ADDRESS OF THE HOLY FATHER BENEDICT XVI
Nsimalen International Airport of Yaoundé
Friday, 20 March 2009
Distinguished Representatives of the Civil Authorities,
My Brother Bishops,
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
As I prepare to leave Cameroon, having completed the first phase of my Apostolic Visit to Africa, I want to thank all of you for the generous reception you have given me during these days. The warmth of the African sun is reflected in the warmth of the hospitality that has been extended to me. I thank the President and the members of the Government for their courteous welcome. I thank my brother Bishops and all the Catholic faithful who have offered such an inspiring example of joyful and exuberant worship during the liturgies that we have experienced together. I am glad, too, that members of other Christian ecclesial communities were able to be present at some of our gatherings, and I renew my respectful greetings to them and their leaders. I would like to express my great appreciation for all the work undertaken by the civil authorities in order to ensure the smooth progress of my visit. But above all, I want to thank all those who have been praying so hard that this pastoral visit will bear fruit for the life of the Church in Africa. And I ask you 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.
Many of the scenes I have witnessed here will remain deeply etched on my memory. At the Cardinal Léger Centre, 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.
My meeting with members of the Muslim community here in Cameroon was another highlight that will remain with me. As we continue on our journey towards greater mutual understanding, 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 secularized world needs to hear.
My principal reason for coming to Cameroon, of course, was to visit the Catholic community here. It gave me great joy to spend some fraternal moments with the Bishops, and to celebrate the Churchs liturgy with so many members of the faithful. I came here specifically in order to share with you the historic moment of the promulgation of the Instrumentum Laboris for 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.
People of Cameroon, I urge you 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! And may God bless this beautiful country, Africa in miniature, a land of promise, a land of glory. God bless you all!
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MEETING WITH THE SPECIAL COUNCIL
OF THE SYNOD FOR AFRICA
ADDRESS OF THE HOLY FATHER BENEDICT XVI
Apostolic Nunciature of Yaoundé
Thursday, 19 March 2009
Dear Brother Bishops,
It is with deep joy that I greet all of you here in Africa. A First Special Assembly of the Synod of Bishops was convoked for Africa in 1994 by my venerable predecessor, the Servant of God John Paul II, as a sign of his pastoral solicitude for this continent so rich both in promise and in pressing human, cultural and spiritual needs. This morning I called Africa the continent of hope. I recall with gratitude the signing of the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia in Africa here at the Apostolic Nunciature fourteen years ago on the Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross, 14 September 1995.
My thanks go to Archbishop Nikola Eterovic, Secretary General of the Synod of Bishops, for the words which he addressed to me in your name, as he introduced this meeting on African soil with you, dear members of the Special Council for Africa. The whole Church looks to our meeting today in anticipation of the Second Special Assembly for Africa of the Synod of Bishops, which, God willing, will be celebrated next October, on the theme: The Church in Africa in Service to Reconciliation, Justice and Peace: You are the Salt of the Earth You are the Light of the World (Mt 5:13-14).
I sincerely thank the Cardinals, the Archbishops and Bishops who are members of the Special Council for Africa for their expert collaboration in the drawing up of the Lineamenta and the Instrumentum Laboris. I am grateful to you, dear Brothers in the Episcopate, for having also presented in your contributions several important aspects of the present ecclesial and social situation in your countries of origin and in the region. In this way you have emphasized the great dynamism of the Church in Africa, but you have also evoked the challenges which the Synod needs to examine, so that the growth of the Church in Africa will be not only quantitative but qualitative as well.
Dear friends, at the beginning of my address, I consider it important to stress that your continent has been blessed by our Lord Jesus himself. At the dawn of his earthly life, sad circumstances led him to set foot on African soil. 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. Africa is where the Son of God was weaned, where he was offered effective sanctuary. In Jesus, some two thousand years ago, God himself brought salt and light to Africa. From that time on, the seed of his presence was buried deep within the hearts of this dear continent, and it has blossomed gradually, beyond and within the vicissitudes of its human history. As a result of the coming of Christ who blessed it with his physical presence, Africa has received a particular vocation to know Christ. Let Africans be proud of this! In meditating upon, and in coming to a deeper spiritual and theological appreciation of this first stage of the kenosis, Africa will be able to find the strength needed to face its sometimes difficult daily existence, and thus it will be able to discover immense spaces of faith and hope which will help it to grow in God.
The intimate bond existing between Africa and Christianity from the beginning can be illustrated by recalling some significant moments in the Christian history of this continent.
According to the venerable patristic tradition, the Evangelist Saint Mark, who handed down in writing the preaching of Peter (Irenaeus, Adversus Haereses III, I, 1), came to Alexandria to give new life to the seed planted by the Lord. This Evangelist bore witness in Africa to the death of the Son of God on the Cross the final moment of the kenosis and of his sovereign exaltation, in order that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father (Phil 2:11). 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.
Christianity lasted for almost a millennium in the north-eastern part of your continent, after being put to the test by the vicissitudes of history. With the arrival of Europeans seeking the passage to the Indies in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, the sub-Saharan peoples encountered Christ. The coastal peoples were the first to receive Baptism. 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. I wish to pay homage to the generosity of their unconditional response to the Lords call, and to their ardent apostolic zeal. Here, I would also like to speak of the African catechists, the inseparable companions of the missionaries in evangelization. God prepared the hearts of certain African lay persons, men and women, young and old alike, to receive his gifts and to bring the light of his word to their brothers and sisters. Laity in the midst of laity, they were able to find in their ancestral languages the words of God which would touch the hearts of their brothers and sisters. They were able to share the savour of the salt of the word and to give splendour to the light of the sacraments which they proclaimed. They accompanied families in their spiritual growth, they encouraged priestly and religious vocations, and they served as a link between their communities and the priests and Bishops. Quite naturally, they brought about a successful inculturation which yielded wondrous fruit (cf. Mk 4:20). The catechists allowed their light to shine before others (Mt 5:16), for in seeing the good they did, entire peoples were able to give glory to Our Father in heaven. This was a case of Africans evangelizing other Africans. 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! During this period, Africa was also blessed with numerous saints. I will content myself with naming the martyrs of Uganda, the great missionaries Anne-Marie Javouhey and Daniele Comboni, as well as Sister Anuarite Nengapeta and the catechist Isidore Bakanja, without forgetting the humble Josephine Bakhita.
