Benedetto XVI Forum


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11/19/2011 7:43 PM
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See previous page for earlier posts today, 11/19/11.

Strangely, Vatican Radio's English service completely omits, at least as of this time (2pm in New York) any report of this event which preceded the signing of the Apostolic Exhortation. Since I have been using RV's reports as a guide to what has actually taken place of the Pop[e's program, that omission also threw me off.

Day 2: The Pope speaks to priests,
religious, seminarians and lay leaders

St. Gall Seminary, Ouidah

Your Eminence,
Bishop N’Koué, responsible for priestly formation,
Dear Brother Bishops and Priests,
Dear men and women religious,
Dear seminarians and lay faithful,

Thank you, Bishop N’Koué, for your kind words, and thank you dear seminarian, for your own welcoming and respectful ones. It is a great joy for me to be among you, in Ouidah, and in particular in this seminary placed under the protection of Saint Joan of Arc and dedicated to Saint Gall, a man of outstanding virtue, a monk who desired perfection, and a pastor full of meekness and humility.

What could be more noble than to have him as your model, as well as the figure of Monsignor Louis Parisot, indefatigable apostle of the poor and promoter of the local clergy, and that of Father Thomas Moulero, the first priest of the then Dahomey, as well as Cardinal Bernardin Gantin, eminent son of your land and humble servant of the Church?

Our encounter this morning offers me the opportunity to express directly to you my gratitude for your pastoral commitment. I give thanks to God for your zeal, in spite of the occasionally difficult conditions in which you are called to give witness to his love. I thank him for the many men and women who have proclaimed the Gospel in this land, and indeed throughout Africa.

Shortly, I will sign the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Africae Munus. It will treat the question of peace, justice and reconciliation. These three values stand out as an evangelical ideal fundamental to baptismal life, and they demand sound acceptance of your identity as priests, as consecrated persons and as lay faithful.

Dear priests, the responsibility for promoting peace, justice and reconciliation falls in a special way to you. Owing to your reception of Holy Orders and your celebration of the Sacraments, you are called in effect to be men of communion.

As crystal does not retain the light but rather reflects it and passes it on, in the same manner the priest must make transparent what he celebrates and what he has received.

I thus encourage you to let Christ shine through your life, by being in full communion with your Bishop, by a genuine goodwill towards your brother priests, by a profound solicitude for each of the baptized and by great attention to each person.

In letting yourself be modelled on Christ, you will never substitute the beauty of your priestly being with ephemeral and at times unhealthy realities which the contemporary mentality tends to impose on every culture.

I urge you, dear priests, never to underestimate the unfathomable riches of the divine grace placed in you and which you have been called to live at the service of peace, of justice and of reconciliation.

Dear men and women religious, either active or contemplative, the consecrated life is a radical following of Jesus. May your unconditional choice for Christ lead you to an unlimited love for your neighbour.

Poverty and chastity make you truly free to obey unconditionally the one Love which, when it takes hold of you, impels you to proclaim it everywhere.

May poverty, obedience and chastity increase your thirst for God and your hunger for his Word, who, by increasing, transforms hunger and thirst into service of those who are deprived of justice, peace and reconciliation.

Faithfully lived, the evangelical counsels transform you into a universal brother or sister of all, and they will help you to walk resolutely on the way of holiness.

You will arrive there, if you are convinced that, for you, to live is Christ
(cf. Phil 1:21), you will make of your communities reflections of the glory of God and places where you have no debts to anyone, except that of mutual love (cf. Rom 13:8).

By means of your proper charisms lived with a spirit of openness to the catholicity of the Church, you can contribute to a harmonious expression of the immensity of the divine gifts at the service of all humanity!

Turning now to you, dear seminarians, I encourage you to place yourselves in the school of Christ in order to acquire those virtues which will help you to live the ministerial priesthood as the locus of your sanctification.

Without the logic of holiness, the ministry is merely a social function. The quality of your future life depends on the quality of your personal relationship with God in Jesus Christ, on your sacrifices, on the right integration of the requirements of your current formation.

Faced with the challenges of human existence, the priest of today and tomorrow – if he wants to be a credible witness to the service of peace, justice and reconciliation – must be a humble and balanced man, one who is wise and magnanimous.

After 60 years in priestly life, I can tell you, dear seminarians, that you will not regret accumulating intellectual, spiritual and pastoral treasures during your formation.

Dear lay faithful here present, you who are at the heart of the daily realities of life, you are called to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world, I urge you to renew yourselves and your work for justice, peace and reconciliation.

This mission requires first of all a faith in your family built according to the design of God and in fidelity to his plan for Christian marriage. He also demands of you to be true domestic churches.

Thanks to the power of prayer, “personal and family life is transformed, gradually improved and enriched with dialogue, faith is transmitted to the children, the pleasure of being together grows and the home is further united and consolidated” without ceasing
(Message for the Sixth World Day of Families, Mexico, 17 January 2009, 3).

By having love and forgiveness reign in your families, you will contribute to the upbuilding of a Church which is beautiful and strong, and to the advent of greater justice and peace in the whole of society.

In this way, I encourage you, dear parents, to have a profound respect for life and to bear witness to human and spiritual values before your children.

And I am pleased to recall that, ten years ago, Pope John Paul II founded at Cotonou a section for French-speaking Africa of the Institute which bears his name, to contribute to theological and pastoral reflection on marriage and the family.

Lastly, I exhort especially the catechists, those valiant missionaries at the heart of the most humble realities, to offer them always, with an unshakable hope and determination, an outstanding and absolutely necessary contribution to the spread of the faith through fidelity to the teaching of the Church
(cf. Ad Gentes, 17).

To conclude this conversation with you, I would like to encourage you all to have an authentic and living faith, which is the unshakeable foundation of a holy Christian life and which is at the service of the building of a new world.

The love for the God who reveals himself and for his word, the love for the sacraments and for the Church, are an efficacious antidote against a syncretism which deceives.

This love favours the correct integration of the authentic values of cultures into the Christian faith. It liberates from occultism and vanquishes evil spirits, for it is moved by the power of the Holy Trinity itself.

Lived deeply, this love is also a ferment of communion which breaks down every barrier, promoting the building of a Church in which there is no segregation among the baptized, for all are made one in Christ Jesus
(cf. Gal 3:28).

