ADDRESS OF THE HOLY FATHER BENEDICT XVI
4 de Fevereiro International Airport of Luanda
Friday, 20 March 2009
Distinguished Civil and Military Authorities,
Dear Brother Bishops,
Dear Angolan Friends,
With sincere sentiments of respect and friendship, I set foot on the soil of this noble and young nation in the course of a pastoral visit in which I intend to reach out to the entire African continent, even if it has been necessary to restrict the itinerary to Yaoundé and to Luanda. I would like everyone to know, however, that I keep very much in my heart and in my prayers Africa in general and the people of Angola in particular, whom I warmly encourage to continue along the path of peace-building and reconstruction of the country and its institutions.
Mr President, I begin by thanking you for your kind invitation to visit Angola and for the warm words of welcome that you have just addressed to me. Please accept my respectful greetings and my very best wishes, which I also extend to the other Authorities who have kindly come here to receive me. I greet the whole of the Catholic Church in Angola in the persons of the Bishops here present, and I thank all my Angolan friends for the affectionate welcome they have given me. To those who are listening on radio and television, I offer a further cordial greeting, certain of Heavens blessing on the common mission that has been entrusted to us: that of building together a freer and more peaceful society, marked by greater solidarity.
How can I fail to recall the famous visitor who blessed Angola in June 1992: my beloved Predecessor John Paul II? A tireless missionary of Jesus Christ to the furthest ends of the earth, he pointed out the way towards God, inviting all people of good will to listen to their own rightly formed consciences and to build a society of justice, of peace and of solidarity, in mutual charity and forgiveness. For my part, I remind you that I come from a country where peace and fraternity are dear to the hearts of all its people, in particular those, like myself, who have known war and division between family members from the same nation as a result of inhuman and destructive ideologies, which, under the false appearance of dreams and illusions, caused the yoke of oppression to weigh down upon the people. You can therefore understand how keenly aware I am of dialogue as a way of overcoming every form of conflict and tension and making every nation including your own into a house of peace and fraternity. With this in view, you must take from your spiritual and cultural heritage the best values that Angola possesses, and go out to meet one another fearlessly, agreeing to share personal resources, both spiritual and material, for the good of all.
How can our thoughts not turn also to the people from the province of Kunene, who have been afflicted by torrential rains and floods, causing numerous deaths and leaving many families without shelter through the destruction of their homes? At this time I would like to offer those people the assurance of my solidarity, together with a particular encouragement to have the confidence to start again with the help of all.
Dear Angolans, your land is abundant and your nation is mighty. Make use of these advantages to build peace and understanding between peoples, based upon loyalty and equality that can promote for Africa the peaceful future in solidarity that everyone longs for and to which everyone is entitled. To this end, I ask you: do not yield to the law of the strongest! God has enabled human beings to fly, over and above their natural tendencies, on the wings of reason and faith. If you let these wings bear you aloft, you will easily recognize your neighbour as a brother or sister, born with the same fundamental human rights. Unfortunately, within the borders of Angola, there are still many poor people demanding that their rights be respected. The multitude of Angolans who live below the threshold of absolute poverty must not be forgotten. Do not disappoint their expectations!
This is a huge task, requiring greater civic participation on everyones part. It is necessary to involve the whole of Angolan civil society in this effort; but society needs to grow stronger and more articulated, both among its constitutive elements and in its dialogue with the Government, before it can take up the challenge. Before there can be a society that is truly solicitous for the common good, there have to be common values, shared by all. I am convinced that modern Angola will be able to find such values in the Gospel of Jesus Christ, as happened long ago, at the time of your illustrious forebear, Dom Alphonsus I Mbemba-a-Nzinga. Through his efforts, five hundred years ago, a Christian kingdom emerged in Mbanza Congo which survived until the eighteenth century. From its ashes, at the turn of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, a renewed Church could arise which has continued to grow right up to our own days; may God be thanked for it! This is the immediate occasion for my visit to Angola: to be together with one of the oldest Catholic communities in sub-equatorial Africa, to strengthen it in its faith in the risen Jesus and to join its sons and daughters in praying that this time of peace in Angola, in justice and fraternity, may prove lasting, allowing the community to carry out the mission that God has entrusted to it for the good of its people within the family of Nations. May God bless Angola!
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MEETING WITH POLITICAL AND CIVIL AUTHORITIES
AND THE DIPLOMATIC CORPS
ADDRESS OF THE HOLY FATHER BENEDICT XVI
Presidential Palace in Luanda
Friday, 20 March 2009
Dear Brother Bishops,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
As a kind gesture of hospitality President José Eduardo dos Santos has welcomed us here to his residence. In so doing he has enabled me to greet you all with great joy and to wish you every success in the formidable responsibilities you bear in serving society and the whole human family in the civic, political and the diplomatic sectors. Mr President, thank you for your welcome, for the kind words of esteem you have just addressed to me as the Successor of Peter, and for your appreciation of the work of the Catholic Church for this beloved nation.
Friends, you are the protagonists and witnesses of an Angola which is on the road to recovery. In the wake of the twenty-seven-year civil war that ravaged this country, peace has begun to take root, bringing with it the fruits of stability and freedom. The Governments tangible efforts to establish an infrastructure and to rebuild the institutions fundamental to development and the well-being of society have begun to foster hope among the nations citizens. Multilateral agencies too have made their contribution, determined to overcome particular interests in order to work for the common good. There is also the example of those honest teachers, medical workers, and civil servants who, on meagre wages, serve their communities with integrity and compassion, and there are countless others who selflessly undertake voluntary work at the service of the most needy. May God bless them abundantly! May their charity multiply!
Angola knows that the time has come for Africa to be the Continent of Hope! All upright human conduct is hope in action. Our actions are never indifferent before God. Nor are they indifferent for the unfolding of history. Friends, armed with integrity, magnanimity and compassion, you can transform this continent, freeing your people from the scourges of greed, violence and unrest and leading them along the path marked with the principles indispensable to every modern civic democracy: respect and promotion of human rights, transparent governance, an independent judiciary, a free press, a civil service of integrity, a properly functioning network of schools and hospitals, and most pressing a determination born from the conversion of hearts to excise corruption once and for all. In my Message for the World Day of Peace this year, I drew particular attention to the need for an ethical approach to development. In fact, the peoples of this continent are rightly calling out, not simply for more programmes and protocols, but for a deep-seated, lasting conversion of hearts to sincere solidarity. Their plea to those serving in politics, public service, international agencies, and multinational companies is simply this: stand alongside us in a profoundly human way; accompany us, and our families and our communities (cf. No. 13)!