We find ourselves presently at a historical moment which coincides from the civil standpoint with regained independence and from the ecclesial standpoint with the Second Vatican Council. During this time the Church in Africa contributed to and accompanied the building of new national identities and, at the same time, sought to translate the identity of Christ along its own ways. As the hierarchy became increasingly African following Pope Pius XIIs ordination of Bishops from your continent, theological reflection began to ferment quickly. It would be well for your theologians today to continue to probe the depth of the Trinitarian mystery and its meaning for everyday African life. This century will perhaps permit, by Gods grace, the rebirth, on your continent, albeit certainly under a different and new form, of the prestigious School of Alexandria. Why could we not hope that Africans today and the universal Church might thereby be furnished with great theologians and spiritual masters capable of contributing to the sanctification of those who dwell in this continent and throughout the Church? The First Special Assembly of the Synod of Bishops helped to point out the directions to be taken, and it brought out, among other things, the need to appreciate more deeply and to incarnate the mystery of the Church-as-Family.
I would now like to suggest some reflections about the specific theme of the Second Special Assembly for Africa of the Synod of Bishops, namely: reconciliation, justice and peace.
According to the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, the Church, in Christ, is in the nature of sacrament a sign and instrument of communion with God and of unity among all men and women (Lumen Gentium, 1). 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. Your continent, sadly, has not been spared, and it has been and continues to be a theatre of grave tragedies which cry out for true reconciliation between peoples, ethnic groups and individuals. For us Christians, this reconciliation is rooted in the merciful love of God the Father, and it is accomplished through the person of Christ Jesus who, in the Holy Spirit, has offered the grace of reconciliation to all. Its consequences will be shown, then, in the justice and peace which are indispensable for building a better world.
Truly, what is more dramatic, in the present socio-political and economic context of the African continent, than the often savage conflicts between ethnic groups or peoples bound by brotherhood? And if the Synod of 1994 insisted on the Church as Family of God, what can this years Synod contribute to the building up of Africa, thirsting for reconciliation and in pursuit of justice and peace? 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 Gods Family there must no longer be hatred, injustice and internecine war.
Cognizant of the growth of violence and the emergence of selfishness in Africa, Cardinal Bernardin Gantin of venerable memory called in 1988 for a theology of fraternity as a response to the pressing appeals of the poor and the little ones (LOsservatore Romano, French edition, 12 April 1988, pp. 4-5). Perhaps he had in mind the words of the African Lactantius, written at the dawn of the fourth century: The first duty of justice is to recognize others as brothers and sisters. Indeed, if the same God created us and gave us birth in the same condition, in view of righteousness and life eternal, we are surely united by bonds of brotherhood: whoever does not acknowledge those bonds is unjust (Divine Institutions 54, 4-5: S.C. 335, p. 210). 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 dehumanization 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. This was the subject of the discussions at the recent Twelfth General Ordinary Assembly of the Synod of Bishops. Having become flesh, this Word is at the origin of all that we are and all that we do; he is the foundation of every life. It is therefore on the basis of this Word that we need to enhance African traditions, and to correct and perfect their concept of life, humanity and the family. Christ Jesus, the Word of life, is the source and fulfilment of all our lives, for the Lord Jesus is the one mediator and redeemer.
It is urgent that Christian communities increasingly become places of profound listening to the word of God and meditative reading of sacred Scripture. It is through such meditative and communitarian reading in the Church that every Christian encounters the Risen Christ, who speaks to him and offers renewed hope in the fullness of life which he gives to the world.
As for the Eucharist, it makes the Lord truly present in history. Through the reality of his Body and his Blood, the whole Christ makes himself substantially present in our lives. He is with us always, until the end of time (cf. Mt 28:20) and he sends us back to our daily lives so that we can fill them with his presence. 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.
The word of life and the Bread of life offer light and nourishment as medicine and food for our journey in fidelity to the Teacher and Shepherd of our souls, so that the Church in Africa can carry out the service of reconciliation, justice and peace, in accordance with the programme of life provided by the Lord himself: You are the salt of the earth You are the light of the world (Mt 5:13-14). If they are truly to be this, the faithful must undergo conversion and follow Jesus Christ; they must become his disciples in order to be witnesses of his saving power. During his earthly life, Jesus was mighty in deed and word (Lk 24:19). By his resurrection, he has subjected to himself every authority and power (cf. Col 2:15), every power of evil, in order to set free those who are baptized in his name. For freedom Christ has set us free (Gal 5:1). The Christian vocation consists in letting oneself be freed by Jesus Christ. He has conquered sin and death and he offers to all the fullness of life. In the Lord Jesus there is no more Jew or Gentile, man or woman (cf. Gal 3:28). In his flesh he has reconciled all peoples. In the power of the Holy Spirit, I appeal to everyone: Be reconciled to God! (2 Cor 5:20). 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.
In conclusion, I invite you to advance the preparation of the Synodal event by reciting, together with the faithful, the prayer found at the end of the Instrumentum Laboris which I presented to you this morning, a prayer for the successful outcome of the Synodal Assembly. Together, my brothers, let us pray:
Holy Mary, Mother of God, Protectress of Africa, you have given the world its true light, Jesus Christ. By your obedience to the Father and by the grace of the Holy Spirit, you have given us the source of our reconciliation and our joy.
Mother of tenderness and wisdom, show us Jesus, your Son and the Son of God, sustain our journey of conversion, so that Jesus may enlighten us with his Glory in all the settings of our personal, family and social life.
Mother full of Mercy and Justice, by your docility to the Spirit, the Comforter, obtain for us the grace to be witnesses of the Risen Lord, so that we may become ever more fully the salt of the earth and the light of the world.
Mother of Perpetual Succour, to your maternal intercession we entrust the preparation and the fruits of the Second Synod for Africa. Queen of Peace, pray for us! Our Lady of Africa, pray for us!
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MEETING WITH THE SICK
ADDRESS OF THE HOLY FATHER BENEDICT XVI
Card. Paul Emile Léger Centre - CNRH of Yaoundé
Thursday, 19 March 2009
Minister of Social Affairs,
Bishop Joseph Djida,
Director of the Léger Centre,
Dear Carers and Patients,
I have been looking forward to spending this time with you, and I am happy to be able to greet you, dear brothers and sisters who bear the burden of sickness and suffering. 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. The Evangelist Mark gives us the example of the healing of Peters mother-in-law: Immediately they told him of her, it is written, Jesus came and took her by the hand and lifted her up (Mk 1:30-31). In this Gospel passage, we see Jesus spending a day with the sick in order to bring them relief. He thereby 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-Émile Léger, 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, in specialized health centres or clinics, 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 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. To those of you who endure the trials of sickness and suffering, and to all your families, I wish to bring a word of comfort from the Lord, to renew my support, and to invite you to turn towards Christ and towards Mary, whom he has given to us as our mother. She knew suffering, and she followed her Son along the path to Calvary, preserving in her heart that love which Jesus came to bring to all people.
Faced with suffering, sickness and death, it is tempting to cry out in pain, as Job did, whose name means suffering (cf. Gregory the Great, Moralia in Job, I,1,15). Even Jesus cried out, shortly before his death (cf. Mk 15:37; Heb 5:7). As our condition deteriorates, our anguish increases; some are tempted to doubt whether God is present in their lives. Job, however, was conscious of Gods presence; his was not a cry of rebellion, but, from the depths of his sorrow, he allowed his trust to grow (cf. Job 19; 42:2-6). His friends, like each of us when faced with the suffering of a loved one, tried to console him, but they used hollow and empty words.