With great confidence, I count on each one of you, priests, men and women religious, seminarians and lay faithful, to bring such a Church to life.

As a token of my spiritual and paternal closeness, and entrusting you to the Virgin Mary, I invoke upon all of you, your families, the young and the sick, an abundance of divine blessings.

[Fon: May the Lord fill you with his blessings!]

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 11/19/2011 8:20 PM]
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11/19/2011 7:53 PM
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Day 2: Signing the Apostolic Exhortation
on the Special Synodal Assembly for Africa

The highlight of Pope Benedict's visit to Benin was the signing and publication of the Apostolic Exhortation on the Second Special Assembly on Africa of the Bishops' Synod held in October 2009.

The document, entitled Africae munus, contains the Pope’s conclusions following this synod which were based on the guidelines drawn up by the Bishops during the month-long gathering.

The full English text of the document may be read here:

On Saturday morning the Pope formally signed the Apostolic Exhortation during a visit to the Basilica in the city of Ouidah, during which he first addressed the priests, seminarians, religious and lay Catholic leaders of Benin.

The Holy Father will formally hand over the document to the bishops of Africa at a Mass on Sunday morning.

The Pope delivered his remarks in English, Fremch and Portuguese, the main Western languages common to the nations of Africa. Here is the full text in English:

Your Eminences,
Dear Brother Bishops and Priests,
Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I cordially thank the Secretary General of the Synod of Bishops, Archbishop Nikola Eterović, for his words of welcome and presentation, as well as all the members of the Special Council for Africa who helped to collate the results of the Synodal Assembly in preparation for the publication of the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation.

Today, the celebration of the Synod concludes with the signing of the Exhortation Africae Munus. The Synod gave an impetus to the Catholic Church in Africa, which prayed, reflected on and discussed the theme of reconciliation, justice and peace.

This process was marked by a special closeness uniting the Successor of Peter and the Particular Churches in Africa. Bishops, but also experts, auditors, special guests and fraternal delegates, all came to Rome to celebrate this important ecclesial event.

I myself went to Yaoundé to present the Instrumentum Laboris of the Synod to the Presidents of the Bishops’ Conferences, as a sign of my interest and concern for all the peoples of the African continent and the neighbouring islands.

I now have the joy of returning to Africa, and particularly to Benin, to consign this final document, which takes up the reflections of the Synod Fathers and presents them synthetically as part of a broad pastoral vision.

In French, he said:

The Second Special Assembly for Africa of the Synod of Bishops benefited from the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia in Africa of Blessed John Paul II, which emphasized the urgent need to evangelize this continent, an activity which cannot be separated from the work of human promotion.

The Exhortation also developed the concept of the Church as God’s Family. This concept has borne many spiritual fruits for the Catholic Church and for the activity of evangelization and human promotion which she has carried out in African society as a whole.

The Church is called to see herself increasingly as a family. For Christians, this means being a community of believers which praises the triune God, celebrates the great mysteries of our faith and enlivens with charity relationships between individuals, groups and nations, above and beyond ethnic, cultural and religious differences.

In offering this service to everyone, the Church is open to cooperation with all the components of society, particularly with the representatives of the Churches and Ecclesial Communities not yet in full communion with the Catholic Church, as well as with the representatives of the non-Christian religions, above all those of traditional religions and of Islam.

Within this ecclesial horizon, the Second Special Assembly for Africa concentrated on the theme of reconciliation, justice and peace. These are important issues for the world in general, but they take on a particular urgency in Africa.

We need but recall the tensions, the acts of violence, the wars, the injustices and abuses of all sorts, new and old, which have marked this year.

The principal theme was that of reconciliation with God and with one’s neighbour. But a Church reconciled within herself and among all her members can become a prophetic sign of reconciliation in society within each country and the continent as a whole.

Saint Paul writes: “All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation”
(2 Cor 5:18).

The basis of this reconciliation is found in the very nature of the Church, which “in Christ, is a sacrament – a sign and instrument that is, of communion with God and of the unity of the entire human race” (Lumen Gentium, 1).

Following on this assembly, the Church in Africa is called to promote peace and justice. The Gate of No Return, as well as that of Pardon, remind us of this duty and impel us to combat every form of slavery.

In Portuguese, he said:

We must never give up the search for new paths of peace! Peace is one of our greatest treasures! To attain peace, we need to have courage and the reconciliation born of forgiveness, the will once more to live as one, to share a vision of the future and to persevere in overcoming difficulties.

Men and women reconciled and at peace with God and neighbour can work for greater justice in society. Let us not forget that the Gospel teaches that justice means above all doing God’s will.

This fundamental resolve spawns countless initiatives aimed at promoting justice in Africa and the welfare of all its peoples, especially the most disadvantaged and those in need of employment, schools and hospitals.

Africa, land of a New Pentecost, put your trust in God! Impelled by the Spirit of the Risen Christ, become God’s great family, generous with all your sons and daughters, agents of reconciliation, peace and justice!

Africa, Good News for the Church, become Good News for the entire world!

AP's wrap-up of Day 2 up to the signing of the Exhortation is actually not bad, except for another misrepresentation - brought up unnecessarily and in a completely unwarranted way - about the condom issue ...

Pope's new document
outlines Church role in Africa


OUIDAH, Benin, Nov. 19 (AP) — In a basilica built in the heartland of Africa's voodoo (Vodun) religion, Pope Benedict XVI on Saturday unveiled a treatise outlining the role of the Roman Catholic Church on the continent, explaining how the faith can help address Africa's chronic wars and interact with indigenous practices.

The immediate backdrop for the release of the 87-page guide for the faithful in Africa was the soaring basilica in this coastal town, a symbol of the church's roots on the continent. But just 100 yards from the nave where Benedict was introducing the papal text, Voodoo priests in flowing robes sat inside their own temple, carefully listening to his words as they wafted outside across the basilica's sound system.

Among the messages contained in the Pope's road map for Africa is an attempt to show how Catholicism has evolved from the rigid religion missionaries first brought to Ouidah, considered the cradle of Voodoo, a state religion in Benin alongside Christianity and Islam.

Catholics need to cultivate respect both for Islam and for traditional practices, the Pope said in the document. He also encourages the study of indigenous beliefs to determine what aspects are helpful to the human condition. But he told bishops they must nevertheless discern which traditional practices clash with church doctrine so they can "separate the good seed from the weeds."

