Two paragraphs from a speech by Benedict XVI in Angola:
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.
Pope Benedict XVI’s address to the Civil Authorities and Diplomatic Corps of Angola
20 March 2009.
At Mass today Pope Benedict spoke of the need to know and to share the faith, that is, to evangelize. The truth of Jesus Christ needs to be known and lived, especially by Christians. The work of evangelization today remains as important as it was when Catholics first arrived in this part of Africa 500 years ago. He said in part:
“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.”
Pope Benedict was critical of the idea of seeking to convert people to the offense of believers of other faiths. “Someone may object: ‘Why not leave them in peace? They have their truth, and we have ours,'” he said. “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,” he added. For Pope Benedict the faith is never imposed on anyone; the beauty of the faith is proposed.
Excerpts from the Pope’s speech at the Cardinal Paul-Émile Léger Centre, Cameroon, yesterday:
Faced with suffering, sickness and death, it is tempting to cry out in pain, as Job did, whose name means “suffering” (cf. Gregory the Great, Moralia in Job, I,1,15). Even Jesus cried out, shortly before his death (cf. Mk ; Heb 5:7). As our condition deteriorates, our anguish increases; some are tempted to doubt whether God is present in their lives. Job, however, was conscious of God’s presence; his was not a cry of rebellion, but, from the depths of his sorrow, he allowed his trust to grow (cf. Job 19; 42:2-6). His friends, like each of us when faced with the suffering of a loved one, tried to console him, but they used hollow and empty words.
In the presence of such torment, we feel powerless and we cannot find the right words. Before a brother or sister plunged into the mystery of the Cross, a respectful and compassionate silence, a prayerful presence, a gesture of tenderness and comfort, a kind look, a smile, often achieve more than many words. This was the experience of a small group of men and women, including the Virgin Mary and the Apostle John, who followed Jesus in the depths of his suffering at the time of his Passion and his death on the Cross. Among them, the Gospel tells us, was an African, Simon of Cyrene. He was given the task of helping Jesus to carry his Cross on the way to Golgotha. This man, albeit through no choice of his own, came to the aid of the Man of Sorrows when he had been abandoned by all his followers and handed over to blind violence. History tells us, then, that an African, a son of your continent, took part, at the price of his own suffering, in the infinite suffering of the one who ransomed all men, including his executioners. Simon of Cyrene could not have known that it was his Saviour who stood there before him. He was “drafted in” to assist him (cf. Mk15:21); he was constrained, forced to do so. It is hard to accept to carry someone else’s cross. Only after the resurrection could he have understood what he had done. Brothers and sisters, it is the same for each of us: in the depths of our anguish, of our own rebellion, Christ offers us his loving presence even if we find it hard to understand that he is at our side. Only the Lord’s final victory will reveal for us the definitive meaning of our trials.
Can it not be said that every African is in some sense a member of the family of Simon of Cyrene? Every African who suffers, indeed every person who suffers, helps Christ to carry his Cross and climbs with him the path to Golgotha in order one day to rise again with him. When we see the infamy to which Jesus was subjected, when we contemplate his face on the Cross, when we recognize his appalling suffering, we can glimpse, through faith, the radiant face of the Risen Lord who tells us that suffering and sickness will not have the last word in our human lives. I pray, dear brothers and sisters, that you will be able to recognize yourselves in “Simon of Cyrene”. I pray, dear brothers and sisters who are sick, that many of you will encounter a Simon at your bedside.
Since the resurrection, and right up to our own time, there have been countless witnesses who have turned, with faith and hope, towards the Saviour of mankind, recognizing his presence at the heart of their suffering. May the Father of mercies graciously grant the prayers of all who turn to him. He answers our call and our prayer, as and when he wishes, for our good and not according to our desires. It is for us to discern his response and to accept the gifts that he offers us as a grace. Let us fix our gaze upon the Crucified one, with faith and courage, for from him come life, comfort, and healing. Let us learn to gaze on him who desires our good and knows how to wipe the tears from our eyes. Let us learn to abandon ourselves into his embrace, like a small child in his mother’s arms.
My friends, I believe a particularly urgent task of religion today is to unveil the vast potential of human reason, which is itself God’s gift and which is elevated by revelation and faith. Belief in the one God, far from stunting our capacity to understand ourselves and the world, broadens it. Far from setting us against the world, it commits us to it. We are called to help others see the subtle traces and mysterious presence of God in the world which he has marvellously created and continually sustains with his ineffable and all-embracing love. Although his infinite glory can never be directly grasped by our finite minds in this life, we nonetheless catch glimpses of it in the beauty that surrounds us. When men and women allow the magnificent order of the world and the splendour of human dignity to illumine their minds, they discover that what is “reasonable” extends far beyond what mathematics can calculate, logic can deduce and scientific experimentation can demonstrate; it includes the goodness and innate attractiveness of upright and ethical living made known to us in the very language of creation.
This insight prompts us to seek all that is right and just, to step outside the restricted sphere of our own self-interest and act for the good of others. Genuine religion thus widens the horizon of human understanding and stands at the base of any authentically human culture. It rejects all forms of violence and totalitarianism: not only on principles of faith, but also of right reason. Indeed, religion and reason mutually reinforce one another since religion is purified and structured by reason, and reason’s full potential is unleashed by revelation and faith.
Pope Benedict XVI address to the Muslim Leaders of Cameroon
Holy Mary, Mother of God, Protectress of Africa, you have given to the world the true Light, Jesus Christ. Through your obedience to the Father and the grace of the Holy Spirit, you have given us the source of our reconciliation and our justice, Jesus Christ, our peace and our joy. Mother of Tenderness and Wisdom, show us Jesus, your Son and the Son of God. Guide our path of conversion, so that Jesus might shine his glory on us in every aspect of our personal, familial and social lives.
Mother, full of Mercy and Justice, through your docility to the Spirit, the Counselor, obtain for us the grace to be witnesses of the Risen Lord, so that we will increasingly become the salt of the earth and the light of the world.
Mother of Perpetual Help, we entrust to your maternal intercession the preparation and fruits of the Second Special Assembly for Africa. Queen of Peace, pray for us! Our Lady of Africa, pray for us!
Jesuit Father Edward T. Oakes, a Mundelein SeminaryTheology professor explains Pope Benedict’s VERY clear reasons for putting to bed the ex communications of the SSPX bishops while delving into the acceptance of (or not) “Vatican II theology.” What Vatican II said is a bone of contention of many, for a very long time….
Paul A. Zalonski is from New Haven, CT. He is a member of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation, a Catholic ecclesial movement, and an Oblate of Saint Benedict. Contact Paul at paulzalonski[at]yahoo.com.