In the presence of such 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 them, the Gospel tells us, was an African, Simon of Cyrene. He was given the task of helping Jesus to carry his Cross on the way to Golgotha. This man, albeit through no choice of his own, came to the aid of the Man of Sorrows when he had been abandoned by all his followers and handed over to blind violence. History tells us, then, that an African, a son of your continent, took part, at the price of his own suffering, in the infinite suffering of the one who ransomed all men, including his executioners. Simon of Cyrene could not have known that it was his Saviour who stood there before him. He was drafted in to assist him (cf. Mk 15:21); he was constrained, forced to do so. It is hard to accept to carry someone elses 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 Lords final victory will reveal for us the definitive meaning of our trials.
Can it not be said 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. When we see the infamy to which Jesus was subjected, when we contemplate his face on the Cross, when we recognize his appalling suffering, we can glimpse, through faith, the radiant face of the Risen Lord who tells us that suffering and sickness will not have the last word in our human lives. I pray, dear brothers and sisters, that you will be able to recognize yourselves in Simon of Cyrene. I pray, dear brothers and sisters who are sick, that many of you will encounter a Simon at your bedside.
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, recognizing 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. It is for us to discern his response and to accept the gifts that he offers us as a grace. Let us fix our gaze upon the Crucified one, with faith and courage, for from him come life, comfort, and healing. Let us learn to gaze on him who desires our good and knows how to wipe the tears from our eyes. Let us learn to abandon ourselves into his embrace, like a small child in his mothers arms.
The saints have given us a fine example by living lives entirely dedicated to God, our Father. Saint Teresa of Avila, who placed her monastery under the protection of Saint Joseph, was healed from a particular ailment on the very day of his feast. She said she had never prayed to him in vain, and she recommended him to all who claimed not to know how to pray: I do not understand, she wrote, how anyone can think of the Queen of angels and of all the trials she suffered during the early years of the divine child Jesus, without thanking Saint Joseph for the perfect devotion with which he came to assist them both. May anyone who lacks a teacher of prayer choose this admirable Saint as a master, for under his guidance no one need be afraid of going astray (Life, 6). Saint Teresa saw in Saint Joseph not only an intercessor for bodily health, but also an intercessor for the health of the soul, a teacher of prayer.
Dear friends who are sick, we too can choose him as a teacher of prayer, whatever our state of health, and all families can do the same. I am thinking especially of hospital staff, and all those who work in the field of health care. By accompanying those who suffer, through the care and attention you offer them, you accomplish an act of charity and love that God recognizes: I was sick, and you visited me (Mt 25:36). 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, 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. In accordance with his promise, God will give you a just reward, and he will recompense you in heaven.
Before greeting you more personally, and then taking my leave, I would like to assure each of you of my affection and my prayer. I also want to express my wish that none of you should ever feel alone. In fact it is the task of every human person, created in the image of Christ, to be a good neighbour to those around him. I entrust all of you to the intercession of the Virgin Mary, our Mother, and to the intercession of Saint Joseph. May God grant that we become bearers for one another of the mercy, tenderness and love of our God, and may he bless you!
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PUBLICATION OF THE INSTRUMENTUM LABORIS
FINAL WORDS OF THE HOLY FATHER BENEDICT XVI
Amadou Ahidjo Stadium of Yaoundé
Thursday, 19 March 2009
Dear Brother Bishops,
Presidents of the National and Regional Episcopal Conferences
of Africa and Madagascar,
Here in Yaoundé fourteen years ago, on 14 September 1995, my venerable Predecessor Pope John Paul II signed the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia in Africa. Today it is a great joy for me to present to you the text of the Instrumentum Laboris of the Second Special Assembly for Africa of the Synod of Bishops, which will be held in Rome next October. The theme of this Assembly, The Church in Africa in Service to Reconciliation, Justice and Peace, which continues along the path marked out by Ecclesia in Africa, is of great importance for the life of your continent, and for the life of the universal Church. The Instrumentum Laboris is the fruit of your reflections, drawing out important aspects of the ecclesial and social situation of your countries of origin. It reflects the great dynamism of the Church in Africa, but also the challenges that must be faced, which the Synod will have to consider. This evening I shall have an opportunity to speak at greater length on this theme with the members of the Special Council for Africa of the Synod of Bishops. My heartfelt wish is that the work of the Synodal Assembly will contribute to an increase in hope for your peoples and for the entire continent; that it will help to inspire each of your local Churches with new evangelical and missionary zeal in service to reconciliation, justice and peace, according to the programme given us by the Lord himself: You are the salt of the earth you are the light of the world (Mt 5:13-14). May the joy of the Church in Africa at the celebration of this Synod be shared by the universal Church!
And you, dear brothers and sisters, gathered here around your Bishops in a way that symbolizes the Church which is present among all the peoples of Africa, I invite you to keep the preparation and the unfolding of this great ecclesial event in your prayers. May the Queen of Peace sustain the efforts of all who work for reconciliation, justice and peace! Our Lady of Africa, pray for us!
ON THE OCCASION OF THE PUBLICATION
OF INSTRUMENTUM LABORIS (document)
HOMILY OF THE HOLY FATHER BENEDICT XVI
Amadou Ahidjo Stadium of Yaoundé
Thursady, 19 March 2009
Dear Brother Bishops,
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Praised be Jesus Christ who has gathered us in this stadium today that we may enter more deeply into his life!
Jesus Christ brings us together on this day when the Church, here in Cameroon and throughout the world, celebrates the Feast of Saint Joseph, Husband of the Virgin Mary. I begin by wishing a very happy feast day to all those who, like myself, have received the grace of bearing this beautiful name, and I ask Saint Joseph to grant them his special protection in guiding them towards the Lord Jesus Christ all the days of their life. I also extend cordial best wishes to all the parishes, schools, colleges, and institutions named after Saint Joseph. I thank Archbishop Tonyé-Bakot of Yaoundé for his kind words, and I warmly greet the representatives of the African Episcopal Conferences who have come to Yaoundé for the promulgation of the Instrumentum Laboris of the Second Special Assembly for Africa of the Synod of Bishops.
How can we enter into the specific grace of this day? In a little while, at the end of Mass, the liturgy will remind us of the focal point of our meditation when it has us pray: Lord, today you nourish us at this altar as we celebrate the feast of Saint Joseph. Protect your Church always, and in your love watch over the gifts you have given us. We are asking the Lord to protect the Church always and he does! just as Joseph protected his family and kept watch over the child Jesus during his early years.
Our Gospel reading recalls this for us. The angel said to Joseph: Do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home, (Mt 1:20) and that is precisely what he did: he did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him (Mt 1:24). Why was Saint Matthew so keen to note Josephs trust in the words received from the messenger of God, if not to invite us to imitate this same loving trust?
Although the first reading which we have just heard does not speak explicitly of Saint Joseph, it does teach us a good deal about him. The prophet Nathan, in obedience to Gods command, tells David: I will raise up your heir after you, sprung from your loins (2 Sam 7:12). David must accept that he will die before seeing the fulfilment of this promise, which will come to pass when (his) time comes and he will rest with (his) ancestors. We thus come to realize that one of mankinds most cherished desires seeing the fruits of ones labours is not always granted by God. I think of those among you who are mothers and fathers of families. Parents quite rightly desire to give the best of themselves to their children, and they want to see them achieve success. Yet make no mistake about what this success entails: what God asks David to do is to place his trust in him. David himself will not see his heir who will have a throne firm for ever (2 Sam 7:16), for this heir, announced under the veil of prophecy, is Jesus. David puts his trust in God. In the same way, Joseph trusts God when he hears his messenger, the Angel, say to him: Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home. For it is through the Holy Spirit that this child has been conceived in her (Mt 1:20). Throughout all of history, Joseph is the man who gives God the greatest display of trust, even in the face of such astonishing news.
Dear fathers and mothers here today, do you have trust in God who has called you to be the fathers and mothers of his adopted children? Do you accept that he is counting on you to pass on to your children the human and spiritual values that you yourselves have received and which will prepare them to live with love and respect for his holy name? At a time when so many people have no qualms about trying to impose the tyranny of materialism, with scant concern for the most deprived, you must be very careful. Africa in general, and Cameroon in particular, place themselves at risk if they do not recognize the True Author of Life! Brothers and sisters in Cameroon and throughout Africa, you who have received from God so many human virtues, take care of your souls! Do not let yourselves be captivated by selfish illusions and false ideals! Believe yes! continue to believe in God Father, Son, and Holy Spirit he alone truly loves you in the way you yearn to be loved, he alone can satisfy you, can bring stability to your lives. Only Christ is the way of Life.
God alone could grant Joseph the strength to trust the Angel. God alone will give you, dear married couples, the strength to raise your family as he wants. Ask it of him! God loves to be asked for what he wishes to give. Ask him for the grace of a true and ever more faithful love patterned after his own. As the Psalm magnificently puts it: his love is established for ever, his loyalty will stand as long as the heavens (Ps 88:3).
Just as on other continents, the family today in your country and across Africa is experiencing a difficult time; but fidelity to God will help see it through. Certain values of the traditional life have been overturned. Relationships between different generations have evolved in a way that no longer favours the transmission of accumulated knowledge and inherited wisdom. Too often we witness a rural exodus not unlike that known in many other periods of human history. The quality of family ties is deeply affected by this. Uprooted and fragile members of the younger generation who often sadly are without gainful employment, seek to cure their pain by living in ephemeral and man-made paradises which we know will never guarantee the human being a deep, abiding happiness. Sometimes the African people too are constrained to flee from themselves and abandon everything that once made up their interior richness. Confronted with the phenomenon of rapid urbanization, they leave the land, physically and morally: not as Abraham had done in response to the Lords call, but as a kind of interior exile which alienates them from their very being, from their brothers and sisters, and from God himself.
Is this an irreversible, inevitable development? By no means! More than ever, we must hope against all hope (Rom 4:18). Here I wish to acknowledge with appreciation and gratitude the remarkable work done by countless associations that promote the life of faith and the practice of charity. May they be warmly thanked! May they find in the word of God renewed strength to carry out their projects for the integral development of the human person in Africa, especially in Cameroon!
The first priority will consist in restoring a sense of the acceptance of life as a gift from God. According to both Sacred Scripture and the wisest traditions of your continent, the arrival of a child is always a gift, a blessing from God. Today it is high time to place greater emphasis on this: every human being, every tiny human person, however weak, is created in the image and likeness of God (Gen 1:27). Every person must live! Death must not prevail over life! Death will never have the last word!
Sons and daughters of Africa, do not be afraid to believe, to hope, and to love; do not be afraid to say that Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life, and that we can be saved by him alone. Saint Paul is indeed an inspired author given to the Church by the Holy Spirit as a teacher of nations (1 Tim 2:7) when he tells us that Abraham, hoping against hope, believed that he should become the father of many nations; as he had been told, So shall your descendants be (Rom 4:18).
Hoping against hope: is this not a magnificent description of a Christian? Africa is called to hope through you and in you! With Jesus Christ, who trod the African soil, Africa can become the continent of hope! We are all members of the peoples that God gave to Abraham as his descendants. Each and every one of us was thought, willed and loved by God. Each and every one of us has a role to play in the plan of God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. If discouragement overwhelms you, think of the faith of Joseph; if anxiety has its grip on you, think of the hope of Joseph, that descendant of Abraham who hoped against hope; if exasperation or hatred seizes you, think of the love of Joseph, who was the first man to set eyes on the human face of God in the person of the Infant conceived by the Holy Spirit in the womb of the Virgin Mary. Let us praise and thank Christ for having drawn so close to us, and for giving us Joseph as an example and model of love for him.
Dear brothers and sisters, I want to say to you once more from the bottom of my heart: like Joseph, do not be afraid to take Mary into your home, that is to say do not be afraid to love the Church. Mary, Mother of the Church, will teach you to follow your pastors, to love your bishops, your priests, your deacons and your catechists; to heed what they teach you and to pray for their intentions. Husbands, look upon the love of Joseph for Mary and Jesus; those preparing for marriage, treat your future spouse as Joseph did; those of you who have given yourselves to God in celibacy, reflect upon the teaching of the Church, our Mother: Virginity or celibacy for the sake of the Kingdom of God not only does not contradict the dignity of marriage but presupposes and confirms it. Marriage and virginity are two ways of expressing and living the one mystery of the Covenant of God with his people (Redemptoris Custos, 20).
Once more, I wish to extend a particular word of encouragement to fathers so that they may take Saint Joseph as their model. He who kept watch over the Son of Man is able to teach them the deepest meaning of their own fatherhood. In the same way, each father receives his children from God, and they are created in Gods own image and likeness. Saint Joseph was the spouse of Mary. In the same way, each father sees himself entrusted with the mystery of womanhood through his own wife. Dear fathers, like Saint Joseph, respect and love your spouse; and by your love and your wise presence, lead your children to God where they must be (cf. Lk 2:49).