"The Church is open to cooperation with all the components of society, particularly with the representatives of the churches and ecclesial communities not yet in full communion with the Catholic church," the Pope said as African priests and nuns held up camera phones in the pews of the packed basilica to record his message, "as well as with the representatives of the non-Christian religions, above all those of traditional religions."

As he signed the papal treatise, several dozen Voodoo practitioners sat in plastic chairs in the Temple of the Pythons located at the opposite end of the basilica's square. The high priest, who sat with his foot on a bottle of gin, a traditional Voodoo spirit offering, said they listened carefully as the Pope's message was projected outside through massive speakers mounted on the basilica.

"This is a positive message which will bring peace to Africa," said Houkpon II Houawamenod. "I am a baptized Catholic, but I can't turn my back on where I come from. When I was a child if I attended a Voodoo ceremony, I used to get flogged at school the next day," he said.

Houawamenod, who like many in Benin practice a combination of Voodoo and Catholicism, said: "We are simply taking a different road to get to the same place."

The 84-year-old Pope's three-day trip is his second to Africa, the most rapidly growing region for the Roman Catholic Church. While congregations are graying in Europe and orders are struggling to recruit future priests, there are not enough spots in seminaries in Africa to accommodate all those wishing to pursue a religious life.

"Africae munus," Latin for 'Africa's commitment'. is the Pope's attempt to tailor the faith to the needs of a continent shattered by war and crippled by corruption.

The Pope is proposing a reconciliation which draws on the Church's doctrine of forgiveness to stem the cycle of retribution at the core of many of the region's most recent conflicts.

Among the ideas he suggested is surveying local ceremonies used to resolve conflicts in Africa, though he made clear that these cannot take the place of the Church's sacrament of Penance.

Earlier on Saturday at the country's largest seminary located a few miles from the basilica, the Pope addressed the aspiring priests, and explained how they can become an instrument for changing Africa.

"Dear priests, the responsibility for promoting peace, justice and reconciliation falls in a special way to you," he said. "As crystal does not retain the light but rather reflects it and passes it on, in the same manner the priest must make transparent what he celebrates."

Rev. Gabriel Dobade, a priest from Chad which has seen repeated coups and wars, said the Biblical principle of turning the other cheek is a perfect instrument for resolving Africa's cycle of violence.

"Africa needs to stop fighting. We need to assume responsibility for peace," he said. "The Pope's message is a strong one. And it should be heard throughout Africa."

The document also dealt with the toll AIDS has taken on the continent, though it made no mention of the role of condoms. Benedict's first trip to Africa in 2009 was derailed before his plane had even landed, after he told reporters during an in-flight news conference that condoms made the problem of AIDS worse.

He issued a clarification of sorts last year, saying that a male prostitute who intends to use a condom might be taking a first step toward a more responsible sexuality because he is looking out for the welfare of his partner.
[No comment needed, except to highlight the standard MSM misrepresentation by false simplification of the Pope's statements.]

No such language appeared in the document; instead the Pope repeated previous suggestions that abstinence until marriage and fidelity within marriage were the best ways to prevent a disease that has decimated Africa.

The Pope's trip to Benin, a place that has added more than 500,000 new converts in the past decade, comes in the context of a crisis of faith in the Western hemisphere. Congregations in Europe are dwindling including in the Pope's native Germany, which lost around 2 million members in the same period that Benin's churches grew by around 50 percent, according to the World Christian Database.

The number of people joining orders in Europe is in steep decline, said Yale Divinity School professor Lamin Sanneh, who points to France's most famous seminary of Saint Sulpice. With room for 200, the seminary today houses just 50 — many of them from Africa, he said.

In "Africa's Commitment," Benedict says there is potential for Africa to become a resource for the rest of the world, acting as "a spiritual lung for humanity."

Among the traits he praised in Africans is their love of family on a continent where its rare to find only children, [and the consequent veneration and respect for older people, which seems to have disappeared altogether from Western culture but is very much alive in Africa and Asia] and their deeply felt faith, whether it is in the context of Christianity or not.

"However, if it is to stand erect with dignity, Africa needs to hear the voice of Christ who today proclaims love of neighbor, love even of one's enemies," the pope writes in the exhortation.

The Pope didn't mince his words when it comes to Africa's leaders. At a meeting with Benin's government inside the presidential palace on Saturday morning, Benedict made a plea to the continent's ruling class: "I launch an appeal to all political and economic leaders of African countries," Benedict said in Benin's economic capital, Cotonou.

"Do not deprive your people of hope. Do not cut them off from their future by mutilating their present. Adopt a courageous, ethical approach to your responsibilities."
[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 11/19/2011 9:40 PM]
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Summary of the post-Synodal
Apostolic Exhortation 'Africae munus'

by Archbishop Nikola Eterovic
Secretary General of the Synod of Bishops
Ouidah, 19 November 2011


The Holy Father Benedict XVI signed the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Africae munus at Ouidah, Benin, on 19 November 2011.

With this gesture, His Holiness is presenting the fruits that emerged from the Second Special Assembly for Africa of the Synod of Bishops to the universal Church, and in particular to Africa and its islands.

The Synod took place in Rome from 4 to 25 October 2009 on the theme "The Church in Africa, at the Service of Reconciliation, Justice and Peace. 'You are the salt of the earth, ... you are the light of the world' (Mt 5, 13.14)", and the Supreme Pontiff, president of the Synod, has made a personal contribution to the document, one specific to his Petrine charism. This fact is evinced by the many quotes from his words and writings, not just during the Synod but over the seven years of his Pontificate.

Moreover, by today's ceremony His Holiness wishes to express his love and his spiritual closeness to the pilgrim Church on the continent of Africa. This is the second visit made by the Pope to Africa, and both have been associated with the work of the Synod.

The first was to Cameroon and Angola in 2009 when he gave the African episcopate the Instrumentum laboris, working document of the Second Special Assembly for Africa.

Africae munus is to be seen as the continuation of the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia in Africa, published in 1995 after the First Special Assembly for Africa of the Synod of Bishops.

Africae munus notes that Ecclesia in Africa gave great impetus to the growth of the Church in Africa. It also developed the idea of the Church as Family of God, which has been beneficial to the universal Church.

Africae munus aims to reinforce this ecclesial dynamism, to outline a programme for pastoral activity and evangelisation, particularly for the new evangelisation of the continent of Africa over coming decades, underlining the need for reconciliation, justice and peace.

