By Vatican Information Service
Monday, 23 March 2009
c: 21 - 23 MARCH
- Young People: Do Not Be Afraid to Make Definitive Decisions
- Gospel Affirms and Ennobles African Cultural Values
- Catholics: Leaven of Evangelical Hope for Africa
- Defend the Equal Dignity of Man and Woman
- Holy Father Departs from Africa
YOUNG PEOPLE: DO NOT BE AFRAID
TO MAKE DEFINITIVE DECISIONS
VATICAN CITY, 21 MAR 2009 (VIS) - At 4.20 p.m. today, the Holy Father went to Stadio dos Coquieros in the Angolan capital city of Luanda. On arrival he toured the stadium - which has a capacity of 30,000 - by popemobile greeting the crowds of young people he had come to meet.
Commenting on the theme of the meeting, taken from the Book of Revelation, "Behold the dwelling of God is with men", the Pope assured the young people that "God makes all the difference, and more! God changes us; He makes us new!".
"God is the future of a new humanity, which is anticipated in His Church.
When you have a chance, take time to read the Church's history. You will find that the Church does not grow old with the passing of the years.
Rather, she grows younger, for she is journeying towards her Lord, day by day drawing nearer to the one true fountain overflowing with youthfulness, rebirth, the power of life".
He then addressed some remarks to young Angolans who have been maimed or disabled as a result of the war or landmines. "I think of the countless tears that have been shed for the loss of your relatives and friends", he said. "It is not hard to imagine the dark clouds that still veil the horizon of your fondest hopes and dreams".
"See how Jesus does not leave us without an answer; He tells us one thing very clearly: renewal starts from within; you will receive a power from on high. The power to shape the future is within you.
"It is within you", he added, "but how? Just as life exists within a seed.
That is how Jesus explained it at a critical juncture in His ministry. Jesus spoke about the sower who sows in the field of the world, and He explained that the seed is His word and His miracles of healing. These are so few in comparison to the immense needs and demands of everyday life. And yet, deep within the seed, the future is already present, since the seed contains tomorrow's bread, tomorrow's life. The seed seems almost nothing.
But it is the presence of the future, the promise already present. When it falls on good soil, it produces fruit, thirty, sixty and even a hundredfold".
"In your midst", he told the young people, "you have the new Bread, the Bread of future life, the Blessed Eucharist, which nourishes us and pours out the life of the Trinity into the hearts of all people".
"He gives Himself to us and we respond by giving ourselves to others, for love of Him. This is the way that leads to life; it can be followed only by maintaining a constant dialogue with the Lord and among yourselves". Yet "the dominant societal culture is not helping you to live by Jesus' word or to practise the self-giving to which He calls you in accordance with the Father's plan".
After encouraging his young audience not to be "afraid to make definitive decisions", the Pope added: "You do not lack generosity - that I know! But the idea of risking a lifelong commitment, whether in marriage or in a life of special consecration, can be daunting. You might think: 'Can I make a life-long commitment now, without knowing what unforeseen events lie in store for me? By making a definitive decision, would I not be risking my freedom and tying my own hands?' These are the doubts you feel, and today's individualistic and hedonist culture aggravates them. Yet when young people avoid decisions, there is a risk of never attaining full maturity".
"Take courage!", he cried. "Dare to make definitive decisions, because in reality these are the only decisions which do not destroy your freedom, but guide it in the right direction, enabling you to move forward and attain something worthwhile in life. There is no doubt about it: life is worthwhile only if you take courage and are ready for adventure, if you trust in the Lord Who will never abandon you. Young people of Angola, unleash the power of the Holy Spirit within you, the power from on high!
"Trusting in this power, like Jesus, risk taking a leap and making a definitive decision. Give life a chance", the Holy Father concluded. "This is the life worthy of being lived, and I commend it to you from my heart.
May God bless the young people of Angola!".
At the end of the meeting, the Holy Father went back to the apostolic nunciature, where he dined and spent the night.
GOSPEL AFFIRMS AND ENNOBLES AFRICAN CULTURAL VALUES
VATICAN CITY, 22 MAR 2009 (VIS) - At 9.30 a.m. today Benedict XVI arrived at Cimangola Square, 14 km from the Angolan capital Luanda. Having toured the site by popemobile greeting the thousands of people present, at 10 a.m. he presided at Mass with bishops of the Inter-Regional Meeting of the Bishops of Southern Africa (IMBISA), which brings together the episcopal conferences of Angola and Sao Tome, Botswana, South Africa and Swaziland, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia and Zimbabwe.
At the beginning of the Eucharistic celebration, the Pope expressed his condolences for the death of two young people, crushed by the crowds entering the Stadio dos Coquieros for his meeting with Angolan youth yesterday afternoon.
"We entrust these two young people to Jesus", he said," that He may welcome them into His kingdom. I express my solidarity and my most heartfelt condolences to their families and friends because they had come to see me". The Holy Father also gave assurances of his prayers for the 89 people injured in the same incident, "in the hope of their speedy recovery".