Finally, to all the young people present, I offer words of friendship and encouragement: as you face the challenges of life, take courage! Your life is priceless in the eyes of God! Let Christ take hold of you, agree to pledge your love to him, and why not? maybe even do so in the priesthood or in the consecrated life! This is the supreme service. To the children who no longer have a father, or who live abandoned in the poverty of the streets, to those forcibly separated from their parents, to the maltreated and abused, to those constrained to join paramilitary forces that are terrorizing some countries, I would like to say: God loves you, he has not forgotten you, and Saint Joseph protects you! Invoke him with confidence.
May God bless you and watch over you! May he give you the grace to keep advancing towards him with fidelity! May he give stability to your lives so that you may reap the fruits he awaits from you! May he make you witnesses of his love here in Cameroon and to the ends of the earth! I fervently beg him to give you a taste of the joy of belonging to him, now and for ever. Amen.
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MEETING WITH REPRESENTATIVES
OF THE MUSLIM COMMUNITY OF CAMEROON
ADDRESS OF THE HOLY FATHER BENEDICT XVI
Apostolic Nunciature of Yaoundé
Thursday, 19 March 2009
My Dear Friends,
Grateful for this opportunity to meet representatives of the Muslim community in Cameroon, I express my heartfelt thanks to Mr Amadou Bello for his kind words of greeting extended to me on your behalf. Our encounter is a vivid sign of the desire we share with all people of good will in Cameroon, throughout Africa and across the globe to seek opportunities to exchange ideas about how religion makes an essential contribution to our understanding of culture and the world, and to the peaceful coexistence of all the members of the human family. Initiatives in Cameroon, such as the Association Camerounaise pour le Dialogue Interreligieux, illustrate how such dialogue enhances mutual understanding and assists in the building up of a stable and just political order.
Cameroon is home to thousands of Christians and Muslims, who often live, work and worship in the same neighbourhood. Both believe in one, merciful God who on the last day will judge mankind (cf. Lumen Gentium, 16). Together they bear witness to the fundamental values of family, social responsibility, obedience to Gods law and loving concern for the sick and suffering. By patterning their lives on these virtues and teaching them to the young, Christians and Muslims not only show how they foster the full development of the human person, but also how they forge bonds of solidarity with ones neighbours and advance the common good.
My friends, I believe a particularly urgent task of religion today is to unveil the vast potential of human reason, which is itself Gods gift and which is elevated by revelation and faith. Belief in the one God, far from stunting our capacity to understand ourselves and the world, broadens it. Far from setting us against the world, it commits us to it. We are called to help others see the subtle traces and mysterious presence of God in the world which he has marvellously created and continually sustains with his ineffable and all-embracing love. Although his infinite glory can never be directly grasped by our finite minds in this life, we nonetheless catch glimpses of it in the beauty that surrounds us. When men and women allow the magnificent order of the world and the splendour of human dignity to illumine their minds, they discover that what is reasonable extends far beyond what mathematics can calculate, logic can deduce and scientific experimentation can demonstrate; it includes the goodness and innate attractiveness of upright and ethical living made known to us in the very language of creation.
This insight prompts us to seek all that is right and just, to step outside the restricted sphere of our own self-interest and act for the good of others. Genuine religion thus widens the horizon of human understanding and stands at the base of any authentically human culture. It rejects all forms of violence and totalitarianism: not only on principles of faith, but also of right reason. Indeed, religion and reason mutually reinforce one another since religion is purified and structured by reason, and reasons full potential is unleashed by revelation and faith.
I therefore encourage you, my dear Muslim friends, to imbue society with the values that emerge from this perspective and elevate human culture, as we work together to build a civilization of love. May the enthusiastic cooperation of Muslims, Catholics and other Christians in Cameroon be a beacon to other African nations of the enormous potential of an interreligious commitment to peace, justice and the common good!
With these sentiments, I once again express my gratitude for this auspicious occasion to meet you during my visit to Cameroon. I thank Almighty God for the blessings he has bestowed upon you and your fellow citizens, and I pray that the links that bind Christians and Muslims in their profound reverence for the one God will continue to grow stronger, so that they will reflect more clearly the wisdom of the Almighty, who enlightens the hearts of all mankind.
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ADDRESS OF THE HOLY FATHER BENEDICT XVI
Basilica of Marie, Reine des Apôtres in the Mvolyé neighbourhood - Yaoundé
Wednesday, 18 March 2009
Dear Brother Cardinals and Bishops,
Priests and Deacons,
Consecrated Brothers and Sisters,
Friends from other Christian Confessions,
Dear Brothers and Sisters!
It is a great joy to meet here to give thanks to God in this Basilica of Marie Reine des Apôtres in Mvolyé, raised on the site of the first church built by the Missionaries of the Holy Spirit who came to bring the Good News to Cameroon. Reflecting the apostolic fervour of those men whose hearts embraced the whole of your country, this place symbolically contains every portion of your land. And so, dear brothers and sisters, in deep spiritual closeness to all the Christian communities where you render service, we raise our prayer of praise this evening to the Father of lights.
In the presence of the representatives of other Christian confessions, to whom I extend my respectful and fraternal greetings, I wish to reflect on the figure of Saint Joseph, setting out from the words of Scripture offered to us in this evenings liturgy.
Speaking to the crowd and to his disciples, Jesus declared: You have only one Father (Mt 23:9). There is but one fatherhood, that of God the Father, the one Creator of the world, of all that is seen and unseen. Yet man, created in the image of God, has been granted a share in this one paternity of God (cf. Eph 3:15). Saint Joseph is a striking case of this, since he is a father, without fatherhood according to the flesh. He is not the biological father of Jesus, whose Father is God alone, and yet he lives his fatherhood fully and completely. To be a father means above all to be at the service of life and growth. Saint Joseph, in this sense, gave proof of great devotion. For the sake of Christ he experienced persecution, exile and the poverty which this entails. He had to settle far from his native town. His only reward was to be with Christ. His readiness to do all these things illustrates the words of Saint Paul: It is Christ the Lord whom you serve (Col 3:24).
What is important is not to be a useless servant, but rather a faithful and wise servant. The pairing of the two adjectives is not by chance. It suggests that understanding without fidelity, and fidelity without wisdom, are insufficient. One quality alone, without the other, would not enable us to assume fully the responsibility which God entrusts to us.