The theme of the Synod concerns the Church's evangelising activity, but also the raison d'être of the political community at the service of the common good. In order to remain firmly anchored in the Gospel, which inspires the Social Doctrine of the Church, the Word of God has guided the reflections of the Holy Father Benedict XVI and the Synod Fathers.

Africae munus recognises the beneficial effect of the 2008 Twelfth Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops on the Word of God in the life and mission of the Church.

Thus, apart from the invitation to Christians, which runs throughout the text, to be salt of the earth and light of the world (cf. Mt 5, 13.14), the document is full of references to Holy Scripture.

In particular, the title of each of the two parts of the Exhortation is associated with a biblical quote: the first "Behold, I make all things new" (Rev 21, 5) and the second: "To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good" (1 Cor 12, 7).

Structure and purpose of Africae munus

The Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Africae munus is made up of an Introduction, two parts and a Conclusion. Part one has two chapters:
(1) "In Service to Reconciliation, Justice and Peace" and
(2) "Paths towards Reconciliation, Justice and Peace".

Part two has three chapters:
(1) "The Members of the Church";
(2) "Major Areas of the Apostolate" and
(3) "Stand up, take your mat and walk!'" (Jn 5,8)

In the Introduction, the Holy Father Benedict XVI briefly reviews the Second Special Assembly for Africa, before going on to present its abundant fruits in the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation itself.

He also identifies the purpose of Africae munus: that of giving all the members of the People of God - bishops, priests, permanent deacons, consecrated persons, catechists and the laity - the precious treasure of "Africa's commitment to the Lord Jesus Christ" (AM 1), giving "a new impulse, filled with evangelical hope and charity" (AM 3) to the Church in Africa that she may truly become salt of the earth and light of the world.

The aim of this mission is to lead Africa "to explore its Christian vocation more deeply" by experiencing, "reconciliation between individuals and communities and to promote peace and justice in truth for all" (AM 1). Reawakening faith and hope, the Church is called "to help build a reconciled Africa by pursuing the paths of truth and justice, love and peace (cf. Ps 85, 11)" (AM 2).

Giving great importance to the views expressed by the Synod Fathers, Africae munus is well inserted into the context of modern Africa, characterised as it is by many positive aspects and serious problems. Despite social, political, ethnic, economic and ecological problems, and pandemics such as malaria, AIDS and tuberculosis, "Africa maintains its joie de vivre, celebrating God's gift of life by welcoming children for the increase of the family circle and the human community" (AM 9).

Africa also possesses a rich intellectual, cultural and religious heritage. Thus, Africae munus invites Africans to show the courage of Christian faith and hope.

Pope Benedict XVI sees in Africa "a 'spiritual lung for a humanity that appears to be in a crisis of faith and hope', on account of the extraordinary human and spiritual riches of its children, its variegated cultures, its soil and sub-soil of abundant resources".

Nonetheless, in order to stand erect with dignity, "Africa needs to hear the voice of Christ who today proclaims love of neighbour, love even of one's enemies" (AM 13).

The Exhortation seeks to translate theology into pastoral action, providing clear and practical indications for the activity of the Church in the immediate future.

PART ONE: "See, I am making all things new" (Rev 21, 5)

The Second Special Assembly for Africa was an opportunity to discern the main pillars of the ecclesial mission in a continent which thirsts for reconciliation, justice and peace. Those pillars, which must be translated by pastors into operative guidelines for the particular Churches, are described in part one of Africae munus, which is subdivided into two chapters.

Chapter one, "In Service to Reconciliation, Justice and Peace", is further divided into the following two sections:

1) "Authentic servants of God's Word". Christians are invited to listen to Jesus Christ, Who calls them through His Word, in order to allow themselves to be reconciled with God and neighbour. This is a vital step in the construction of reconciled communities and nations.

2) "Christ at the heart of African life: the source of reconciliation, justice and peace". The chapter covers:
- "'Be reconciled with God'" (2Cor 5, 20b);
- "Becoming just and building a just social order" (which is further subdivided into the themes of: "Living in accordance with Christ's justice" and "Creating a just order in the spirit of the Beatitudes"); - "Love in truth: the source of peace" which covers the two topics of: "Concrete fraternal service" and "The Church as a sentinel".

In order to create the necessary preconditions for peace, the strength of reconciliation must be instilled in people's hearts. The Church calls us to the inner purification of man, an essential premise for the construction of justice and peace. Only authentic reconciliation generates lasting peace in society.

"It is by granting and receiving forgiveness that the traumatized memories of individuals and communities have found healing and families formerly divided have rediscovered harmony" (AM 21).

Obviously, those responsible for crimes must be made to face their responsibilities, also in order that such tragedies never happen again. It is the responsibility of the political sphere to create a just social order.

The Church, however, has the duty to form the consciences of the men and women involved in building a society reconciled in justice and peace. Her function is to educate the world to the religious message announced by Jesus Christ. Indeed, "the model par excellence underlying the Church's thinking and reasoning, which she proposes to all, is Christ" (AM 22).

The Church is involved in the civic education of citizens, also by means of her Justice and Peace Commissions. Living in accordance with Christ's justice means undertaking to ensure that people are rendered justice - "rendering to each his due" - in the face of serious forms of injustice such as, for example, "the plundering of the goods of the earth by a minority to the detriment of entire peoples" (AM 24), which is unacceptable and immoral.

Justice must be upheld by subsidiarity and solidarity, and animated by charity. "Charity, which ensures a bond with God, goes beyond distributive justice" (AM 24). Human justice is always limited and imperfect, but divine justice shows it a horizon towards it must strive in order to be fully realised.

Jesus Christ proposes a revolution, not social or political, but a revolution of love upon which the Beatitudes have their foundation. They present a new horizon of justice, which was inaugurated in the Paschal mystery and which is capable of making people just, in order to construct a better world."

In the spirit of the Beatitudes, preferential attention is to be given to the poor, the hungry, the sick, ... to the stranger, the disadvantaged, the prisoner, the immigrant who is looked down upon, the refugee or displaced person" (AM 27).

Divine justice, founded on love, transcends the minimum which human justice requires and reaches unto the giving of self for others. Societies will always have need of the love which "soothes hearts that are hurt, forlorn or abandoned. It is love which brings or restores peace to human hearts and establishes it in our midst" (AM 29).

