus" focuses on the themes of peace, justice and reconciliation. "These three values stand out as an evangelical ideal fundamental to baptismal life, and they demand sound acceptance of your identity as priests, as consecrated persons and as lay faithful", he said.
"Dear priests", the Holy Father began, "the responsibility for promoting peace, justice and reconciliation falls in a special way to you. Owing to your reception of Holy Orders and your celebration of the Sacraments, you are called in effect to be men of communion. ... I thus encourage you to let Christ shine through your life, by being in full communion with your bishop, by a genuine goodwill towards your brother priests, by a profound solicitude for each of the baptised and by great attention to each person. In letting yourself be modelled on Christ, you will never substitute the beauty of your priestly being with ephemeral and at times unhealthy realities which the contemporary mentality tends to impose on every culture".
Turning to address religious, the Pope noted that "the consecrated life is a radical following of Jesus. May your unconditional choice for Christ lead you to an unlimited love for your neighbour. ... May poverty, obedience and chastity increase your thirst for God and your hunger for His Word, Who, by increasing, transforms hunger and thirst into service of those who are deprived of justice, peace and reconciliation".
Benedict XVI told seminarians that, "without the logic of holiness, the ministry is merely a social function. ... Faced with the challenges of human existence, the priest of today and tomorrow - if he wants to be a credible witness to the service of peace, justice and reconciliation - must be a humble and balanced man, one who is wise and magnanimous".
The lay faithful are also "called to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world" in daily life, and to contribute to peace, justice and reconciliation. "This mission requires first of all a faith in your family built according to the design of God and in fidelity to His plan for Christian marriage. ... Thanks to the power of prayer, 'personal and family life is transformed, gradually improved and enriched with dialogue, faith is transmitted to the children, the pleasure of being together grows and the home is further united and consolidated'. ... By having love and forgiveness reign in your families, you will contribute to the building of a Church which is beautiful and strong, and to the advent of greater justice and peace in the whole of society".
Catechists, "those valiant missionaries at the heart of the most humble realities", must, "with an unshakable hope and determination", make their "outstanding and absolutely necessary contribution to the spread of the faith through fidelity to the teaching of the Church".
Concluding his address the Pope highlighted how "the love for the God Who reveals Himself and for His Word, the love for the Sacraments and for the Church, are an efficacious antidote against a syncretism which deceives. This love favours the correct integration of the authentic values of cultures into the Christian faith. It liberates from occultism and vanquishes evil spirits, for it is moved by the power of the Holy Trinity itself. Lived deeply, this love is also a ferment of communion which breaks down every barrier, promoting the building of a Church in which there is no segregation among the baptised, for all are made one in Christ Jesus".
VATICAN CITY, 19 NOV 2011 (VIS) - At midday today the Holy Father travelled by popemobile to the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception in Ouidah. Inaugurated in 1909, it was the first cathedral in West Africa and the starting point for the evangelisation of the region.
On arrival the Pope was greeted by the rector of the basilica, who accompanied him in a moment of adoration before the Blessed Sacrament. Among those present were the members of the Special Council for Africa of the Synod of Bishops, and Archbishop Nicola Eterovic, secretary general of the Synod, all of whom Benedict XVI thanked for their help in collating the results of the Second Special Assembly for Africa in preparation for the publication of the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation "Africae munus".
"Today, the celebration of the Synod concludes with the signing of the Exhortation 'Africae Munus'", he said. "The Synod gave an impetus to the Catholic Church in Africa, which prayed, reflected on and discussed the theme of reconciliation, justice and peace. This process was marked by a special closeness uniting the Successor of Peter and the particular Churches in Africa".
"The Second Special Assembly for Africa of the Synod of Bishops benefited from the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation 'Ecclesia in Africa' of Blessed John Paul II, which emphasised the urgent need to evangelise this continent, an activity which cannot be separated from the work of human promotion. The Exhortation also developed the concept of the Church as God's Family. This concept has borne many spiritual fruits for the Catholic Church and for the activity of evangelisation and human promotion which she has carried out in African society as a whole".
"Within this ecclesial horizon, the Second Special Assembly for Africa concentrated on the theme of reconciliation, justice and peace. These are important issues for the world in general, but they take on a particular urgency in Africa. We need but recall the tensions, the acts of violence, the wars, the injustices and abuses of all sorts, new and old, which have marked this year. The principal theme was that of reconciliation with God and with one's neighbour. But a Church reconciled within herself and among all her members can become a prophetic sign of reconciliation in society within each country and the continent as a whole".
"We must never give up the search for new paths of peace! ... To attain peace, we need to have courage and the reconciliation born of forgiveness, the will once more to live as one, to share a vision of the future and to persevere in overcoming difficulties. Men and women reconciled and at peace with God and neighbour can work for greater justice in society".
"Africa, land of a New Pentecost, put your trust in God! Impelled by the Spirit of the Risen Christ, become God's great family, generous with all your sons and daughters, agents of reconciliation, peace and justice! Africa, Good News for the Church, become Good News for the entire world!"
Having completed his address, the Pope signed the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation and imparted his blessing upon those present. He then boarded a car which took him forty-five kilometres from Ouidah to the apostolic nunciature in Cotonou.
VATICAN CITY, 19 NOV 2011 (VIS) - Given below is a summary, prepared by Archbishop Nicola Eterovic, secretary general of the Synod of Bishops, of the main ideas contained in the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation "Africae munus".