Dear brother priests, you are called to live out this fatherhood in the daily tasks of your ministry. In the words of the conciliar Constitution Lumen Gentium: As their fathers in Christ, priests should care for the faithful whom they have spiritually begotten by Baptism and instruction (No. 28). If this is the case, how can we not continually return to the very foundation of our priesthood, the Lord Jesus Christ? Our personal relationship with Jesus is constitutive of the way we wish to live our lives. He has called us his friends because everything which he learned from the Father he has made known to us (cf. Jn 15:15). In living out this deep friendship with Christ you will discover true freedom and deep joy. The ministerial priesthood entails a profound relationship with Christ who is given to us in the Eucharist. Let the celebration of the Eucharist be truly the centre of your priestly lives; in this way it will also be the centre of your ecclesial mission. Throughout our lives Christ calls us to share in his mission, to be his witnesses, so that his word may be proclaimed to all. In celebrating this sacrament in the Lords name and in his person, the person of the priest cannot occupy centre stage; he is a servant, a humble instrument pointing to Christ, who offers himself in sacrifice for the salvation of the world. As Jesus teaches us, the leader must become as one who serves (Lk 22:26). Origen writes that Joseph understood that Jesus was superior to him even as he submitted to him, and, knowing the superiority of his charge, he commanded him with respect and moderation. Everyone should reflect on this: frequently a lesser man is placed over people who are greater, and it happens at times that an inferior is more worthy than the one who appears to be set above him. If a person of greater dignity understands this, then he will not be puffed up with pride because of his higher rank; he will know that his inferior may well be superior to him, even as Jesus was subject to Joseph (Homily on Saint Luke XX, 5; S.C. p. 287).
Dear brothers in the priesthood, your pastoral ministry demands many sacrifices, yet it is also a source of great joy. Trusting in your Bishops, united fraternally to the whole presbyterate and supported by the portion of the People of God commended to your care, you will be able to respond faithfully to the Lord who has called you, just as he called Joseph to watch over Mary and the Child Jesus! May you always remain faithful, dear priests, to the promises that you made to God before your Bishop and in the presence of the whole community. The Successor of Peter thanks you for your generous devotion to the service of the Church, and he urges you not to be troubled by the difficulties you encounter along the way. To the young men who are preparing to join you, and to those still discerning a priestly vocation, I hold out once more the joy that comes from giving oneself completely to the service of God and the Church. Be courageous, then, and generously say yes to Christ!
Dear brothers and sisters who live out your commitment in the consecrated life or in ecclesial movements, I also encourage you to look to Saint Joseph. When Mary received the visit of the angel at the Annunciation, she was already betrothed to Joseph. In addressing Mary personally, the Lord already closely associates Joseph to the mystery of the Incarnation. Joseph agreed to be part of the great events which God was beginning to bring about in the womb of his spouse. He took Mary into his home. He welcomed the mystery that was in Mary and the mystery that was Mary herself. He loved her with great respect, which is the mark of all authentic love. Joseph teaches us that it is possible to love without possessing. In contemplating Joseph, all men and women can, by Gods grace, come to experience healing from their emotional wounds, if only they embrace the plan that God has begun to bring about in those close to him, just as Joseph entered into the work of redemption through Mary and as a result of what God had already done in her. Dear brothers and sisters from the ecclesial movements, may you be attentive to those around you, and may you reveal the loving face of God to the poor, especially by your works of mercy, your human and Christian education of young people, your programmes for the advancement of women, and in so many other ways!
The spiritual contribution offered by consecrated persons is likewise significant and indispensable for the life of the Church. This call to follow Christ is a gift for the whole People of God. According to your vocation, that of imitating Christ, chaste, poor and obedient, totally consecrated to the glory of his Father and the love of his brothers and sisters, you have the mission of bearing much-needed witness before our world to the primacy of God and of eternal life (cf. Vita Consecrata, 85). By your unreserved fidelity to your commitments, you are for the Church a sapling of life, springing up to serve the coming of Gods Kingdom. At all times, and especially whenever your fidelity is put to the test, Saint Joseph reminds you of the value and meaning of your promises. The consecrated life is a radical imitation of Christ. Hence the way you live ought to show clearly what inspires you, and your actions must not conceal your deepest identity. Do not be afraid of living to the full the self-offering that you have made to God, bearing authentic witness to it wherever you find yourselves. One particular example that can encourage you to strive for holiness of life is that of Father Simon Mpeke, known as Baba Simon. All of you know how this barefooted missionary spent all his energies with selfless humility in the loving service of souls, heedless of the cares and sufferings involved in the material service of others.
Dear brothers and sisters, our meditation on the human and spiritual journey of Saint Joseph invites us to ponder his vocation in all its richness, and to see him as a constant model for all those who have devoted their lives to Christ in the priesthood, in the consecrated life or in the different forms of lay engagement. Joseph was caught up at every moment by the mystery of the Incarnation. Not only physically, but in his heart as well, Joseph reveals to us the secret of a humanity which dwells in the presence of mystery and is open to that mystery at every moment of everyday life. In Joseph, faith is not separated from action. His faith had a decisive effect on his actions. Paradoxically, it was by acting, by carrying out his responsibilities, that he stepped aside and left God free to act, placing no obstacles in his way. Joseph is a just man (Mt 1:19) because his existence is ad-justed to the word of God.
The life of Saint Joseph, lived in obedience to Gods word, is an eloquent sign for all the disciples of Jesus who seek the unity of the Church. His example helps us to understand that it is only by complete submission to the will of God that we become effective workers in the service of his plan to gather together all mankind into one family, one assembly, one ecclesia. Dear friends from other Christian confessions, this quest for unity among the disciples of Christ represents a great challenge for us. It leads us first of all to be converted to the Person of Christ, to let ourselves be drawn more and more to him. In him, we are called to acknowledge one another as brothers and sisters, children of the same Father. During this year dedicated to the Apostle Paul, the great herald of Jesus Christ and the Apostle of the Nations, let us all turn towards him so as to hear and learn the faith and truth which are the deepest reasons for the unity of Christs disciples.
In conclusion, let us now turn to the spouse of Saint Joseph, the Virgin Mary, Queen of Apostles, for under this title she is invoked as Patroness of Cameroon. To her I commend the consecration which each of you has received, as well as your desire to respond ever more faithfully to your calling and to the mission entrusted to you. Finally, I invoke her intercession for your beautiful country. Amen.
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MEETING WITH THE BISHOPS OF CAMEROON
ADDRESS OF THE HOLY FATHER BENEDICT XVI
Church of Christ-Roi in Tsinga - Yaoundé
Wednesday, 18 March 2009
Dear Brother Bishops,
This meeting with the Pastors of the Catholic Church in Cameroon gives me great joy. I thank the President of your Episcopal Conference, Archbishop Simon-Victor Tonyé Bakot, Archbishop of Yaoundé, for the kind words he has addressed to me in your name. It is the third time that your country has welcomed the Successor of Peter. As you know, my reason for coming is in the first instance to meet the peoples of the beloved African continent and also to present to the Presidents of the Episcopal Conferences the Instrumentum Laboris of the Second Special Assembly for Africa of the Synod of Bishops. This morning, through you, I would like to offer affectionate greetings to all the faithful entrusted to your pastoral care. May the grace and peace of the Lord Jesus be with each one of you, with all the families of your great and beautiful country, with the priests, the men and women religious, the catechists, and all who are engaged with you in proclaiming the Gospel!