The Church is called to make Christ's voice heard in modern Africa, inviting everyone to "be born from above" (Jn 3, 7). Faithful to the Lord's command, the Church "feels the duty to be present wherever human suffering exists and to make heard the silent cry of the innocent who suffer persecution, or of peoples whose governments mortgage the present and the future for personal interests" (AM 30). Little by little, the Church is helping to forge the new Africa.

Chapter two, "Paths towards Reconciliation, Justice and Peace", identifies certain fields of action which, in the view of the Synod Fathers, should help Africa to free itself from the forces which paralyze it. The chapter is divided into four sections:
1) "Care for the human person" covers five points:
- "Metanoia: an authentic conversion";
- "Experiencing the truth of the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation";
- "A spirituality of communion";
- "The inculturation of the Gospel and the evangelisation of culture", and
- "The gift of Christ: the Eucharist and the Word of God".

Africae munus underscores the importance of the vital bond between memorised catechesis and lived catechesis, which leads to profound and lasting conversion, and therefore to an effective commitment to live the Gospel at an individual, family and social level.

The Sacrament of Penance, the encounter with Jesus Christ Who alone is the great Mediator, is sufficient to reconcile us with God and with neighbour. This has both individual and community dimensions.

The traditional rites of reconciliation which have positive aspects, but also limitations, help the faithful to approach Christ with greater depth and truth, Christ in Whom God reconciles us with Himself and with each other.

The Church, and in first place the bishops, must discern the values of individual cultures in order to identify the aspects which promote or hinder the incarnation of the values of the Gospel. The true protagonist of inculturation is the Holy Spirit which "enables the Gospel to permeate all cultures, without becoming subservient to any" (AM 37).

Jesus Christ Who nourishes the faithful with the Eucharist and the Word of God, creates, in the grace of the Spirit, a new fraternity opposed to division, tribalism, racism and ethnocentrism.

2) "Living in harmony", covers the following topics: "The family"; "The elderly"; "Men", "Women"; "Young people", and "Children".

Africae munus dedicates considerable space to the family, the sanctuary of life and the living cell of society and the Church. The family is also the place of education, the place where the culture of forgiveness, peace and reconciliation is practised, and it must be protected and defended against the many threats it faces.

The Christian family is called to be a "domestic church", a place where "all the members evangelize and are evangelized" (AM 46). It must set aside due space for prayer, celebrate Sundays and holy days, and read Holy Scripture every day.

The elderly enjoy particular veneration in Africa. They are esteemed for their wisdom and experience, and play a positive role for all members of the family, especially for children and young couples. Society has need of them because stability and social order in Africa are often entrusted to a council of elders or traditional leaders. The Church also has need of them, particularly to announce the Gospel.
Africa can inspire Western societies in this field.

Having emphasised the important role played by men, who "manifest and live on earth God's own fatherhood" (AM 53), the Exhortation shows particular sensitivity towards African women who have a vital role to play in society and the Church. It urges Christians "to combat all acts of violence against women, speaking out and condemning them" (AM 56).

Young people, who represent the majority of the population of Africa, deserve particular consideration, while children attract the special attention of the Church because they are a gift of God, source of hope and renewal. They must be given special protection by families and society, especially against various intolerable and deplorable forms of treatment which the document lists in paragraph 67.

3) "The African vision of life" includes the subheadings:
- "The protection of life";
- "Respect for creation and the ecosystem";
- "The good governance of States";
- "Migrants, displaced persons and refugees", and
- "Globalisation and international aid".

The African worldview includes the visible and the invisible world, "ancestors, the living and those yet to be born, the whole of creation and all beings" (AM 69). It opens hearts and spirits to acceptance of the message of Christ and comprehension of the mystery of the Church.

Committed to promoting life and the integral development "of each man and of all of man", the Church opposes abortion and, among other things, "acknowledges the courage of governments that have legislated against the culture of death" (AM 70).

The Church likewise deplores the disaster wreaked by drugs and the abuses of alcoholism. Through her healthcare institutions, she is in the front line of the battle against the pandemics of malaria, tuberculosis and AIDS, which require a medical and pharmaceutical, but above all an ethical, response (cf. AM 72-73).

Illiteracy can also be considered as a pandemic, and the Church makes her contribution to eradicating that scourge – a kind of social death – through her network of Catholic schools of all levels.

Africa needs good governance of States. This comes about through respect for Constitutions, free elections, independent judicial and penitential systems, and a transparent bureaucracy free from the temptation of corruption.

The Exhortation, while underlining "the need to make every effort to eliminate the death penalty" (AM 83), exhorts the Church to organise pastoral care in gaols and to promote restorative justice.

Good governance is also expressed through respect for creation, employing the wealth of raw materials for the common good not for the profit of the few, and through respect for the ecosystem, protecting such essential resources as land and water.

The migration of millions of people within Africa and beyond its borders is becoming a multidimensional problem which calls for responses, not only from the Church but from the entire international community.

The Church hopes for the globalisation of solidarity, something which includes "the principle of gratuitousness and the logic of gift as an expression of fraternity" (AM 86)

4) "Dialogue and communion among believers" includes "Ecumenical dialogue and the challenge of new religious movements"; "Inter-religious dialogue": which in turn is subdivided into "Traditional African religions" and "Islam"; "Becoming 'the salt of the earth' and 'the light of the world'".

Since inter-religious relations affect peace, the Church promotes dialogue as a spiritual approach to support initiatives of peace and justice. In Africa too, reconciliation involves communion among the disciples of Jesus Christ.

In addition to the need for ecumenical dialogue there is an urgent necessity for a profound evangelisation of the African soul, in order to give the faithful the power of discernment in the face of the expansion of the so-called autochthonous African Churches, syncretic movements and sects.

Most African Christians come from the traditional religions, with which they maintain daily contact. We must undertake serious discernment, accepting the elements of traditional cultures that conform to the teaching of Jesus Christ and identifying points of divergence, such as magic and witchcraft, which have highly negative effects on families and society.

In considering relations with Islam, Africae munus reiterates the importance of dialogue in respect for religious freedom, including freedom of conscience. Christians draw nourishment from the authentic font of Jesus Christ, also in inter-religious dialogue, and allow themselves to be transformed by Him to become "salt of the earth" and "light of the world".

PART TWO: "To each is given the manifestation
of the Spirit for the common good "
(1 Cor 12, 7)

In an Africa marked by contrasts, the Church shows the way towards Christ Who, by giving His Sprit, ensures her unity in the diversity of gifts received for the common good. Therefore, all members of the People of God must contribute to communion and peace in the Church and in society. This is the subject matter of part two of Africae munus, which is divided into three chapters.

Chapter one, "The members of the Church", underlines the fact that peace and justice arise above all through man's reconciliation with God and with himself. This is a gift of God which invites everyone to convert, to become just.

In particular, the following categories of people are listed: "Bishops"; "Priests"; "Missionaries"; "Permanent deacons"; "Consecrated persons"; "Seminarians"; "Catechists" and "Lay people".

The bishop, enamoured of God, is characterised by the sanctity of his life whence derive his moral stature and the authority with which he guides a particular Church. His unity with Peter's Successor and his communion with his priests are antidotes to the seeds of division, to the temptation of nationalism, and to the absolutisation of African culture.

As good pastors, bishops have the duty to bring the Good News to the faithful through appropriate catechesis, dedicating themselves to the education of the laity, also in the fields of politics and the economy. Dioceses must "become models in the conduct of personnel, in transparency and good financial management" (AM 104).

In order to consolidate ecclesial communion and to promote pastoral solidarity, bishops are called to collaborate with national. regional and continental episcopal conferences; that is, with the Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar (SCEAM).

Priests are the indispensable collaborators of bishops in carrying forward the work of evangelisation. They are called to live holy and peaceful lives, to overcome tribal and racial barriers and to touch the hearts of everyone.

Obedient to their diocesan bishop, they should offer the witness of an exemplary life lived in celibacy and detachment from material things. They should remain faithful to their mission as pastors following God's heart, without falling into the temptation of becoming political leaders or social workers.

Africae munus expresses great praise for the apostolic zeal of many holy and generous missionaries who brought the light of Christ into Africa and favoured the birth of numerous African saints as models from whom to draw inspiration. "It would be profitable to renew and promote devotion to these saints" (AM 113).

The document also encourages the pastors of particular Churches "to recognize among servants of the Gospel in Africa those who could be canonized according to the norms of the Church, not only in order to increase the number of African saints, but also to obtain new intercessors in heaven" (AM 114).

The Exhortation underscores the importance of the ecclesial service of permanent deacons as fathers to their own families and to the faithful among whom they undertake their pastoral service.

Consecrated persons merit particular attention for the witness they give of lives entirely entrusted to God and dedicated to the service of others, especially in the vast field of pastoral work in educational and healthcare institutions.

Seminarians are called to ready themselves for the priesthood, both theologically and spiritually, in an atmosphere that favours their psychological and human development. They are also called to be apostles among the young.

The Exhortation lays great emphasis on the contribution catechists make to the work of evangelisation and highlights the importance of their permanent formation in order that they might contribute better to the spread of the Gospel of Jesus among those who do not yet know it. Like permanent deacons, catechists and their families are invited to be exemplary models of Christian life.

Lay people, witnesses of Christ, cause the Church to be present in the world. "Lay men and women are called, above all, to holiness, a holiness which is to be lived in the world" (AM 129). They demonstrate that work, before being a means to make a profit, is an opportunity for self-realisation and of service to others.

People called to activity in the political, economic, cultural and social fields should have a good knowledge of the Social Doctrine of the Church.

Chapter two, "Major areas of the apostolate", is divided into four headings: "The Church as the presence of Christ"; "The world of education"; "The world of health care", and "The world of information technology and communications".

The Church, a mystery and a visible society, is divided into various sections: dioceses, parishes, grassroots communities, movements and associations, Christian families. All "can be helpful places for accepting and living the gift of reconciliation offered by Christ our peace" (AM 133).

Africae munus dwells on the individual fields of pastoral activity in the Church, underlining the vital importance of Catholic schools as "a precious resource for learning from childhood how to create bonds of peace and harmony in society, since they train children in the African values that are taken up by those of the Gospel" (AM 134).

Catholic universities and Catholic academic institutions have an important role in the search for that Truth which surpasses human measure, brings peace among people and reconciles society, helping African society not just to a better understanding of current challenges, but also to face them in the light of the Gospel.

While maintaining their Catholic identity, and in conformity with the Social Doctrine of the Church, they contribute to the development of African theology and foster inculturation, giving the Church a chance to be present and to act in the field of cultural change.

Following the example of Jesus Christ, with her healthcare institutions the Church continues to heal the sick, in each of whom she sees a suffering limb of the Body of Christ. She combats disease, illness and the great pandemics, remaining faithful to her ethical pro-life teachings.

The transparent management of funds must primarily serve the good of the sick. To the extent possible, it is important to increase "the number of smaller dispensaries which provide local care and emergency aid" (AM 141).

We must thank all individuals and institutions, especially those of consecrated life, for their commitment in the fields of education and healthcare, encouraging them to intensify their efforts despite the many difficulties and challenges.

The communications media are important tools for evangelisation and "for educating the African peoples to reconciliation in truth, and the promotion of justice and peace" (AM 145).

The Church must seek a greater media presence, in the knowledge that "the new information technologies are capable of being powerful instruments for unity and peace, but also for destruction and division" (AM 143).

It is to be hoped that better use will be made of Catholic mass media, also through greater coordination with existing structures, for a more widespread promotion of peace, justice and reconciliation in Africa.

Chapter three, "Stand up, take your mat and walk!' (Jn 5, 8)", is divided into three parts:
- "Jesus's teaching at the pool of Bethzatha";
- "The Word of God and the Sacraments", which deals with: "The Sacred Scriptures", "The Eucharist", "Reconciliation";
- "The New Evangelisation" which reflects upon: "Bearers of Christ' the light of the world'", "Witnesses of the risen Christ", "Missionaries in the footsteps of Christ".

The Exhortation concludes with an appeal full of hope: "'Take heart; rise, He is calling' (Mk 10, 49)".

The Holy Father Benedict XVI returns to a number of his earlier points, outlining some practical guidelines to put them into practice.

Referring to the healing of the sick man at the pool of Bethzatha, Africae munus explains that "by accepting Jesus, Africa can receive incomparably effective and deep healing" (AM 149).