Social and economic development in Africa bring into partnership national leadership together with regional initiatives and international resolve. Such partnerships require that African nations be seen not simply as the receivers of others plans and solutions. African men and women themselves, working together for the good of their communities, should be the primary agents of their own development. In this regard, there are a growing number of effective initiatives which merit support. Among them are: the New Partnership for Africas Development (NEPAD), the Pact on Security, Stability, and Development in the Great Lakes Region, together with the Kimberley Process, the Publish What You Pay Coalition and the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative. Their common goal is to promote transparency, honest business practice and good governance. In regard to the international community as a whole, of pressing importance are co-ordinated efforts to address the issue of climate change, the full and fair implementation of the development commitments of the Doha round and likewise the implementation of the oft-repeated promise by developed countries to commit 0.7% of their Gross National Product for official development assistance. This undertaking is all the more necessary in view of the worlds current financial turmoil, and must not become one of its casualties.
Friends, I wish to say that my visit to Cameroon and to Angola has stirred within me that profound human delight at being among families. Indeed I think that those who come from other continents can learn afresh from Africa that the family is the foundation on which the social edifice is built (Ecclesia in Africa, 80). Yet the strains upon families, as we all know, are many indeed: anxiety and ignominy caused by poverty, unemployment, disease and displacement, to mention but a few. Particularly disturbing is the crushing yoke of discrimination that women and girls so often endure, not to mention the unspeakable practice of sexual violence and exploitation which causes such humiliation and trauma. I must also mention a further area of grave concern: the policies of those who, claiming to improve the social edifice, threaten its very foundations. How bitter the irony of those who promote abortion as a form of maternal healthcare! How disconcerting the claim that the termination of life is a matter of reproductive health (cf. Maputo Protocol, art. 14)!
The Church, in accordance with the will of her divine founder, you will always find standing alongside the poorest of this continent. I wish to assure each of you that for her part, through diocesan initiatives, through the innumerable educational, healthcare and social works of Religious Orders, and through the development programmes of Caritas and other agencies, the Church will continue to do all she can to support families - including those suffering the harrowing effects of HIV/Aids - and to uphold the equal dignity of women and men, realized in harmonious complementarity. The Christian spiritual journey is one of daily conversion. To this the Church invites all leaders so that the path opened for all humanity will be one of truth, integrity, respect and compassion.
Mr President, I wish to express once again my sincere thanks for welcoming us here to your home. I thank all of you here assembled for your gracious presence and your attention. Be assured of my prayers for you and your families and for all the men, women and children of majestic Africa! God bless you all!
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MEETING WITH THE BISHOPS OF ANGOLA AND SÃO TOMÉ
ADDRESS OF THE HOLY FATHER BENEDICT XVI
Chapel of the Apostolic Nunciature - Luanda
Friday, 20 March 2009
Dear Cardinal do Nascimento,
Dear Bishops of Angola and São Tomé,
I am delighted to meet you in this house which Angola has given to the Successor of Peter ordinarily in the person of his Representative as a visible expression of the bonds uniting the people of Angola and São Tomé to the Catholic Church, which for over five hundred years has rejoiced to count you among her children. May our prayer of praise rise up, harmonious and fervent, to God the Father who, by the workings and grace of the Holy Spirit, unceasingly gives birth to the Mystical Body of his Son. Here, in these lands, the Church bears the distinctive features of your native peoples, yet without losing the Jewish, Roman, Portuguese and other characteristics she had acquired earlier, for as many of you as were baptized into Christ are one in Christ Jesus (Gal 3:27-28). Venerable Brothers, God in his goodness, in order to carry forward today this work of bringing to birth the whole Christ through faith and Baptism, willed to call upon you and me. It should be no surprise, then, that we sense the pangs of birth until Christ is completely formed in the heart of your people (cf. Gal 4:19). God will reward you for all the apostolic work which you have accomplished in difficult conditions, both during the war and at the present time, in spite of so many limitations, thus helping to give the Church in Angola and in São Tomé and Principe that dynamism which everyone acknowledges.
Conscious of the ministry I have been called to carry out in the service of ecclesial communion, I ask you to assure your communities of my constant concern for them. I greet them all with heartfelt affection in the person of the individual members of this Episcopal Conference. I offer a particular greeting to your President, Archbishop Damião Franklin, whom I thank for his words of welcome in your name, emphasizing your commitment to clear discernment and, as a result, to a unified plan to be implemented in your diocesan communities for the purpose of equipping the saints until all of us come to the maturity, to the measure of the full stature of Christ (Eph 4:12-13). Indeed, as a corrective to a widespread relativism which acknowledges nothing as definitive and, even more, tends to make its ultimate measure the individual and his personal caprice, we hold out another measure: the Son of God, who is also true man. Christ is the measure of true humanism. The Christian marked by an adult and mature faith is not one who is borne along by the waves of fashion and the latest novelties, but one who lives deeply rooted in the friendship of Christ. This friendship opens us up to all that is good, and it provides us with the criterion for discerning between error and truth.
Certainly a decisive factor for the future of the faith and the overall direction of national life is the area of culture. Here the Church enjoys renowned academic institutions, which must make it a point of honour to enable the voice of Catholics to be constantly heard in discussion of cultural issues affecting national life, thus reinforcing the ability to explore rationally, in the light of faith, the many questions emerging in the various areas of science and of life. Culture and models of behaviour are nowadays more and more conditioned and shaped by the images set forth by the communications media. For this reason, I wish to acknowledge your praiseworthy efforts to develop, in this area too, a communications strategy which will enable you to provide everyone with a Christian interpretation of human events, problems and realities.
One such human reality, presently faced with numerous difficulties and threats, is the family. Families are particularly in need of evangelization and practical support, since, in addition to the fragility and lack of inner stability of so many conjugal unions, there is the widespread tendency in society and culture to call into question the unique nature and specific mission of the family based on marriage. In your pastoral concern, which extends to every human being, continue to raise your voice in defence of the sacredness of human life and the value of the institution of marriage, as well as in promotion of the familys proper role in the Church and in society, at the same time demanding economic and legislative measures to support the family in bearing and raising children.
