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.
God gave man “wings’, faith and reason, to enable him not to “yield to the law of the strongest” but to recognise others as brothers and sisters who have the same rights. Such is the basis of dialogue, forgiveness and reconciliation, whose roots are found in Christianity, and of which Benedict XVI is the bearer in this, his first trip to Africa.
The Holy Father focused on these themes today, especially after arriving in Angola, a country slowly recovering from a civil war that lasted from 1975 to 2002 and cost 500,000 dead, as well as countless maimed, orphans and refugees.
On his departure from Cameroon this morning he touched upon an issue, albeit indirectly, that is a source of conflict and violence, and not only in Africa: Christian-Muslim relations.
In his farewell address the Pontiff mentioned his stay in Cameroon, stressing the importance of his meetings with leaders of the local Muslim community.
“As we continue on our journey towards greater mutual understanding,” he said, “I pray that we will also grow in respect and esteem for one another, and strengthen our resolve to work together to proclaim the God-given dignity of the human person, a message that an increasingly secularized world needs to hear.”
On his arrival at Luanda’s “4 de Fevereiro’ Airport in post-war Angola, where he was welcomed by Angolan President José Eduardo dos Santos, and where Catholics represent half of the population, the Holy Father mentioned John Paul II’s second visit to the country in 1992, who “pointed out the way towards God, inviting all people of good will to listen to their own rightly formed consciences and to build a society of justice, of peace and of solidarity, in mutual charity and forgiveness.”
“For my part,” he added, let me “remind you that I come from a country where peace and fraternity are dear to the hearts of all its people, in particular those, like myself, who have known war and division between family members from the same nation as a result of inhuman and destructive ideologies, which, under the false appearance of dreams and illusions, caused the yoke of oppression to weigh down upon the people. You can therefore understand how keenly aware I am of dialogue as a way of overcoming every form of conflict and tension and making every nation—including your own—into a house of peace and fraternity. With this in view, you must take from your spiritual and cultural heritage the best values that Angola possesses, and go out to meet one another fearlessly, agreeing to share personal resources, both spiritual and material, for the good of all.”
Benedict XVI also went on to remind Angolans that their country’s wealth must be used to “build peace and understanding between peoples, based upon loyalty and equality that can promote for Africa the peaceful future in solidarity that everyone longs for and to which everyone is entitled. To this end, I ask you: do not yield to the law of the strongest! God has enabled human beings to fly, over and above their natural tendencies, on the wings of reason and faith. If you let these wings bear you aloft, you will easily recognize your neighbour as a brother or sister, born with the same fundamental human rights.”
Bishop Filomeno Viera Dias of Cabinda said Pope Benedict XVI’s visit to Angola, which begins today, constitutes “a great historic moment in the history of our people, our country, for reconciliation and the rebuilding of Angolan society, beginning with its deepest values.”
Speaking to the Angopress news agency, the bishop said that “the preparation has been extremely careful, even though there have been some slight modifications, but we are optimistic. By Friday we will have everything in order to welcome the Pope.”
Bishop Viera Dias said the Pope would be welcomed as only Angola can. “At this moment the only thing left is for me to ask Angolans to experience this moment as a great moment in the history of our people, our country, for reconciliation and the rebuilding of the Angolan society, beginning with its deepest values.
Angola is still recovering from the effects of a 30-year civil war, and hopes that the Pope’s visit will give momentum to a continued rebirth.
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."