Firstly, the Church offers torn and wounded hearts the announcement of the Word of God which heals, liberates and reconciles. Thus the Exhortation advises each member of the faithful, and each family and community, to read the Bible every day, to become familiar with the lectio divina, and to promote the biblical apostolate enabling the divine Word to regenerate fraternal communion.

The Eucharist is the most effective way to forge a life of intimate communion with God and neighbour. Through the Eucharistic Christ the faithful become blood relations and therefore true brothers and sisters. "This bond of fraternity is stronger than that of human families, than that of our tribes" (AM 152).

The celebration of the Eucharist must be extended into personal, family and social life. This is "Eucharistic coherence" which calls on all Christian consciences. Africae munus exhorts the Church in Africa to pay particular attention to the celebration of the Eucharist and to take up the Synod Fathers' proposal to celebrate a continental Eucharistic Congress.

The Sacrament of Penance heals wounds and cures afflicted hearts. It renews the broken ties between man and God and restores the bonds of society. For this reason the faithful are encouraged "to restore to its true place the Sacrament of Reconciliation in its twofold dimension, personal and communitarian" (AM 156).

In order to encourage the celebration of this Sacrament Benedict XVI echoes the hope expressed by the Synod Fathers " that each country celebrate yearly 'a day or week of reconciliation, particularly during Advent or Lent'.

SECAM will be able to help bring this about and, in accord with the Holy See, promote a continent-wide Year of Reconciliation to beg of God special forgiveness for all the evils and injuries mutually inflicted in Africa, and for the reconciliation of persons and groups who have been hurt in the Church and in the whole of society" (AM 157).

The Church in Africa must show increasing commitment to evangelisation (which concerns the ordinary aspects of pastoral care), to the missio ad gentes (bringing the Good News of Jesus Christ to those who do not know Him), and to the new evangelisation of people who fail to follow Christian practice.

New evangelisation in Africa "is especially concerned with the Church's service to reconciliation, justice and peace" (AM 169). God will bless reconciled hearts with the gift of peace, and the reconciled faithful will become builders of peace and promoters of justice.

Only evangelisation driven by the Holy Spirit brings spiritual fruits and becomes the new law of the Gospel. "The heart of all evangelizing activity is the proclamation of the person of Jesus, the incarnate Word of God (cf. Jn 1:14) who died and rose again and is ever present in the community of the faithful, his Church (cf. Mt 28:20)" (AM 160).

Evangelisation must discover a new ardour, the ardour of the many saints and martyrs, confessors and virgins of the African continent, and new evangelisation must use the modern methods that are available today.

In a number of African countries, the Church has commemorated the centenary of evangelisation, undertaking to spread the Gospel among those who do not yet know Jesus Christ. Guided by the grace of the Holy Spirit, Christians are called to follow "the path of holiness, and thus increasingly become apostles of reconciliation, justice and peace" (AM 171).

Thus, the missio ad gentes advances step by step with the new evangelisation, which "needs to integrate the intellectual dimension of the faith into the living experience of the encounter with Jesus Christ present and at work in the ecclesial community" (AM 165).

By sending out her priests and consecrated persons, the Church in Africa is also called to contribute to the new evangelisation in secularised countries of ancient Christian tradition which, in the past, produced many missionaries.

In its Conclusion the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation invites Christians and the entire continent to take hope: "'Take heart; rise, He is calling' (Mk 10, 49)". These words of the Lord Jesus are echoed in the Holy Father's Exhortation: "Get up, Church in Africa" (AM 173).

This hope is rooted in the love of the One Triune God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit, source of reconciliation, justice and peace. Giving assurances of the concern and interest of the entire Catholic Church, the Supreme Pontiff entrusts the task of evangelising the continent of Africa to the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Our Lady of Africa, to St. Joseph and to all saints venerated in Africa.

Praying that "the miracle of Pentecost may spread throughout the continent of Africa, and everyone may become ever more an apostle of reconciliation, justice and peace" (AM 176), he says: "May the Catholic Church in Africa always be one of the spiritual lungs of humanity, and become daily an ever greater blessing for the noble African continent and for the entire world" (AM 177).

Principal ideas contained in Africae munus

It may be helpful, in concluding this brief outline of the contents of Africae munus, to identify some of the principal ideas it contains. It is made up of two parts.

Part one (nos. 14-96) discerns the fundamental structures of the ecclesial mission on the continent, a mission which aspires to reconciliation, justice and peace, and has its origin in the person of Jesus Christ.

Listening to Him, Christians are invited to let themselves be reconciled with God (cf. 2 Cor 5,20b), becoming just in order to build a just social order in keeping with the logic of the Beatitudes, and committing themselves to fraternal service for love of truth, which is a source of peace.

Attention then turns to the paths towards reconciliation, justice and peace. These include authentic conversion, the celebration of the Sacrament of Penance, the spirituality of communion, the inculturation of the Gospel, the protection of life, migrants, displaced persons, refugees, the good governance of States, and ecumenical and inter-religious dialogue especially with traditional religions and Islam.

In part two (nos. 97-177) all members of the Church are invited to contribute to communion and peace in the Church and in society. It also identifies areas for the apostolate: the Church as the presence of Christ, the world of education, health care and the communications media. The Exhortation opens a horizon of hope to Africa which, by welcoming Jesus Christ, must free itself from the forces which paralyze it.

Africae munus is the continuation of Ecclesia in Africa, which was published after the First Special Assembly for Africa of the Synod of Bishops and gave great impetus to the growth of the Church in Africa developing, among other things, the idea of the Church as Family of God which has been beneficial to the universal Church.

Africae munus aims to reinforce this ecclesial dynamism, to outline a programme for pastoral activity for the coming decades of evangelisation in Africa, underlining the need for reconciliation, justice and peace.

The Church, Sacrament of union with God and man, must be a place of reconciliation, a gift of God, in order to be an effective tool of justice and peace for the whole of society.

Reconciliation comes from the mystery of the risen Christ Who is present in His church through the Word of God and the Sacraments, especially those of Penance and the Eucharist.

Through the grace of the Spirit, the Eucharist creates a new brotherhood which overcomes languages, cultures, ethnicities, divisions, tribalism, racism and ethnocentrism.

In her work of evangelisation and education in the Christian faith, the Church must concentrate on lived catechesis, which leads to profound conversion and to real commitment to live the Gospel at a personal, family and social level. The Social Doctrine of the Church is of great help in sustaining human development.

