The Pope affirmed this in a message that was read Wednesday at a Pontifical Council for Culture conference under way in Tanzania. The conference, which runs through Saturday, is on "Pastoral Prospects for the New Evangelization in the Context of Globalization and Its Effects on African Cultures."
In his message, the Holy Father recalled how evangelizing culture and inculturating the Gospel "is an old yet ever new mission." He called on the prelates to find "new and effective ways to present the immutable truth of the Gospel and, especially, the values of the joy of life and of respect for the unborn child, the important role of the family, and a profound sense of communion and solidarity which are present in African cultures."
According to a communiqué from the pontifical council, the conference "forms part of a series of initiatives, which intend to promote the pastoral approach to culture in different parts of the world."
African members and consultors of the pontifical council and bishops in charge of the pastoral care of culture in their respective episcopal conferences are attending. The last meeting of this kind took place in South Africa in 2004.
"In the current context, with the cultural environment and lifestyles intensely affected by the effects of globalization, the Church strives to promote the inculturation of the faith along with a new Christian humanism which will allow men and women in Africa to be fully African and fully Christian," the communiqué added.
Archbishop Giancarlo Ravasi, president of the Pontifical Council for Culture, was scheduled to give the opening address. He was unable to attend the conference, and the secretary of the council, Father Bernard Ardura, read the address the archbishop had prepared.
The archbishop mentioned that the challenges include "oblivion to the common good, social behavior guided by the logic of the market, the destruction of models of life transmitted by family, school and parish, and the exaltation of individualism."
The poorest countries, wrote the president of the pontifical council, are those most exposed to the dangers of a poorly-understood globalization, which leads to "the destruction of the values handed down by ancestral cultural traditions, the undermining of consciences, and the cultural uprooting of entire generations which are drawn into a spiral that leads to poverty and misery."
Yet, the archbishop added, in a context of globalized secularization the Church has the chance to make "Christian humanism" flower, "re-proposing the great moral values" and proclaiming "the word of God, which is capable of making deserts of indifference and superficiality bear fruit."
The Catholic Cultural Center "Bagamoyo" run by the Spiritan Fathers is the venue for the meeting.
Bagamoyo was one of the major ports of the slave trade, where slaves were brought from Central and East Africa to be sent to the markets of Zanzibar. A mission was opened in 1868 for those who had escaped from the slave traders or had been ransomed by the missionaries.
"While choosing the theme," the pontifical council communiqué affirmed, "the organizers have not overlooked the fact that secularization involves a modern form of slavery, neither less oppressive nor less damaging to the dignity of the human person."
"The Church," it added, "is conscious of the fundamental cultural dimension of sustained development, indispensable for the future of the African continent. Therefore, particular weight will be given to the cultural values present in Africa that are at the service of the dignity of the human person."