I rejoice that your nations have so many vibrant communities of faith, a committed laity devoted to many works of the apostolate, and a significant number of vocations to the ordained ministry and the consecrated life, especially the contemplative life. They represent a genuine sign of hope for the future. As the clergy becomes increasingly indigenous, I wish to pay homage to the work which has been patiently and heroically carried out by the missionaries in proclaiming Christ and his Gospel and in giving birth to the Christian communities for which you today are responsible. I urge you to be deeply concerned for your priests, attentive to their continuing formation on both the theological and spiritual levels, and alert to the conditions in which they live and exercise their specific mission, so that they can be authentic witnesses of the word they proclaim and the sacraments they celebrate. In the gift of themselves to Christ and to the people whom they shepherd, may they remain faithful to the demands of their state of life, and live out their priestly ministry as a true path to holiness, striving to become saints and in this way to raise up new saints all around them.
Dear Brothers, I entrust myself to your prayerful remembrance before the Lord, while for my part I assure you of a particular prayer to the one who is truly the Spouse of the Church, which he loves, protects and nourishes: the only-begotten Son of the living God, Jesus Christ our Lord. May he sustain your pastoral commitments by his grace, so that they will prove fruitful in accordance with the example and under the protection of the Immaculate Heart of the Virgin Mary. With these sentiments I impart my Apostolic Blessing to each of you, to your priests, and to the consecrated persons, seminarians, catechists and all the lay faithful who are members of the flock which God has entrusted to you.
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Benedict XVI's Homily at Angola's São Paolo Church
"Let Us Make Haste to Know the Lord"
LUANDA, Angola, MARCH 21, 2009 (Zenit.org).- Here is the homily Benedict XVI gave today at a Mass with bishops, priests, religious, ecclesial movements and catechists of Angola and São Tomé at São Paolo Church in Luanda.
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Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Beloved laborers in the Lord's vineyard,
As we have just heard, the children of Israel said to one another, "let us make haste to know the Lord." They encouraged one another with these words amid their many tribulations. These misfortunes had overtaken them -- the Prophet explains -- because they lived without knowledge of God; their hearts were poor in love. The only physician capable of healing them was the Lord. Indeed, he himself, as a good physician, opened their wounds so that the sore might heal. And the people made up their mind: "Come, let us return to the Lord; for he has torn, that he may heal us" (Hosea 6:1). Thus human poverty was to intersect with divine mercy, which desires only to embrace the poor.
We see this in the Gospel passage that we have just heard: "Two men went up into the temple to pray"; the one "went down to his house justified rather than the other" (Luke 18:10, 14). The latter had paraded all his merits before God, virtually making God his debtor. Deep down, he felt no need for God, even though he thanked him for letting him become so perfect, "not like this tax collector." And yet it was the tax collector who went down to his house justified. Conscious of his sins, and so not even lifting his head -- although in his trust he is completely turned towards Heaven -- he awaits everything from the Lord: "O God, be merciful to me, a sinner" (Luke 18:13). He knocks on the door of mercy, which then opens and justifies him, for, as Jesus concludes: "everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted" (Luke 18:14).
St. Paul, the patron saint of the city of Luanda and of this splendid church built some fifty years ago, speaks to us from personal experience about this God who is rich in mercy. I wanted to highlight the second millennium of the birth of St. Paul by celebrating the present Pauline Year, so that we can learn from him how to know Jesus Christ more fully. This is the testimony which Paul has bequeathed to us: "The saying is sure and worthy of full acceptance, that Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners. And I am the foremost of sinners; but I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience for an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life" (1 Timothy 1:15-16). In the course of the centuries, the number of people touched by grace has continually grown. You and I are among them. Let us give thanks to God because he has called us to be part of this age-long procession and thus to advance towards the future. In the footsteps of all Jesus' followers, let us join them in following Christ himself and thus enter into the Light.
Dear brothers and sisters, I feel great joy to be here today with you, my fellow-workers in the Lord's vineyard, where you labor daily to prepare the wine of divine mercy and to pour it out as balm on the wounds of your people who have suffered so many tribulations. Archbishop Gabriel Mbilingi has spoken of your hopes and your struggles in his gracious words of welcome. With a heart full of gratitude and hope I greet you all -- women and men devoted to the cause of Jesus Christ -- those of you who are here and the many others whom you represent: bishops, priests, consecrated men and women, seminarians, catechists, leaders of the many different movements and associations present in this beloved Church of God. I would also like to mention the contemplative women religious, an unseen but extremely fruitful presence for our common journey. Finally, let me offer a particular greeting to the Salesian community and the faithful of this parish of St. Paul; they have welcomed us to their church, without hesitating to yield the place which is usually theirs in the liturgical assembly. I know that they are gathered in the field next door, and I hope, at the end of this Eucharist, to see them and give them my blessing, but even now I say to them: "Many thanks! May God raise up in you, and through you, many apostles modeled on your patron."
The decisive event in Paul's life was his encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus: Christ appeared to him as a dazzling light, he spoke to him and he won him over. The Apostle saw the Risen Jesus; and in him he beheld the full stature of humanity. As a result Paul experienced an inversion of perspective; he now saw everything in the light of this perfect stature of humanity in Christ: what had earlier seemed essential and fundamental, he now considered nothing more than "refuse"; no longer "gain" but loss, for now the only thing that mattered was life in Christ (cf. Philippians 3:7-8). Far from being merely a stage in Paul's personal growth, this was a death to himself and a resurrection in Christ: one form of life died in him, and a new form was born, with the Risen Christ.
My brothers and sisters, "let us make haste to know the Lord", the Risen One! As you know, Jesus, perfect man, is also our true God. In him, God became visible to our eyes, to give us a share in his divine life. With him a new dimension of being, of life, has come about, a dimension which integrates matter and through which a new world arises. But this qualitative leap in universal history which Jesus brought about in our place and for our sake -- how is it communicated to human beings, how does it permeate their life and raise it on high? It comes to each of us through faith and Baptism. This sacrament is truly death and resurrection, transformation and new life, so much so that the baptized person can say together with Paul: "It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me" (Galatians 2:20). I live, but no longer I. In a certain way, my identity has been taken away and made part of an even greater identity; I still have my personal identity, but now it is changed and open to others as a result of my becoming part of Another: in Christ I find myself living on a new plane. What then has happened to us? Paul gives us the answer: You have become one in Christ Jesus (cf. Galatians 3:28).
