Dear brothers and sisters!
From Tuesday, March 17, to Monday, March 23, I will be making my first apostolic trip to Africa.
I will be going to Cameroon, in its capital Yaounde, to deliver the 'Working Instrument' of the Second Special Assembly for Africa of the Bishops' Synod which will take place in October here at the Vatican. I will then proceed to Luanda, capital of Angola, a nation which after a long civil war, has found peace and is now called to reconstruct itself in justice.
With this visit, I intend to embrace ideally the entire African continent - its thousand differences and its profound religious spirit; its ancient cultures and its laborious path of development and reconciliation; its serious problems, its serious problems, its painful wounds and its enormous potential and hopes. I intend to confirm African Catholics in their faith, encourage Christians in the ecumenical commitment, and bring to everyone the announcement of peace entrusted to the Church by the Risen Christ.
While I prepare myself for this missionary voyage, the words of the Apostle Paul resound in my soul, as the liturgy proposes for our meditation on this third Sunday of lent: "We proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles; but to those who are called, Jews and Greeks alike, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God" (1 Cor 1,23-24).
Yes, dear brothers and sisters, I leave for Africa, knowing that I have nothing to propose and to give to those I will meet but Christ and the Good News of his Cross, mystery of supreme love, of divine love that conquers every human resistance and makes possible even forgiveness and love for one's enemies. This is the grace of the Gospel that is capable of transforming the world. This is the grace that can renew even Africa, because it generates an irresistible force of peace and of profound and radical reconciliation.
The Church does not pursue economic, social and political objectives. The Church announces Christ, certain that the Gospel can touch the hearts of everyone and transform them, thus renewing from within the person and society.
On March 19, during my pastoral visit in Africa, we will be celebrating the solemnity of St. Joseph, patron of the universal Church - as well as mine, as you know. St. Joseph, advised in a dream by an angel, had to flee with Mary to Egypt, in Africa, to keep the newborn Jesus safe from Herod who wanted to kill him. And thus the Scriptures came to pass: Jesus followed the footsteps of the ancient Jewish patriarchs, and then, like the people of Israel, returned to the Promised Land after an exile in Egypt.
To the celestial intercession of this great saint, I entrust my coming pilgrimage and the people of all Africa, along with the challenges that mark them and the hopes that animate them. In particular, I think of the victims of hunger and disease, of injustices, the fratricidal conflicts and every form of violence that, unfortunately, continues to strike at adults and children, and does not spare missionaries, priests, religious and volunteers.
Brothers and sisters, be with me on this trip with your prayers, invoking Mary, Mother and Queen of Africa.
Sunday, March 15, 2009
Pope Benedict to Propose the Hope of Christ and His Good News to Africa
At the Angelus on Sunday, March 15, 2009, Pope Benedict spoke about his upcoming Apostolic journey to Africa: