YAOUNDE, Cameroon (CNS)—Celebrating Mass with more than 40,000 Catholics in Cameroon, Pope Benedict XVI urged African families to reject the "tyranny of materialism" and other social changes that risk eroding the continent's traditional values.
"Brothers and sisters in Cameroon and throughout Africa, you who have received from God so many human virtues, take care of your souls! Do not let yourselves be captivated by selfish illusions and false ideals!" the pope said in a homily March 19 at the Amadou Ahidjo soccer stadium in Yaounde.
The Mass marked the publication of the working document for October's Synod of Bishops for Africa, and at the end of the liturgy the pope personally handed copies of the text to bishops from all over the continent.
Wearing gold vestments, the 81-year-old pope celebrated Mass on a hut-shaped altar erected at one end of the playing field. The liturgy used eight languages, including Cameroon's native Ewondo language, and featured African songs backed by the distinctive notes of wooden balaphons.
In a greeting, Archbishop Simon Tonye Bakot of Yaounde explained that Africans treat the "Mvamba," or grandfather, with immense respect, and that they welcomed the pontiff as the "great Mvamba."
The pope delivered his sermon emphatically, speaking in French and English. He said it was essential for African mothers and fathers to pass on to their children the human and spiritual values of the past, beginning with belief in God.
But social changes, including a growing generation gap and a sense of uprootedness on the continent, have made this difficult today, he said.
"At a time when so many people have no qualms about trying to impose the tyranny of materialism, with scant concern for the most deprived, you must be very careful. Africa in general, and Cameroon in particular, place themselves at risk if they do not recognize the true author of life!" he said.
The pope said traditional values have also been overturned by a rural exodus and urbanization that have broken family ties and left many younger people alone, unemployed and disoriented. Africans in general have left the land, physically and morally, resulting in a kind of "interior exile" that alienates them from God and themselves, he said.
"The first priority will consist in restoring a sense of the acceptance of life as a gift from God," he said. Every "tiny person, however weak," is created in God's image, he said, adding: "Every person must live! Death must not prevail over life!"
The pope held out St. Joseph, whose feast day was celebrated the same day, as a model for husbands and fathers in Africa. He made a special plea for husbands to treat their wives with respect and love, as St. Joseph treated Mary. It is a sensitive topic in Africa, where in many places wives are still considered the property of their husbands and subservient to them.
The pope also offered special words to young Africans, asking them to allow Christ into their lives and, if they feel called, to enter the "supreme service" of the priesthood or consecrated life.
"To the children who no longer have a father, or who live abandoned in the poverty of the streets, to those forcibly separated from their parents, to the maltreated and abused, to those constrained to join paramilitary forces that are terrorizing some countries, I would like to say: God loves you, he has not forgotten you and St. Joseph protects you!" he said, as the crowd burst into applause.
The papal Mass was the pope's biggest liturgical event in Cameroon, and was broadcast on national television. President Paul Biya, a Catholic, sat near the altar with other leading government officials.
At the end of the liturgy, the pope handed out the 60-page working document for the Oct. 4-25 Synod of Bishops for Africa. The text called on Catholics to help end the rampant injustice that fuels conflicts on the continent and usher in an era of peace. It said the synod would examine ways to better prepare the faithful in Africa for a more visible and active role in promoting unity both in the church and society.
The document said globalization "infringes on Africa's rights" and tends "to be the vehicle for the domination of a single, cultural model and a culture of death." But it also pinned the blame for many of Africa's ills on the evil in people's hearts, which makes them thirsty for riches, power or revenge.
Later in the day, the pope was scheduled to visit a church-run center for the sick and disabled, and then talk with a group of African bishops in greater detail about the themes of the upcoming synod.
Vatican City, Nov.28, 2008 – The Pope is “deeply concerned about the outbreak of violence” in Mumbai and “urgently appeals for an end to all acts of terrorism, which gravely offend the human family and severely destabilize the peace and solidarity needed to build a civilization worthy of mankind’s noble vocation to love god and neighbour.”
In a telegram signed by Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, Secretary of state, and addressed to the Archbishop of Bombay Card Oswald Gracias, Benedict XVI asks him to convey his “heartfelt condolences to the families of those who have lost their lives in these brutal attacks, and to assure the public authorities, citizens, and all those affected of his spiritual closeness.”
Finally, the Pope said that he is praying “for the repose of the souls of the victims and implores god’s gift of strength and comfort for those who are injured and in mourning.”
Pope Benedict XVI said that the mission of the Church-- to bring Christ to all mankind-- should never be identified with any nation or culture.
In his remarks to the crowd gathered in the courtyard of the apostolic palace at Castel Gandolfo, the Holy Father reflected on the day's Gospel reading, with Peter's profession of faith and Jesus' reply: "You are Peter and upon this rock I shall build my Church."
"This is the first time that Jesus speaks of the Church," the Pope observed. As he gives Peter the commission to lead the Church, Jesus also indicates the purpose of the Petrine ministry: to build up the Church by protecting against division-- by serving as the one rock upon which the Christian community is founded.
The Pope told his audience that he felt the weight of this responsibility, and asked for the prayers of the faithful to help him with his duties. He underlined the importance of bringing Christ's offer of salvation to all of the world's people. "What blessings mankind would receive by accepting this offer, which brings joy and peace," the Pope said.
After leading the Angelus prayer, the Holy Father turned his attention to the international scene, remarking sadly on "a deeply worrisome rise in tensions" and a "progressive deterioration in the climate of trust and cooperation among nations." In what appeared to be a reference to the violence in South Ossetia he warned against a new rise of nationalism, reminding his audience that nationalism has produced "tragic consequences" in other cases.
Despite the dangers of current world events, the Pope said, "we must not give in to pessimism!" He urged recognition of "the moral force of law," and "fair and transparent negotiations" to resolve international tensions.
Above all, the Pope said, world leaders must resist "the temptation to meet new situations with old systems." To underscore his meaning he added: "Violence must be repudiated."
The Holy Father had announced on July 2 that he planned a series of weekly talks on St. Paul's life and teaching during the current Pauline year. But the Pope's regular cycle of weekly audiences was interrupted by his vacation and his trip to Australia for World Youth Day. Upon resuming his weekly sessions, the Pope devoted two audiences to other topics: on August 13 to the importance of prayer and on August 20 to the veneration of the saints. So his August 27 talk was only the second in the projected series.
The audience was also the first held at the Vatican in several weeks; on the two previous Wednesdays the Pontiff had met with the faithful in the courtyard of his summer residence. Today he traveled by helicopter from Castel Gandolfo to the Vatican, returning later in the day.
Explaining his plans to the crowd in the Paul VI auditorium, the Pope said that he would speak the following week about the pivotal event in St. Paul's life: his conversion on the road to Damascus. For now he offered an overview of the Apostle's life.
First the Pope explained that experts set the birth of St. Paul in the year 8 AD-- thus establishing this year as the 2000th anniversary-- because Saul was described as a young man at the time St. Stephen was slain, and as an old man when he was imprisoned in Rome.
Saul was born in Tarsus, a city in Cilicia that was a provincial capital-- which, incidentally, was once ruled by Cicero, and later was the site of the first meeting between Marc Antony and Cleopatra.
Saul was a Jew who spoke Greek and a Roman citizen. Thus, the Pope remarked, he lived at the intersection of three important cultures. He was also a trained craftsman, who probably learned from his father to make tents.
At about the age of 12, young Saul left Tarsus for Jerusalem, to study in the strict tradition of the Pharisees. That study, the Pope observed, "instilled in him a great zeal for the Mosaic law," and caused him to view the followers of Christ as dangerous threats to Jewish orthodoxy and identity.
That intolerant attitude was changed completely along the road to Damascus, the Pope continued, and Paul became a tireless missionary for the Gospel. He undertook three great missionary journeys, which are described in the Acts of the Apostles, followed by his fourth trip as a prisoner to Rome.
Pope Benedict traced the route taken by Paul and his companions on those trips, as well as the key role that Paul played in the Council of Jerusalem. The Pope noted that while St. Luke reports that Paul spent two years in Rome under house arrest, the final events of the Apostle's life are not fully recorded. But apparently his appeal to the Emperor Nero was unsuccessful, and he died as a martyr. The Pontiff promised to speak about St. Paul's martyrdom, too, in a future Wednesday catechetical talk.
VATICAN CITY -- Pope Benedict XVI warned that racism is alive in modern society, and he urged the church to help overcome all forms of racial intolerance.
He said racism today is often tied to economic and social problems. Although such problems may be real, they can never justify racial discrimination, he said Aug. 17.
While the pontiff did not mention specific countries, his words had an immediate echo in Italy, where a series of government actions against illegal immigrants have prompted strong debate inside and outside the church.
The pope, addressing pilgrims at his summer residence in Castel Gandolfo outside Rome, began his remarks by quoting the prophet Isaiah about the "foreigners" who will be included in the Lord's universal house of prayer.
Likewise, the pope said, the church today is made up of people of every race and culture, and part of its mission is to help forge bonds of communion between races.
That task includes "helping civil society to overcome any possible temptation to racism, intolerance and exclusion," he said.
"One of humanity's great achievements is, in fact, overcoming racism," he said.
The pope said various countries had "new, worrisome signs of racism, often tied to social and economic problems," but such problems could "never justify racial contempt and discrimination."
The pope asked for prayers so that mutual acceptance may grow in the world.
In Italy, some Catholics have criticized the government's new crackdown on illegal immigration and other security measures, saying they are racially discriminatory.
Some of the strongest criticism came after the government, led by Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, announced plans to fingerprint every Gypsy who lives in Italy. The Catholic magazine Famiglia Cristiana, Italy's top-selling newsweekly, said the plan was evidence of a "creeping racism."
In mid-August, Famiglia Cristiana stepped up its criticism of the Berlusconi government, saying in effect that officials were provoking a "war among the poor" instead of dealing with Italy's real criminal problems. The comments prompted an outcry.
On Aug. 14, the Vatican spokesman, Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, said that while Famiglia Cristiana was an important Catholic magazine its views represented its own editorial line and not necessarily that of the Vatican or the Italian bishops.
Members of the political parties that form the governing coalition said the spokesman's statement represented a clear distancing of the Vatican from the magazine's criticism.