In this year dedicated to Saint Paul, it is most opportune to recall the urgent need to proclaim the Gospel to everyone. This mandate, which the Church received from Christ, remains a priority, for there are countless people still waiting to hear the message of hope and love that will enable them to obtain the glorious liberty of the children of God (Rom 8:21). Together with you, dear Brothers, it is your entire diocesan communities that are sent out to be witnesses of the Gospel. The Second Vatican Council emphasized that missionary activity flows immediately from the very nature of the Church (Ad Gentes, 6). In order to guide and inspire the People of God in this task, the Pastors themselves, first and foremost, must be preachers of the faith, leading new disciples to Christ. The proclamation of the Gospel is the particular task of the Bishop, who can say, with Saint Paul: If I preach the Gospel, that gives me no ground for boasting. For necessity is laid upon me. Woe to me if I do not preach the Gospel! (1 Cor 9:16). To strengthen and purify their faith, the faithful need to hear the words of their Bishop, the catechist par excellence.
In order to undertake this mission of evangelization and respond to the many challenges of todays world, besides holding formal meetings, which are necessary in themselves, the Pastors of the Church must be united by a profound communion with one another. The quality of the work accomplished by your Episcopal Conference, reflecting well the life of the Church and of Cameroonian society, enables you to search collectively for answers to the many challenges which the Church has to face and, through your pastoral letters, to give common guidelines to assist the faithful in their ecclesial and social life. A lively awareness of the collegial dimension of your ministry should impel you to bring about among yourselves a variety of expressions of sacramental fraternity, ranging from mutual acceptance and esteem to the various manifestations of charity and practical cooperation (cf. Pastores Gregis, 59). Effective collaboration between dioceses, particularly with regard to better distribution of priests in your country, cannot fail to promote relations of fraternal solidarity with the poorer dioceses, so that the proclamation of the Gospel should not suffer through lack of ministers. This apostolic solidarity should also extend generously to meet the needs of other local Bishops, especially those of your continent. Thus it will appear clearly that your Christian communities, following the example of those that brought the Gospel message to you, are likewise a missionary Church.
Dear Brothers, the Bishop and his priests are called to maintain relations of close communion, founded on the one priesthood of Christ in which they share, albeit in different degrees. The quality of the bond uniting you with the priests, your principal and irreplaceable co-workers, is of the greatest importance. If they see in their Bishop a father and a brother who loves them, listens to them and offers them comfort in their trials, who devotes particular attention to their human and material needs, they are encouraged to carry out their ministry whole-heartedly, worthily and fruitfully. The words and example of their Bishop have a key role in inspiring them to give their spiritual and sacramental life a central place in their ministry, spurring them on to discover and to live ever more deeply the particular role of the shepherd as, first and foremost, a man of prayer. The spiritual and sacramental life is an extraordinary treasure, given to us for ourselves and for the good of the people entrusted to us. I urge you, then, to be especially vigilant regarding the faithfulness of priests and consecrated persons to the commitments made at their ordination or entry into religious life, so that they persevere in their vocation, for the greater holiness of the Church and the glory of God. The authenticity of their witness requires that there be no dichotomy between what they teach and the way they live each day.
In your dioceses, many young men are presenting themselves as candidates for the priesthood. We can only thank the Lord for this. It is essential that serious discernment should take place. With this in mind, I encourage you, despite the organizational difficulties that can sometimes occur at the pastoral level, to give priority to the choice and training of formators and spiritual directors. They must have a personal and profound knowledge of the candidates for the priesthood, and must be capable of offering them a solid human, spiritual and pastoral formation so as to make them mature and balanced men, well prepared for priestly life. Your constant fraternal support will help the formators to accomplish their task in the love of the Church and her mission.
From the earliest days of the Christian faith in Cameroon, men and women religious have made an essential contribution to the life of the Church. I join you in giving thanks to God for this, and I rejoice at the development of consecrated life among the sons and daughters of your country, giving rise also to the expression of distinctively African charisms in communities that originated in your country. In fact, the profession of the evangelical counsels acts as a sign that can and should effectively inspire all the members of the Church to fulfil indefatigably the duties of their Christian vocation (Lumen Gentium, 44).
In your ministry of proclaiming the Gospel, you are also assisted by other pastoral workers, particularly catechists. In the evangelization of your country, they have played and they continue to play a key role. I thank them for their generosity and their faithfulness in the service of the Church. Through their work, an authentic inculturation of the faith is taking place. Their human, spiritual and doctrinal formation is therefore indispensable. The material, moral and spiritual support that they receive from their pastors, so that they can accomplish their mission in good living and working conditions, also serves to express to them the Churchs recognition of the importance of their commitment to proclaim the faith and foster its growth.
Among the many challenges facing you in your responsibility as Pastors, the situation of the family is of particular concern. The difficulties arising from the impact of modernity and secularization on traditional society inspire you to defend vigorously the essential values of the African family, and to give high priority to its thorough evangelization. In developing the pastoral care of the family, you are eager to promote a better understanding of the nature, dignity and role of marriage, which presupposes an indissoluble and stable union.
The liturgy occupies an important place in the expression of your communities faith. In general, these ecclesial celebrations are festive and joyful, manifesting the fervour of the faithful who are happy to be together, in Church, giving praise to the Lord. It is therefore essential that the joy expressed in this way does not obstruct, but rather facilitates dialogue and communion with God, attained through a genuine internalization of the structures and words of the liturgy, so that these express what is taking place in the hearts of believers, in true union with all the other participants. The dignity of the celebrations, especially when they take place in the presence of large crowds, is an eloquent sign of this.
The spread of sects and esoteric movements, and the growing influence of superstitious forms of religion, as well as relativism, constitute an urgent invitation to give new impetus to the formation of children and young adults, especially in university settings and intellectual circles. In this regard, I would like to encourage and pay tribute to the work of the Institut Catholique of Yaoundé and all the Church institutions which have as their mission to make the word of God and the teaching of the Church accessible and comprehensible to all.
I am glad to know that the lay faithful in your country are becoming increasingly active in the life of the Church and of society. The numerous lay associations flourishing in your dioceses are a sign of the Spirits work at the heart of the people of God, and they contribute to a renewed proclamation of the Gospel. I am pleased to highlight and to encourage the active involvement of womens associations in several areas of the Churchs mission, which shows a genuine recognition of the dignity of women and their particular vocation in the ecclesial community and in society. I give thanks to God for the eagerness of the lay people in your country to contribute to the future of the Church and to the proclamation of the Gospel. Through the sacraments of Christian initiation and the gifts of the Holy Spirit, they are empowered to proclaim the Gospel and to serve others, both individuals and society at large. I therefore strongly encourage you to continue to offer them a solid Christian formation so that they can fully exercise their role of inspiring the temporal order political, cultural, economic and social with Christian principles, which is the specific task of the laitys vocation (Ecclesia in Africa, 75).
