Speeches 2005-13 20039
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 Church’s 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!
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 Heaven’s 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 everyone’s 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!
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 Government’s 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 nation’s 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 Africa’s 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 world’s 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 ). 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!
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” (Ga 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 Ga 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” (Ep 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 family’s 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.
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 7 June 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 for ever” (He 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’” (Ap 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” (Ap 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” (2Co 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” (Ap 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” (Ac 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 (Mc 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” (He 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). 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!
Speeches 2005-13 20039