Through this process of our "christification" by the working and grace of God's Spirit, the gestation of the Body of Christ in history is gradually being accomplished in us. At this moment I would like to go back in thought five centuries, to the years following 1506, when, in these lands, then visited by the Portuguese, the first sub-Saharan Christian kingdom was established, thanks to the faith and determination of the king, Dom Alphonsus I Mbemba-a-Nzinga, who reigned from 1506 until his death in 1543. The kingdom remained officially Catholic from the sixteenth century until the eighteenth, with its own ambassador in Rome. You see how two quite different ethnic groups -- the Bantu and the Portuguese -- were able to find in the Christian religion common ground for understanding, and committed themselves to ensuring that this understanding would be long-lasting, and that differences -- which undoubtedly existed, and great ones at that -- would not divide the two kingdoms! For Baptism enables all believers to be one in Christ.
Today it is up to you, brothers and sisters, following in the footsteps of those heroic and holy heralds of God, to offer the Risen Christ to your fellow citizens. So many of them are living in fear of spirits, of malign and threatening powers. In their bewilderment they end up even condemning street children and the elderly as alleged sorcerers. Who can go to them to proclaim that Christ has triumphed over death and all those occult powers (cf. Ephesians 1:19-23; 6:10-12)? Someone may object: "Why not leave them in peace? They have their truth, and we have ours. Let us all try to live in peace, leaving everyone as they are, so they can best be themselves." But if we are convinced and have come to experience that without Christ life lacks something, that something real -- indeed, the most real thing of all -- is missing, we must also be convinced that we do no injustice to anyone if we present Christ to them and thus grant them the opportunity of finding their truest and most authentic selves, the joy of finding life. Indeed, we must do this. It is our duty to offer everyone this possibility of attaining eternal life.
Dear brothers and sisters, let us say to them, in the words of the Israelite people: "Come, let us return to the Lord; for he has torn, that he may heal us." Let us enable human poverty to encounter divine mercy. The Lord makes us his friends, he entrusts himself to us, he gives us his Body in the Eucharist, he entrusts his Church to us. And so we ought truly to be his friends, to be one in mind with him, to desire what he desires and to reject what he does not desire. Jesus himself said: "You are my friends if you do what I command you" (John 15:14). Let this, then, be our common commitment: together to do his holy will: "Go into all the world and preach the Gospel to the whole creation" (Mark 16:15). Let us embrace his will, like St. Paul: "Preaching the Gospel [...] is a necessity laid upon me; woe to me if I do not preach the Gospel!" (1 Corinthians 9:16).
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Papal Address to Youth at Dos Coqueiros Stadium
"The Power to Shape the Future Is Within You"
LUANDA, Angola, MARCH 21, 2009 (Zenit.org).- Here is the address Benedict XVI gave today at a meeting with youth at Dos Coqueiros Stadium in Luanda.
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You have come here in great numbers to be with the Successor of Peter, and you represent so many other young people who are one with us in spirit. You have come to join me in proclaiming openly the joy of our faith in Jesus Christ, and in renewing your commitment to be his faithful disciples in our time. A meeting much like this took place here in Luanda on June 7, 1992 with our beloved Pope John Paul II. Today another Pope stands before you: with a different appearance, but with the same love in his heart, and he embraces all of you in Jesus Christ, who is "the same yesterday, today and forever" (Heb 13:8).
First of all I want to thank you for this celebration which you have planned for me, for the festive atmosphere which you yourselves generate, for your presence and for your joy. I cordially greet my brother Bishops and priests and all those who are engaged in youth ministry. I likewise greet with gratitude all who have prepared this event, especially the Bishops' Commission for Young People and Vocations, and its President, Bishop Kanda Almeida, whom I thank for his warm words of welcome. I greet all the young people present, Catholics and others, who are looking for an answer to their questions and difficulties. Some of these have been expressed by your representatives, and I have listened to them with gratitude and appreciation. The embrace I exchanged with them is, naturally, an embrace which I offer to all of you.
Meeting young people is good for everyone! You may have your share of difficulties, but you are filled with great hope, great enthusiasm and a great desire to make a new beginning. My young friends, you hold within yourselves the power to shape the future. I encourage you to look to that future through the eyes of the Apostle John. Saint John tells us: "I saw a new Heaven and a new earth ... and I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of Heaven, from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband; and I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, 'Behold the dwelling of God is with men'" (Rev 21:1-3). Dear young people, God makes all the difference. His special presence among us begins with his easy intimacy with the first couple in the garden of Eden; it continues with the divine glory which shone forth from the Tent of Meeting in the midst of the People of Israel during their journey through the desert, and it culminates in the incarnation of the Son of God who became inseparably one with humanity in Jesus Christ. Jesus himself traversed the desert of our humanity and, passing beyond death, he rose from the dead and now draws all humanity with himself towards God. Jesus is no longer confined to a particular place and time. His Spirit, the Holy Spirit, flows forth from him, enters our hearts and thus joins us to him, and with him to the Father -- to the God who is one and three.
Yes, my friends! God makes all the difference ... and more! God changes us; he makes us new! This is what he has promised: "Behold, I make all things new" (Rev 21:5). It is true! The Apostle Paul tells us: "If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has passed away, behold the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled himself to us" (2 Cor 5:17-18). In ascending to Heaven and entering eternity, Jesus Christ has become the Lord of all ages. So he can walk with us as a friend in the present, carrying in his hand the book of our days. In his hand he also holds the past, the foundation and source of our life. He also carefully holds the future, allowing us to catch a glimpse of the most beautiful dawn we will ever see: the dawn that radiates from him, the dawn of the Resurrection. God is the future of a new humanity, which is anticipated in his Church. When you have a chance, take time to read the Church's history. You will find that the Church does not grow old with the passing of the years. Rather, she grows younger, for she is journeying towards her Lord, day by day drawing nearer to the one true fountain overflowing with youthfulness, rebirth, the power of life.
Dear young people, the future is God. As we have just heard, "he will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more; neither shall there be mourning, nor crying nor pain any more, for the former things have passed away" (Rev 21:4). At present though, and even in our midst, I see some of the many thousands of young Angolans who have been maimed or disabled as a result of the war and the landmines. I think of the countless tears that have been shed for the loss of your relatives and friends. It is not hard to imagine the dark clouds that still veil the horizon of your fondest hopes and dreams. In your hearts I see doubt, a doubt which you have expressed to me today. You are saying: "Here is what we have. There is no visible sign of the things you are talking about! The promise is backed by God's word -- and we believe it -- but when will God arise and renew all things?" Jesus' answer is the one he gave to his disciples: "Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God. Believe also in me. In my Father's house there are many rooms; if it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?" (Jn 14:1-2). But you persist, dear young people: "Yes! But when will this happen?" The Apostles asked Jesus a similar question, and his answer was: "It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has fixed by his own authority. But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be my witnesses ... to the ends of the earth" (Acts 1:7-8). See how Jesus does not leave us without an answer; he tells us one thing very clearly: renewal starts from within; you will receive a power from on high. The power to shape the future is within you.