In his homily, the Pope commented on the first reading of the Mass, and its summons to the Israelites to return to Jerusalem and rebuild the Temple. "Its vivid description of the destruction and ruin caused by war echoes the personal experience of so many people in this country amid the terrible ravages of the civil war. How true it is that war can 'destroy everything of value'", he said.
"The call to return and rebuild God's Temple has a particular meaning for each of us", he went on. "God is calling us to acknowledge the power of His presence within us, to reappropriate the gift of His love and forgiveness, and to become messengers of that merciful love in every sector of social and political life".
Going on to point out that today in Angola is a day of prayer and sacrifice for national reconciliation, the Holy Father said: "The Gospel teaches us that reconciliation can only be the fruit of conversion, a new way of thinking. It teaches us that only the power of God's love can change our hearts and make us triumph over the power of sin and division".
"It is to preach this message of forgiveness, hope and new life in Christ that I have come to Africa", Pope Benedict explained. Referring then to the forthcoming Second Special Assembly for Africa of the Synod of Bishops, he asked people "to pray for this intention: that every Christian on this great continent will experience the healing touch of God's merciful love, and that the Church in Africa will become 'for all, through the witness borne by her sons and daughters, a place of true reconciliation'".
"This is the message that the Pope is bringing to you and your children.
You have received power from the Holy Spirit to be the builders of a better tomorrow for your beloved country. In Baptism you were given the Spirit in order to be heralds of God's Kingdom of truth and life, of holiness and grace, of justice, love and peace. Be faithful to that gift! Be confident that the Gospel can affirm, purify and ennoble the profound human values present in your native culture and traditions: your strong families, your deep religious sense, your joyful celebration of the gift of life, your appreciation of the wisdom of the elderly and the aspirations of the young.
Be grateful, then, for the light of Christ! Be grateful for those who brought it, the generations of missionaries who contributed - and continue to contribute - so much to this country's human and spiritual development".
Benedict XVI then considered today's Gospel which explains how the light of God came into the world but people preferred the darkness to the light.
"Tragically, the clouds of evil have also overshadowed Africa. We think of the evil of war, the murderous fruits of tribalism and ethnic rivalry, the greed which corrupts men's hearts, enslaves the poor, and robs future generations of the resources they need to create a more equitable and just society - a society truly and authentically African in its genius and values.
"And what", he added, "of that insidious spirit of selfishness which closes individuals in upon themselves, breaks up families, and, by supplanting the great ideals of generosity and self-sacrifice, inevitably leads to hedonism, the escape into false utopias through drug use, sexual irresponsibility, the weakening of the marriage bond and the break-up of families, and the pressure to destroy innocent human life through abortion?
"Yet the word of God is a word of unbounded hope. God does not give up on us! He continues to lift our eyes to a future of hope, and He promises us the strength to accomplish it. He gave us His commandments, not as a burden, but as a source of freedom: the freedom to become men and women of wisdom, teachers of justice and peace, people who believe in others and seek their authentic good. God created us to live in the light, and to be light for the world around us!"
"Radiate the light of faith, hope and love in your families and communities! Be witnesses of the holy truth that sets men and women free!
You know from bitter experience that, in comparison with the sudden, destructive fury of evil, the work of rebuilding is painfully slow and arduous. Living by the truth takes time, effort and perseverance: it has to begin in our own hearts, in the little acts by which we demonstrate that we love our neighbours, all our neighbours, regardless of race, ethnicity or language, and by our readiness to work with them to build together on foundations that will endure".
The Pope concluded his homily by addressing young people: "You are the hope of your country's future, the promise of a better tomorrow", he told them. "The Church needs your witness! Do not be afraid to respond generously to God's call, whether it be to serve Him as a priest or a religious, as a Christian parent, or in the many forms of service to others which the Church sets before you".
Trust in God's promises, and live in His truth", the Holy Father concluded. "In this way, you will build something destined to endure, and leave to future generations a lasting inheritance of reconciliation, justice and peace".
CATHOLICS: LEAVEN OF EVANGELICAL HOPE FOR AFRICA
VATICAN CITY, 22 MAR 2009 (VIS) - Following today's Mass, Benedict XVI prayed the Angelus with thousands of faithful gathered in Cimangola Square in the Angolan capital, Luanda.
"Our prayer rises today from Angola, from Africa, and embraces the whole world", said the Pope. "May the men and women from throughout the world who join us in our prayer, turn their eyes to Africa, to this great continent so filled with hope, yet so thirsty for justice, for peace, for a sound and integral development that can ensure a future of progress and peace for its people".
"Inspired by faith in God and trust in Christ's promises, may the Catholics of this continent become ever more fully a leaven of evangelical hope for all people of good will who love Africa, who are committed to the material and spiritual advancement of its children, and the spread of freedom, prosperity, justice and solidarity in the pursuit of the common good.
"May Mary, Queen of Peace, continue to guide Angola's people in the task of national reconciliation following the devastating and inhuman experience of the civil war", he added. "Here in Southern Africa, let us ask Our Lady in a particular way to intercede for peace, the conversion of hearts, and an end to the conflict in the neighbouring Great Lakes region. May her Son, the Prince of Peace, bring healing to the suffering, consolation to those who mourn, and strength to all who carry forward the difficult process of dialogue, negotiation and the cessation of violence".