In the context of globalization with which we are all familiar, the Church takes a particular interest in those who are most deprived. The Bishops mission leads him to be the defender of the rights of the poor, to call forth and encourage the exercise of charity, which is a manifestation of the Lords love for the little ones. In this way, the faithful are led to grasp the fact that the Church is truly Gods family, gathered in brotherly love; this leaves no room for ethnocentrism or factionalism, and it contributes towards reconciliation and cooperation among ethnic groups for the good of all. Moreover, through her social doctrine, the Church seeks to awaken hope in the hearts of those left by the wayside. So it is the duty of Christians, particularly lay people with social, economic and political responsibilities, to be guided by the Churchs social teaching, in order to contribute to the building up of a more just world where everyone can live with dignity.
Dear Cardinal, dear Brother Bishops, at the conclusion of our meeting, I would like to say once more what a joy it is to be here in your country and to meet the people of Cameroon. I thank you for your warm welcome, a sign of the generosity of African hospitality. May the Virgin Mary, Our Lady of Africa, watch over all your diocesan communities. I entrust to her the entire people of Cameroon, and with all my heart I impart to you an affectionate Apostolic Blessing, which I also extend to the priests, men and women religious, to the catechists and to all the faithful of your dioceses.
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ADDRESS OF THE HOLY FATHER BENEDICT XVI
Nsimalen International Airport of Yaoundé
Tuesday, 17 March 2009
Distinguished Representatives of the Civil Authorities,
My Brother Bishops,
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Thank you for the welcome you have extended to me. And thank you, Mr President, for your kind words. I greatly appreciate the invitation to visit Cameroon, and for this I want to express my gratitude to you and to the President of the National Episcopal Conference, Archbishop Tonyé Bakot. I greet all of you who have honoured me by your presence on this occasion, and I want you to know how pleased I am to be here with you on African soil, for the first time since my election to the See of Peter. I warmly greet my brother Bishops as well as the clergy and the lay faithful who are gathered here. My respectful greetings go also to the representatives of the Government, the civil authorities and the diplomatic corps. Since this country, like so many in Africa, is approaching the fiftieth anniversary of its independence, I wish to add my voice to the chorus of congratulations and good wishes that your friends all over the world will offer you on that happy occasion. I gratefully acknowledge too the presence of members of other Christian confessions and the followers of other religions. By joining us today you offer a clear sign of the good will and harmony that exist in this country between people of different religious traditions.
I come among you as a pastor, I come to confirm my brothers and sisters in the faith. This was the role that Christ entrusted to Peter at the Last Supper, and it is the role of Peters successors. When Peter preached to the multitudes in Jerusalem at Pentecost, there were visitors from Africa present among them. And the witness of many great saints from this continent during the first centuries of Christianity Saint Cyprian, Saint Monica, Saint Augustine, Saint Athanasius, to name but a few guarantees a distinguished place for Africa in the annals of Church history. Right up to the present day, waves of missionaries and martyrs have continued to bear witness to Christ throughout Africa, and today the Church is blessed with almost a hundred and fifty million members. How fitting then, that Peters successor should come to Africa, to celebrate with you the life-giving faith in Christ that sustains and nourishes so many of the sons and daughters of this great continent!
It was here in Yaoundé in 1995 that my venerable Predecessor, Pope John Paul II, promulgated the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia in Africa, the fruit of the First Special Assembly for Africa of the Synod of Bishops, held in Rome the previous year. Indeed, the tenth anniversary of that historic moment was celebrated with great solemnity in this same city not long ago. I have come here to issue the Instrumentum Laboris for the Second Special Assembly, which will take place in Rome this coming October. The Synod Fathers will reflect together on the theme: The Church in Africa in Service to Reconciliation, Justice and Peace: You are the salt of the earth You are the light of the world (Mt 5:13-14). Almost ten years into the new millennium, this moment of grace is a summons to all the Bishops, priests, religious and lay faithful of the continent to rededicate themselves to the mission of the Church to bring hope to the hearts of the people of Africa, and indeed to people throughout the world.
Even amid the greatest suffering, the Christian message always brings hope. The life of Saint Josephine Bakhita offers a shining example of the transformation that an encounter with the living God can bring to a situation of great hardship and injustice. In the face of suffering or violence, poverty or hunger, corruption or abuse of power, a Christian can never remain silent. The saving message of the Gospel needs to be proclaimed loud and clear, so that the light of Christ can shine into the darkness of peoples lives. Here in Africa, as in so many parts of the world, countless men and women long to hear a word of hope and comfort. Regional conflicts leave thousands homeless or destitute, orphaned or widowed. In a continent which, in times past, saw so many of its people cruelly uprooted and traded overseas to work as slaves, today human trafficking, especially of defenceless women and children, has become a new form of slavery. At a time of global food shortages, financial turmoil, and disturbing patterns of climate change, Africa suffers disproportionately: more and more of her people are falling prey to hunger, poverty, and disease. They cry out for reconciliation, justice and peace, and that is what the Church offers them. Not new forms of economic or political oppression, but the glorious freedom of the children of God (cf. Rom 8:21). Not the imposition of cultural models that ignore the rights of the unborn, but the pure healing water of the Gospel of life. Not bitter interethnic or interreligious rivalry, but the righteousness, peace and joy of Gods kingdom, so aptly described by Pope Paul VI as the civilization of love (cf. Regina Coeli Message, Pentecost Sunday, 1970).
Here in Cameroon, where over a quarter of the population is Catholic, the Church is well placed to carry forward her mission of healing and reconciliation. At the Cardinal Léger Centre, I shall observe for myself the pastoral solicitude of this local Church for the sick and the suffering; and it is particularly commendable that Aids sufferers are able to receive treatment free of charge in this country. Education is another key element of the Churchs ministry, and now we see the efforts of generations of missionary teachers bearing fruit in the work of the Catholic University for Central Africa, a sign of great hope for the future of the region.
Cameroon is truly a land of hope for many in Central Africa. Thousands of refugees from war-torn countries in the region have received a welcome here. It is a land of life, with a Government that speaks out in defence of the rights of the unborn. It is a land of peace: by resolving through dialogue the dispute over the Bakassi peninsula, Cameroon and Nigeria have shown the world that patient diplomacy can indeed bear fruit. It is a land of youth, blessed with a young population full of vitality and eager to build a more just and peaceful world. Rightly is it described as Africa in miniature, home to over two hundred different ethnic groups living in harmony with one another. These are all reasons for giving praise and thanks to God.
As I come among you today, I pray that the Church here and throughout Africa will continue to grow in holiness, in the service of reconciliation, justice and peace. I pray that the work of the Second Special Assembly of the Synod of Bishops will fan into a flame the gifts that the Spirit has poured out upon the Church in Africa. I pray for each of you, for your families and loved ones, and I ask you to join me in praying for all the people of this vast continent. God bless Cameroon! And God bless Africa!