It is within you, but how? Just as life exists within a seed. That is how Jesus explained it at a critical juncture in his ministry. The beginning of his ministry was accompanied by great enthusiasm. People saw the sick healed, demons cast out, the Gospel proclaimed, but otherwise the world had not changed: the Romans remained in power and everyday life continued to be hard, despite those miracles and those beautiful words. People's enthusiasm was waning so much that even some of his disciples had left the Master (cf. Jn 6:66) who preached but did not change the world. Everyone was asking: deep down, what value does this message have? What has this prophet of God brought us? It was then that Jesus spoke about the sower who sows in the field of the world, and he explained that the seed is his word (Mk 4:3-20) and his miracles of healing. These are so few in comparison to the immense needs and demands of everyday life. And yet, deep within the seed, the future is already present, since the seed contains tomorrow's bread, tomorrow's life. The seed seems almost nothing. But it is the presence of the future, the promise already present. When it falls on good soil, it produces fruit, thirty, sixty and even a hundredfold.
My dear friends, you are a seed which God has sown in the world, a seed that contains power from on high, the power of the Holy Spirit. And yet, the only way to pass from the promise of life to actually bearing fruit is to give your lives in love, to die for love. Jesus himself said: "Unless a grain of wheat falls to the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. He who loves his life loses it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life" (Jn 12:24-25). This is what Jesus said, and this is how he acted. His crucifixion seems like complete failure, but it is not! Jesus, in the power of "the eternal Spirit, offered himself without blemish to God" (Heb 9:14). Thus, once he fell to the earth, he could bear fruit in every time and place. In your midst you have the new Bread, the Bread of future life, the Most Holy Eucharist, which nourishes us and pours out the life of the Trinity into the hearts of all people.
Dear young people, as seeds filled with the power of the same eternal Spirit, sprout up before the warmth of the Eucharist, in which the Lord's testament is fulfilled: he gives himself to us and we respond by giving ourselves to others, for love of him. This is the way that leads to life; it can be followed only by maintaining a constant dialogue with the Lord and among yourselves. The dominant societal culture is not helping you to live by Jesus' word or to practise the self-giving to which he calls you in accordance with the Father's plan. Yet, dear friends, you have the power within you, just as it was in Jesus when he said: "the Father who dwells in me does his works... he who believes in me, will also do the works that I do; and he will do greater works than these, because I go to the Father" (Jn 14:10,12). So do not be afraid to make definitive decisions. You do not lack generosity -- that I know! But the idea of risking a lifelong commitment, whether in marriage or in a life of special consecration, can be daunting. You might think: "The world is in constant flux and life is full of possibilities. Can I make a life-long commitment now, without knowing what unforeseen events lie in store for me? By making a definitive decision, would I not be risking my freedom and tying my own hands?" These are the doubts you feel, and today's individualistic and hedonist culture aggravates them. Yet when young people avoid decisions, there is a risk of never attaining to full maturity!
I say to you: Take courage! Dare to make definitive decisions, because in reality these are the only decisions which do not destroy your freedom, but guide it in the right direction, enabling you to move forward and attain something worthwhile in life. There is no doubt about it: life is worthwhile only if you take courage and are ready for adventure, if you trust in the Lord who will never abandon you. Young people of Angola, unleash the power of the Holy Spirit within you, the power from on high! Trusting in this power, like Jesus, risk taking a leap and making a definitive decision. Give life a chance! In this way islands, oases and great stretches of Christian culture will spring up in your midst, and bring to light that "holy city coming down out of Heaven, from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband". This is the life worthy of being lived, and I commend it to you from my heart. May God bless the young people of Angola!
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Benedict XVI's Homily at Mass in Cimangola
"Begin Today to Grow in Your Friendship With Jesus"
LUANDA, Angola, MARCH 22, 2009 (Zenit.org).- Here is the homily Benedict XVI gave today to at a Mass he presided over with bishops of the IMBISA (Interregional Meeting of Bishops of Southern Africa), held in Cimangola, on the outskirts of Luanda.
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Brother Bishops and Priests,
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
"God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish, but have eternal life" (Jn 3:16). These words fill us with joy and hope, as we await the fulfillment of God's promises! Today it is my particular joy, as the Successor of the Apostle Peter, to celebrate this Mass with you, my brothers and sisters in Christ from throughout Angola, São Tomé and Príncipe, and so many other countries. With great affection in the Lord I greet the Catholic communities from Luanda, Bengo, Cabinda, Benguela, Huambo, Huìla, Kuàndo Kubàngo, Kunène, North Kwanza, South Kwanza, North Lunda, South Lunda, Malanje, Namibe, Moxico, Uíje and Zàire.
In a special way, I greet my brother Bishops, the members of the Inter-Regional Meeting of Bishops of Southern Africa, assembled around this altar of the Lord's sacrifice. I thank the President of CEAST, Archbishop Damião Franklin, for his kind words of welcome, and, in the person of their Pastors, I greet all the faithful in the nations of Botswana, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland and Zimbabwe.
Today's first reading has a particular resonance for God's people in Angola. It is a message of hope addressed to the Chosen People in the land of their Exile, a summons to return to Jerusalem to rebuild the Lord's Temple. Its vivid description of the destruction and ruin caused by war echoes the personal experience of so many people in this country amid the terrible ravages of the civil war. How true it is that war can "destroy everything of value" (cf. 2 Chr 36:19): families, whole communities, the fruit of men's labor, the hopes which guide and sustain their lives and work! This experience is all too familiar to Africa as a whole: the destructive power of civil strife, the descent into a maelstrom of hatred and revenge, the squandering of the efforts of generations of good people. When God's word -- a word meant to build up individuals, communities and the whole human family -- is neglected, and when God's law is "ridiculed, despised, laughed at" (ibid., v. 16), the result can only be destruction and injustice: the abasement of our common humanity and the betrayal of our vocation to be sons and daughters of a merciful Father, brothers and sisters of his beloved Son.
So let us draw comfort from the consoling words which we have heard in the first reading! The call to return and rebuild God's Temple has a particular meaning for each of us. Saint Paul, the two thousandth anniversary of whose birth we celebrate this year, tells us that "we are the temple of the living God" (2 Cor 6:16). God dwells, we know, in the hearts of all who put their faith in Christ, who are reborn in Baptism and are made temples of the Holy Spirit. Even now, in the unity of the Body of Christ which is the Church, God is calling us to acknowledge the power of his presence within us, to reappropriate the gift of his love and forgiveness, and to become messengers of that merciful love within our families and communities, at school and in the workplace, in every sector of social and political life.