The document has two parts. Part one (nos. 14-96) discerns the fundamental structures of the ecclesial mission on the continent, a mission which aspires to reconciliation, justice and peace, and has its origin in the person of Jesus Christ. Listening to Him, Christians are invited to let themselves be reconciled with God, becoming just in order to build a just social order in keeping with the logic of the Beatitudes, and committing themselves to fraternal service for love of truth, which is a source of peace. Attention then turns to the paths towards reconciliation, justice and peace. These include authentic conversion, the celebration of the Sacrament of Penance, the spirituality of communion, the inculturation of the Gospel, the protection of life, migrants, displaced persons, refugees, the good governance of States, and ecumenical and inter-religious dialogue especially with traditional religions and Islam. In part two (nos. 97-177) all members of the Church are invited to contribute to communion and peace in the Church and in society. It also identifies areas for the apostolate: the Church as the presence of Christ, the world of education, health care and the communications media. The Exhortation opens a horizon of hope to Africa which, by welcoming Jesus Christ, must free itself from the forces which paralyze it.
'Africae munus' is the continuation of 'Ecclesia in Africa', which was published after the First Special Assembly for Africa of the Synod of Bishops and gave great impetus to the growth of the Church in Africa developing, among other things, the idea of the Church as Family of God which has been beneficial to the universal Church. 'Africae munus' aims to reinforce this ecclesial dynamism, to outline a programme for pastoral activity for the coming decades of evangelisation in Africa, underlining the need for reconciliation, justice and peace.
The Church, Sacrament of union with God and man, must be a place of reconciliation, a gift of God, in order to be an effective tool of justice and peace for the whole of society. Reconciliation comes from the mystery of the risen Christ Who is present in His church through the Word of God and the Sacraments, especially those of Penance and the Eucharist. Through the grace of the Spirit, the Eucharist creates a new brotherhood which overcomes languages, cultures, ethnicities, divisions, tribalism, racism and ethnocentrism. In her work of evangelisation and education in the Christian faith, the Church must concentrate on lived catechesis, which leads to profound conversion and to real commitment to live the Gospel at a personal, family and social level. The Social Doctrine of the Church is of great help in sustaining human development.
'Africae munus' offers the Church in Africa practical guidance for pastoral activity over coming decades.
- Evangelisation ad gentes, the announcement of the Gospel to those who still do not know Jesus Christ, is still of vital importance in Africa. It is a pastoral priority which involves all African Christians.
- Ordinary evangelisation must be increasingly promoted in the various particular Churches, through commitment to fostering reconciliation, justice and peace.
- There is also an urgent need to work for the new evangelisation in Africa, especially among people who have distanced themselves from the Church or who do not behave in a Christian fashion. African Christians, and in particular the clergy and consecrated persons, are likewise called to support new evangelisation in secularised nations. This is an exchange of gifts, because African missionaries are already at work in countries which once produced missionaries who went forth to announce the Good News in Africa.
Among the practical suggestions contained in Africae munus, we may note the following:
- Saints, people reconciled with God and neighbour, are exemplary heralds of justice and apostles of peace. The Church - all of whose members are called to sanctity - must discover fresh ardour, the ardour of the many saints and martyrs, confessors and virgins of the African continent, devotion to whom should be renewed and promoted (cf. AM 113).
- In order to find further examples of sanctity, also obtaining new intercessors in heaven, pastors of the particular Churches are encouraged 'to recognize among servants of the Gospel in Africa those who could be canonized according to the norms of the Church' (AM 114).
- The bonds of communion between the Holy Father and the bishops of Africa must be strengthened, as must the bonds among Africa bishops themselves, at the national, regional and continental level.
- It is considered important 'for the bishops to help support, effectively and affectively, the Symposium of Bishops' Conferences of Africa and Madagascar (SECAM) as a continental structure of solidarity and ecclesial communion' (AM 107).
- For a deeper appreciation of the mystery of the Eucharist and to increase Eucharistic devotion, emphasis is given to the Synod Fathers' proposal to celebrate a continental Eucharistic Congress (cf. AM 153).
- African countries are encouraged to 'celebrate yearly 'a day or week of reconciliation, particularly during Advent or Lent'' (AM 157).
- In agreement with the Holy See, SECAM may contribute to promoting 'a continent-wide Year of Reconciliation to beg of God special forgiveness for all the evils and injuries mutually inflicted in Africa, and for the reconciliation of persons and groups who have been hurt in the Church and in the whole of society' (AM 157).
Grateful for the gift of faith in the One Triune God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, with renewed enthusiasm the Church in Africa reaffirms her commitment to evangelisation and human development, so that the entire continent may become a vast field of reconciliation, justice and peace. In this way, the Church contributes to forging the new Africa, which is increasingly called to become the 'spiritual lung' of humankind'.
VATICAN CITY, 19 NOV 2011 (VIS) - The Holy Father:
- Appointed Msgr. Kenneth David Oswin Richards, vicar general of Kingston in Jamaica, Jamaica, as bishop of Saint John's-Basseterre (area 1,058, population 169,787, Catholics 14,878, priests 9, religious 7), Antigua and Barbuda. The bishop-elect was born in Linstead, Jamaica in 1958 and ordained a priest in 1985. He has worked in the archdiocese of Kingston in Jamaica as parish vicar, pastor, director for vocations and president of the presbyteral council.
- Appointed Bishop Antonio Jose da Rocha Couto S.M.P., auxiliary of Braga, Portugal, as bishop of Lamego (area 2,848, population 160,200, Catholics 157,200, priests 144, permanent deacons 2, religious 64), Portugal. He succeeds Bishop Jacinto Tomas de Carvalho Botelho, whose resignation from the pastoral care of the same diocese the Holy Father accepted, upon having reached the age limit.