Pontiff Urges African Church to Have Courage

Calls for a New Evangelization of the Continent

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VATICAN CITY, OCT. 25, 2009 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI is encouraging the Church in Africa to have courage and embark on a new evangelization of the continent.



The Pope said this today at the concluding Mass of the Second Special Assembly for Africa of the Synod of Bishops. The three-week assembly, which gathered 33 cardinals, 79 archbishops and 156 bishops, considered the theme "The Church in Africa at the Service of Reconciliation, Justice and Peace."

"God's plan does not change," the Pope noted. "Through the centuries and the upheavals of history, he always points to the same goal: the Kingdom of freedom and of peace for all.

"And this implies his predilection for those who are deprived of freedom and peace, for those whose dignity as human persons is violated.

"We think in particular of the brothers and sisters in African who suffer from poverty, disease, injustice, war and violence, forced migrations."

Referring to the Gospel passage for today, which recounts the healing of the blind man Bartimaeus, the Pope likened the whole Church to the blind man.

"Bartimaeus who, after he is healed follows Jesus along the road, is the image of humanity that, enlightened by faith, sets out on the journey to the promised land," the Pontiff said. "Bartimaeus, in turn, becomes a witness of the light, recounting and showing in the first person that he has been healed, renewed, reborn.

"This is the Church in the world: the community of reconciled persons, workers for peace and justice; 'salt and light' in the midst of the society of men and the nations."

"For this reason the synod has forcefully reemphasized -- and has manifested -- that the Church is the Family of God, in which there cannot be ethnic, linguistic or cultural divisions," the Holy Father continued. "Moving testimonies have shown us that, even in the darkest moments of human history, the Holy Spirit is at work and transforms hearts of the victims and persecutors so that they recognize each other as brothers.

"The reconciled Church is a powerful leaven of reconciliation in individual countries and in the whole African continent."

Priesthood

Benedict XVI also noted that the Church also has a priestly character: "United to [Christ] through the sacraments, the Church prolongs his salvific action, permitting men to be restored through faith, like the blind Bartimaeus.

"In this way the ecclesial community, in the footsteps of her Master and Lord, is called to take the road of service in a decisive manner, to share completely in the situation of the men and women of her time, to witness before all to God's love and thus to sow hope."

"Transmitting the announcement of hope according to a 'priestly form,'" he explained, means "living the Gospel in the first person, trying to translate it into projects and deeds consistent with the fundamental dynamic principle that is love."

"Get up, Church in Africa, family of God, because you are being called by the heavenly Father," Benedict XVI continued. "Take the journey of a new evangelization with the courage that comes from the Holy Spirit."

"The urgent evangelizing action that has been much discussed in these weeks also carries with it a pressing call to reconciliation," he continued, "the indispensable condition for creating in Africa relationships of justice among men, and for building an equitable and lasting peace in respect to every individual and every people."

The Pontiff assured the continent that it is "not alone in this demanding mission": "The whole Catholic Church is near you with prayer and active solidarity, and you are accompanied from heaven by the men and women saints of Africa, who with their life -- sometimes to the point of martyrdom -- have witnessed to total fidelity to Christ."

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Full text: www.zenit.org/article-27333?l=english