Here in Angola, this Sunday has been set aside as a day of prayer and sacrifice for national reconciliation. The Gospel teaches us that reconciliation, true reconciliation, can only be the fruit of conversion, a change of heart, a new way of thinking. It teaches us that only the power of God's love can change our hearts and make us triumph over the power of sin and division. When we were "dead through our sins" (Eph 2:5), his love and mercy brought us reconciliation and new life in Christ. This is the heart of the Apostle Paul's teaching, and it is important for us to remind ourselves: only God's grace can create a new heart in us! Only his love can change our "hearts of stone" (cf. Ezek 11:19) and enable us to build up, rather than tear down. Only God can make all things new!
It is to preach this message of forgiveness, hope and new life in Christ that I have come to Africa. Three days ago, in Yaoundé, I had the joy of promulgating the Instrumentum Laboris for the Second Special Assembly for Africa of the Synod of Bishops, which will be devoted to the theme: The Church in Africa in Service to Reconciliation, Justice and Peace. I ask you today, in union with all our brothers and sisters throughout Africa, to pray for this intention: that every Christian on this great continent will experience the healing touch of God's merciful love, and that the Church in Africa will become "for all, through the witness borne by its sons and daughters, a place of true reconciliation" (Ecclesia in Africa, 79).
Dear friends, this is the message that the Pope is bringing to you and your children. You have received power from the Holy Spirit to be the builders of a better tomorrow for your beloved country. In Baptism you were given the Spirit in order to be heralds of God's Kingdom of truth and life, of holiness and grace, of justice, love and peace (cf. Roman Missal, Preface of Christ the King). On the day of your Baptism you received the light of Christ. Be faithful to that gift! Be confident that the Gospel can affirm, purify and ennoble the profound human values present in your native culture and traditions: your strong families, your deep religious sense, your joyful celebration of the gift of life, your appreciation of the wisdom of the elderly and the aspirations of the young. Be grateful, then, for the light of Christ! Be grateful for those who brought it, the generations of missionaries who contributed -- and continue to contribute -- so much to this country's human and spiritual development. Be grateful for the witness of so many Christian parents, teachers, catechists, priests and religious, who made personal sacrifices in order to pass this precious treasure down to you! And take up the challenge which this great legacy sets before you. Realize that the Church, in Angola and throughout Africa, is meant to be a sign before the world of that unity to which the whole human family is called, through faith in Christ the Redeemer.
The words which Jesus speaks in today's Gospel are quite striking: He tells us that God's sentence has already been pronounced upon this world (cf. Jn 3:19ff). The light has already come into the world. Yet men preferred the darkness to the light, because their deeds were evil. How much darkness there is in so many parts of our world! Tragically, the clouds of evil have also overshadowed Africa, including this beloved nation of Angola. We think of the evil of war, the murderous fruits of tribalism and ethnic rivalry, the greed which corrupts men's hearts, enslaves the poor, and robs future generations of the resources they need to create a more equitable and just society -- a society truly and authentically African in its genius and values. And what of that insidious spirit of selfishness which closes individuals in upon themselves, breaks up families, and, by supplanting the great ideals of generosity and self-sacrifice, inevitably leads to hedonism, the escape into false utopias through drug use, sexual irresponsibility, the weakening of the marriage bond and the break-up of families, and the pressure to destroy innocent human life through abortion?
Yet the word of God is a word of unbounded hope. "God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son ... so that through him, the world might be saved" (Jn 3:16-17). God does not give up on us! He continues to lift our eyes to a future of hope, and he promises us the strength to accomplish it. As Saint Paul tells us in today's second reading, God created us in Christ Jesus "to live the good life", a life of good deeds, in accordance with his will (cf. Eph 2:10). He gave us his commandments, not as a burden, but as a source of freedom: the freedom to become men and women of wisdom, teachers of justice and peace, people who believe in others and seek their authentic good. God created us to live in the light, and to be light for the world around us! This is what Jesus tells us in today's Gospel: "The man who lives by the truth comes out into the light, so that it may be plainly seen that what he does is done in God" (Jn 3:21).
"Live", then, "by the truth!" Radiate the light of faith, hope and love in your families and communities! Be witnesses of the holy truth that sets men and women free! You know from bitter experience that, in comparison with the sudden, destructive fury of evil, the work of rebuilding is painfully slow and arduous. Living by the truth takes time, effort and perseverance: it has to begin in our own hearts, in the small daily sacrifices required if we are to be faithful to God's law, in the little acts by which we demonstrate that we love our neighbors, all our neighbors, regardless of race, ethnicity or language, and by our readiness to work with them to build together on foundations that will endure. Let your parishes become communities where the light of God's truth and the power of Christ's reconciling love are not only celebrated, but proclaimed in concrete works of charity. And do not be afraid! Even if it means being a "sign of contradiction" (Lk 2:34) in the face of hardened attitudes and a mentality that sees others as a means to be used, rather than as brothers and sisters to be loved, cherished and helped along the path of freedom, life and hope.
Let me close by addressing a special word to the young people of Angola, and to all young people throughout Africa. Dear young friends: you are the hope of your country's future, the promise of a better tomorrow! Begin today to grow in your friendship with Jesus, who is "the way, and the truth and the life" (Jn 14:6): a friendship nurtured and deepened by humble and persevering prayer. Seek his will for you by listening to his word daily, and by allowing his law to shape your lives and your relationships. In this way you will become wise and generous prophets of God's saving love. Become evangelizers of your own peers, leading them by your own example to an appreciation of the beauty and truth of the Gospel, and the hope of a future shaped by the values of God's Kingdom. The Church needs your witness! Do not be afraid to respond generously to God's call, whether it be to serve him as a priest or a religious, as a Christian parent, or in the many forms of service to others which the Church sets before you.
Dear brothers and sisters! At the end of today's first reading, Cyrus, King of Persia, inspired by God, calls the Chosen People to return to their beloved land and to rebuild the Temple of the Lord. May his words be a summons to all God's People in Angola and throughout Southern Africa: Arise! Ponde-vos a caminho! (cf. 2 Chr 36:23) Look to the future with hope, trust in God's promises, and live in his truth. In this way, you will build something destined to endure, and leave to future generations a lasting inheritance of reconciliation, justice and peace. Amen.