Following the Marian prayer, the Holy Father returned to the apostolic nunciature where he had lunch.
DEFEND THE EQUAL DIGNITY OF MAN AND WOMAN
VATICAN CITY, 22 MAR 2009 (VIS) - At 4.45 p.m. today, in the parish of Santo Antonio located in a densely populated area on the outskirts of Luanda, Angola, the Pope met with representatives of Catholic movements for the promotion of women.
Two female members of the movements spoke to the Holy Father of their problems and hopes.
In his remarks the Pope called everyone "to an effective awareness of the adverse conditions to which many women have been - and continue to be - subjected, paying particular attention to ways in which the behaviour and attitudes of men, who at times show a lack of sensitivity and responsibility, may be to blame".
After highlighting the need to "recognise, affirm and defend the equal dignity of man and woman", Benedict XVI explained how both are "called to live in profound communion through a reciprocal recognition of one another and the mutual gift of themselves, working together for the common good through the complementary aspects of masculinity and femininity.
"Who today", he added, "can fail to recognise the need to make more room for the reasons of the heart'? In a world like ours, dominated by technology, we feel the need for this feminine complementarity, so that the human race can live in the world without completely losing its humanity.
Think of all the places afflicted by great poverty or devastated by war, and of all the tragic situations resulting from migrations, forced or otherwise.
It is almost always women who manage to preserve human dignity, to defend the family and to protect cultural and religious values".
The Pope lamented the fact that "history records almost exclusively the accomplishments of men, when in fact much of it is due to the determined, unrelenting and charitable action of women".
"No-one today should doubt that women have 'a full right to become actively involved in all areas of public life, and this right must be affirmed and guaranteed, also, where necessary, through appropriate legislation. This acknowledgement of the public role of women should not however detract from their unique role within the family. Here their contribution to the welfare and progress of society, even if its importance is not sufficiently appreciated, is truly incalculable'".
Furthermore, "a woman's personal sense of dignity is not primarily the result of juridically defined rights, but rather the direct consequence of the material and spiritual care she receives in the bosom of the family.
"The presence of a mother within the family is so important for the stability and growth of this fundamental cell of society, that it should be recognised, commended and supported in every possible way. For the same reason, society must hold husbands and fathers accountable for their responsibilities towards their families".
Benedict XVI concluded his remarks by highlighting how "the building up of every Christian family takes place within the larger family, the Church, which sustains the domestic family and holds it close to her heart, giving it the assurance that it is protected, now and in the future, by the 'yes'
of the Creator".
The meeting concluded, the Pope travelled to the apostolic nunciature where he dined and spent the night.
HOLY FATHER DEPARTS FROM AFRICA
VATICAN CITY, 23 MAR 2009 (VIS) - At 9.30 a.m. today Benedict XVI travelled from the apostolic nunciature in the Angolan capital Luanda to the city's 4 de Fevereiro airport, arriving at 10 a.m. President Jose Eduardo dos Santos of Angola and the country's civil, military and religious authorities were waiting there to bid the Holy Father farewell.
Having thanked everyone for the efforts made during the course of his visit, the Pope delivered a brief address:
"I thank God that I have found the Church here to be so alive and full of enthusiasm, despite the difficulties, able to take up its own cross and that of others, bearing witness before everyone to the saving power of the Gospel message", he said. "She continues to proclaim that the time of hope has come, and she is committed to bringing peace and promoting the exercise of fraternal charity in a way that is acceptable to all, respecting the ideas and sensitivities of each person". The Pope also expressed his joy at having "known a courageous people determined to begin again. Despite the problems and obstacles, the people of Angola intend to build their future by travelling along paths of forgiveness, justice and solidarity".
He also launched an appeal "that the just realisation of the fundamental aspirations of the most needy peoples should be the principal concern of those in public office, since their intention - I am sure - is to carry out the mission they have received not for themselves but for the sake of the common good. Our hearts cannot find peace while there are still brothers and sisters who suffer for lack of food, work, shelter or other fundamental goods. If we are to offer a definite response to these fellow human beings, the first challenge to be overcome is that of building solidarity:
solidarity between generations, solidarity between nations and between continents, which should lead to an ever more equitable sharing of the earth's resources among all people".
From the African continent "where the incarnate Word in person found refuge. I ask God to grant His protection and assistance to the countless refugees who have fled their country, and are now at large, waiting to be able to return home. God loves you like sons and daughters; He watches over your days and your nights, your labours and your aspirations.
"Dear Brothers and Sisters, friends from Africa, dear Angolans, take heart!" he added. "Never tire of promoting peace, making gestures of forgiveness and working for national reconciliation, so that violence may never prevail over dialogue, nor fear and discouragement over trust, nor rancour over fraternal love. This is all possible if you recognise one another as children of the same Father, the one Father in heaven".
The departure ceremony complete, the Holy Father's plane took off at 10.30 a.m., bound for Rome where it is due to land at around 6 p.m. today.