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Pope's Address to Movements on Promotion of Women
"We Feel the Need for This Feminine Complementarity"
LUANDA, Angola, MARCH 22, 2009 (Zenit.org).- Here is the address Benedict XVI gave today to members of Catholic movements at a meeting on the promotion of women in Santo António Parish of Luanda.
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Dear Brothers and Sisters,
"They have no more wine," said Mary, begging Jesus to intervene so that the wedding-feast could continue, as was only right and fitting: "As long as the wedding guests have the bridegroom with them, they cannot fast" (Mk 2:19). The Mother of Jesus turns to the servants and implores them: "Do whatever he tells you" (cf. Jn 2:1-5). Her maternal mediation thus made possible the "good wine," prefiguring a new covenant between divine omnipotence and the poor but receptive human heart. This, in fact, had already happened in the past when -- as we heard in the first reading -- "all the people answered together and said: 'all that the Lord has spoken, we will do'" (Ex 19:8).
These same words well up in the hearts of all gathered here today in Saint Anthony's Church: a building which we owe to the commendable missionary efforts of the Capuchin Friars Minor, who wanted to provide a new Tent for the Ark of the Covenant, the sign of God's presence among his pilgrim people. To them, to those who work alongside them, and to all who benefit from their spiritual and social assistance, the Pope imparts his blessing with warm words of encouragement. I greet with affection all those present: Bishops, priests, religious men and women, and particularly the lay faithful who consciously embrace the duties of Christian commitment and witness that flow from the Sacrament of Baptism and also -- in the case of spouses -- from the Sacrament of Marriage. Moreover, given the main purpose of our gathering today, I extend greetings of great affection and hope to all women, to whom God has entrusted the wellsprings of life: I invite you to live and to put your trust in life, because the living God has put his trust in you! With gratitude in my heart I also greet the leaders and facilitators of ecclesial movements that have made the promotion of Angolan women a priority. I thank Archbishop José de Queirós Alves and your representatives for their kind words and for drawing attention to the aspirations and hopes of so many of the silent heroines among the women of this beloved nation.
I call everyone to an effective awareness of the adverse conditions to which many women have been -- and continue to be -- subjected, paying particular attention to ways in which the behavior and attitudes of men, who at times show a lack of sensitivity and responsibility, may be to blame. This forms no part of God's plan. In the Scripture reading, we heard that the entire people cried out together: "all that the Lord has spoken, we will do!" Sacred Scripture tells us that the divine Creator, looking upon all he had made, saw that something was missing: everything would have been fine if man had not been alone! How could one man by himself constitute the image and likeness of God who is one and three, God who is communion? "It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him" (Gen 2:18). God went to work again, fashioning for the man the helper he still lacked, and endowing this helper in a privileged way by incorporating the order of love, which had seemed under-represented in creation.
As you know, my dear friends, this order of love belongs to the intimate life of God himself, the Trinitarian life, the Holy Spirit being the personal hypostasis of love. As my predecessor Pope John Paul II once wrote, "in God's eternal plan, woman is the one in whom the order of love in the created world of persons takes first root" (Mulieris Dignitatem, 29). In fact, gazing upon the captivating charm that radiates from woman due to the inner grace God has given her, the heart of man is enlightened and he sees himself reflected in her: "This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh" (Gen 2:23). Woman is another "I" who shares in the same human nature. We must therefore recognize, affirm and defend the equal dignity of man and woman: they are both persons, utterly unique among all the living beings found in the world.
Man and woman are both called to live in profound communion through a reciprocal recognition of one another and the mutual gift of themselves, working together for the common good through the complementary aspects of masculinity and femininity. Who today can fail to recognize the need to make more room for the "reasons of the heart"? In a world like ours, dominated by technology, we feel the need for this feminine complementarity, so that the human race can live in the world without completely losing its humanity. Think of all the places afflicted by great poverty or devastated by war, and of all the tragic situations resulting from migrations, forced or otherwise. It is almost always women who manage to preserve human dignity, to defend the family and to protect cultural and religious values.
Dear brothers and sisters, history records almost exclusively the accomplishments of men, when in fact much of it is due to the determined, unrelenting and charitable action of women. Of all the many extraordinary women, allow me to mention two in particular: Teresa Gomes and Maria Bonino. The first, an Angolan, died in 2004 in the city of Sumbe after a happily married life in which she gave birth to seven children; she was a woman of unswerving Christian faith and exemplary apostolic zeal. This was particularly evident during the years 1975 and 1976 when fierce ideological and political propaganda invaded the parish of Our Lady of Grace of Porto Amboim, almost forcing the doors of the church to close. Teresa then became the leader of the faithful who refused to bend under pressure. Teresa offered support, courageously protecting the parish structures and trying every possible means to restore the celebration of Mass. Her love for the Church made her indefatigable in the work of evangelization, under the direction of the priests.
Maria Bonino was an Italian pediatrician who offered her expertise as a volunteer in several missions throughout this beloved African continent. She became the head of the pediatric ward in the provincial hospital at Uíje during the last two years of her life. Caring for the daily needs of thousands of children who were patients there, Maria paid the ultimate price for her service by sacrificing her life during the terrible epidemic of Marburg Hemorrhagic Fever, to which she herself succumbed. She was transferred to Luanda for treatment, but she died and was laid to rest here on 24 March 2005 -- the day after tomorrow is her fourth anniversary. Church and society have been -- and continue to be -- enormously enriched by the presence and virtues of women, and in a particular way by consecrated religious who, relying on the Lord's grace, have placed themselves at the service of others.
Dear Angolans, since the dignity of women is equal to that of men, no one today should doubt that women have "a full right to become actively involved in all areas of public life, and this right must be affirmed and guaranteed, also, where necessary, through appropriate legislation. This acknowledgment of the public role of women should not however detract from their unique role within the family. Here their contribution to the welfare and progress of society, even if its importance is not sufficiently appreciated, is truly incalculable" (Message for the 1995 World Day of Peace, 9). Moreover, a woman's personal sense of dignity is not primarily the result of juridically defined rights, but rather the direct consequence of the material and spiritual care she receives in the bosom of the family. The presence of a mother within the family is so important for the stability and growth of this fundamental cell of society, that it should be recognized, commended and supported in every possible way. For the same reason, society must hold husbands and fathers accountable for their responsibilities towards their families.
Dear families, you have undoubtedly noticed that no human couple, alone and on its own strength, can adequately offer children love and a genuine understanding of life. In fact, in order to say to someone, "your life is good even though you don't know what the future will bring", there needs to be a higher and more trustworthy authority than parents alone can offer. Christians know that this higher authority has been given to the larger family which God, through his Son Jesus Christ and the gift of the Holy Spirit, has established within human history, namely the Church. We find at work here the eternal and indestructible love which guarantees to each of us that our life will always have meaning, even if we do not know what the future will bring. For this reason, the building up of every Christian family takes place within the larger family, the Church, which sustains the domestic family and holds it close to her heart, giving it the assurance that it is protected, now and in the future, by the "yes" of the Creator.
"They have no more wine" -- Mary says to Jesus. Dear women of Angola, accept Mary as your advocate with the Lord. This is precisely how we see her at the wedding-feast of Cana: a tender woman, full of motherly care and courage, a woman who recognizes the needs of others and, wanting to help, places those needs before the Lord. If we stay close to her, we can all -- men and women alike -- recover that sense of serenity and deep trust that makes us feel blessed by God and undaunted in our struggle for life. May Our Lady of Muxima be the guiding star of your lives. May she keep all of you united in the great family of God. Amen.
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On the Close of the Papal Visit to Africa
"Become Ever More Fully a Leaven of Evangelical Hope"
LUANDA, Angola, MARCH 22, 2009 (Zenit.org).- Here is the address Benedict XVI gave today before leading the Angelus at Cimangola field, on the outskirts of Luanda. He led the Marian prayer after a Mass he presided over with bishops of the IMBISA (Interregional Meeting of Bishops of Southern Africa).
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Dear Brothers and Sisters,
At the conclusion of our Eucharistic celebration, as my Pastoral Visit to Africa comes to its close, let us now turn to Mary, the Mother of the Redeemer, to implore her loving intercession upon us, our families, and our world.
In this Angelus prayer, we recall Mary's complete "yes" to the will of God. Through Mary's obedience of faith, the Son of God came into the world to bring us forgiveness, salvation and life in abundance. By becoming a man like us in all things but sin, Christ taught us the dignity and worth of each member of the human family. He died for our sins, to gather us together into God's family.
Our prayer rises today from Angola, from Africa, and embraces the whole world. May the men and women from throughout the world who join us in our prayer, turn their eyes to Africa, to this great Continent so filled with hope, yet so thirsty for justice, for peace, for a sound and integral development that can ensure a future of progress and peace for its people.
Today I commend to your prayers the work of preparation for the coming Second Special Assembly for Africa of the Synod of Bishops, scheduled to meet in October. Inspired by faith in God and trust in Christ's promises, may the Catholics of this Continent become ever more fully a leaven of evangelical hope for all people of good will who love Africa, who are committed to the material and spiritual advancement of its children, and the spread of freedom, prosperity, justice and solidarity in the pursuit of the common good.
May Mary, Queen of Peace, continue to guide Angola's people in the task of national reconciliation following the devastating and inhuman experience of the civil war. May her prayers obtain for all Angolans the grace of authentic forgiveness, respect for others, and cooperation which alone can carry forward the immense work of rebuilding. May the Holy Mother of God, who points us to her Son, our brother, remind Christians everywhere of our duty to love our neighbor, to be peacemakers, to be the first to forgive those who have sinned against us, even as we have been forgiven.
Here in Southern Africa, let us ask our Lady in a particular way to intercede for peace, the conversion of hearts, and an end to the conflict in the neighboring Great Lakes region. May her Son, the Prince of Peace, bring healing to the suffering, consolation to those who mourn, and strength to all who carry forward the difficult process of dialogue, negotiation and the cessation of violence.
With this confidence, then, we now turn to Mary, our Mother, and, in reciting this Angelus prayer, let us pray for the peace and salvation of the whole human family.
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ADDRESS OF THE HOLY FATHER BENEDICT XVI
4 de Fevereiro International Airport of Luanda
Monday, 23 March 2009
Distinguished Civil, Military and Ecclesiastical Authorities,
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Dear Angolan Friends,
Keenly aware of your presence as I depart, Mr President, I would like to express to you my appreciation and my thanks for the courteous treatment you have given me and for the efforts made to ensure the smooth progress of all the meetings I have had the joy of experiencing. To the civil and military authorities and to the Pastors and leaders of the ecclesial communities and institutions involved in those meetings, I express my warmest thanks for all the courtesy with which they honoured me during these days that I was able to spend among you. A word of gratitude is owed to the media personnel, to the security forces and to all the volunteers who generously, efficiently and discreetly contributed to the successful outcome of my visit.
I thank God that I have found the Church here to be so alive and full of enthusiasm, despite the difficulties, able to take up its own cross and that of others, bearing witness before everyone to the saving power of the Gospel message. She continues to proclaim that the time of hope has come, and she is committed to bringing peace and promoting the exercise of fraternal charity in a way that is acceptable to all, respecting the ideas and sensitivities of each person. It is time to say goodbye and to set off once more for Rome, sad at having to leave you, but glad to have known a courageous people determined to begin again. Despite the problems and obstacles, the people of Angola intend to build their future by travelling along paths of forgiveness, justice and solidarity.
If I may be permitted to make one last appeal, I would ask that the just realization of the fundamental aspirations of the most needy peoples should be the principal concern of those in public office, since their intention I am sure is to carry out the mission they have received not for themselves but for the sake of the common good. Our hearts cannot find peace while there are still brothers and sisters who suffer for lack of food, work, shelter or other fundamental goods. If we are to offer a definite response to these fellow human beings, the first challenge to be overcome is that of building solidarity: solidarity between generations, solidarity between nations and between continents, which should lead to an ever more equitable sharing of the earths resources among all people.
From Luanda I broaden my gaze to include the whole of Africa, confirming our appointment for the coming month of October in Vatican City, when we shall gather for the Second Special Assembly of the Synod of Bishops dedicated to this continent, where the incarnate Word in person found refuge. I ask God to grant his protection and assistance to the countless refugees who have fled their country, and are now at large, waiting to be able to return home. The God of Heaven says to them once again: Even if a woman should forget the child at her breast, yet I will not forget you (Is 49:15). God loves you like sons and daughters; he watches over your days and your nights, your labours and your aspirations.
Dear Brothers and Sisters, friends from Africa, dear Angolans, take heart! Never tire of promoting peace, making gestures of forgiveness and working for national reconciliation, so that violence may never prevail over dialogue, nor fear and discouragement over trust, nor rancour over fraternal love. This is all possible if you recognize one another as children of the same Father, the one Father in Heaven. May God bless Angola! May he bless each of her sons and daughters! May he bless the present and the future of this beloved nation. May God be with you!