Africae munus offers the Church in Africa practical guidance for pastoral activity over coming decades.
- Evangelisation ad gentes, the announcement of the Gospel to those who still do not know Jesus Christ, is still of vital importance in Africa. It is a pastoral priority which involves all African Christians.
- Ordinary evangelisation must be increasingly promoted in the various particular Churches, through commitment to fostering reconciliation, justice and peace.
- There is also an urgent need to work for the new evangelisation in Africa, especially among people who have distanced themselves from the Church or who do not behave in a Christian fashion.

African Christians, and in particular the clergy and consecrated persons, are likewise called to support new evangelisation in secularised nations. This is an exchange of gifts, because African missionaries are already at work in countries which once produced missionaries who went forth to announce the Good News in Africa.

Among the practical suggestions contained in Africae munus, we may note the following:
- Saints, people reconciled with God and neighbour, are exemplary heralds of justice and apostles of peace. The Church – all of whose members are called to sanctity – must discover fresh ardour, the ardour of the many saints and martyrs, confessors and virgins of the African continent, devotion to whom should be renewed and promoted (cf. AM 113).
- In order to find further examples of sanctity, also obtaining new intercessors in heaven, pastors of the particular Churches are encouraged "to recognize among servants of the Gospel in Africa those who could be canonized according to the norms of the Church" (AM 114).
- The bonds of communion between the Holy Father and the bishops of Africa must be strengthened, as must the bonds among Africa bishops themselves, at the national, regional and continental level.
- It is considered important "for the bishops to help support, effectively and affectively, the Symposium of Bishops' Conferences of Africa and Madagascar (SECAM) as a continental structure of solidarity and ecclesial communion" (AM 107).
- For a deeper appreciation of the mystery of the Eucharist and to increase Eucharistic devotion, emphasis is given to the Synod Fathers' proposal to celebrate a continental Eucharistic Congress (cf. AM 153).
- African countries are encouraged to "celebrate yearly 'a day or week of reconciliation, particularly during Advent or Lent'" (AM 157).
- In agreement with the Holy See, SECAM may contribute to promoting "a continent-wide Year of Reconciliation to beg of God special forgiveness for all the evils and injuries mutually inflicted in Africa, and for the reconciliation of persons and groups who have been hurt in the Church and in the whole of society" (AM 157).

Grateful for the gift of faith in the One Triune God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, with renewed enthusiasm the Church in Africa reaffirms her commitment to evangelisation and human development, so that the entire continent may become a vast field of reconciliation, justice and peace. In this way, the Church contributes to forging the new Africa, which is increasingly called to become the "spiritual lung" of humankind.

I have not had a chance to look through the 64-page AFRICAE MUNUS document itself, but it is obvious that the Apostolic Exhortation- the third one for Benedict XVI (the previous having been on the Eucharist and on the Word of God) - is a very through pastoral document that touches every aspect of the Church's mission in Africa and underlines Benedict XVI's vision of Africa is the 'spiritual lung for mankind'.

Although the document is addressed primarily to the Church in Africa, especially those who lead he and carry out her activities, one can imagine it addressed, mutatis mutandis, to all the local churches of the world. The only analog to it in this Pontificate is Benedict XVI's opening address to the V Conference of Latin American and Caribbean Bishops in Aparecida in 2007, which was necessarily not as detailed.

It's a pity that as Church documents go, Apostolic Exhortations hardly ever receive the attention they deserve from the mass media, in part because they are necessarily lengthy and cover so many topics and ideas. I wonder what they MSM will choose to be their headline material out of all this! And I wonder how the bishops and priests of Africa will disseminate its messages to the faithful as they seek to carry out the concrete measures exhorted of them.

11/19/2011 10:11 PM
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Day 2: Pope Benedict's meets
with children in Cotonou

On the last public event of his second day in Benin, Pope Benedict met with children at St Rita's parish church in Cotonou. Here is an English translation of his remarks, delivered in French:

Dear Young Friends,

I thank Bishop René-Marie Ehuzu of Porto Novo, Director of Social Ministry of the Benin Bishops’ Conference, for his words of welcome. I also thank the parish priest and Aïcha for their words offered on behalf of all of you. After this beautiful moment of Eucharistic adoration, it is with much joy that I greet you. Thank you for coming out in such great numbers!

God our Father has gathered us around his Son and our brother, Jesus Christ, who is present in the host consecrated during the Mass. This is a great mystery before which we worship and we believe.

Jesus, who loves us very much, is truly present in the tabernacles of all the churches around the world, in the tabernacles of the churches in your neighbourhoods and in your parishes. I ask you to visit him often to tell him of your love for him.

Some of you have already made your First Holy Communion, and others are preparing for it. The day of my First Holy Communion was one of the most beautiful days of my life. It is the same for you, isn’t it?

And why is that? It’s not only because of our nice clothes or the gifts we receive, nor even because of the parties! It is above all because, that day, we receive Jesus in the Eucharist for the first time!

When I receive Communion, Jesus comes to live in me. I should welcome him with love and listen closely to him. In the depths of my heart, I can tell him, for example: “Jesus, I know that you love me. Give me your love so that I can love you in return and love others with your love. I give you all my joys, my troubles and my future.”

Do not hesitate, dear children, to speak of Jesus to others. He is a treasure whom you should share generously. Throughout the history of the Church, the love of Jesus has filled countless Christians, and even young people like yourselves, with courage and strength.

In this way, Saint Kizito, a Ugandan boy, was put to death because he wanted to live according to the baptism which he had just received. Kizito prayed. He realized that God is not only important, but that he is everything.

What, then, is prayer? It is a cry of love directed to God our Father, with the will to imitate Jesus our brother. Jesus often went off by himself to pray.

Like Jesus, I too can find a calm place to pray where I can quietly stand before a Cross or a holy picture in order to speak to Jesus and to listen to him.

I can also use the Gospels. That way, I keep within my heart a passage which has touched me and which will guide me throughout the day. To stay with Jesus like this for a little while lets him fill me with his love, light and life!

This love, which I receive in prayer, calls me in turn to give it to my parents, to my friends, to everyone with whom I live, even with those who do not like me, and those whom I do not appreciate enough.

Dear young people, Jesus loves you. Ask your parents to pray with you! Sometimes you may even have to push them a little. But do not hesitate to do so. God is that important!

May the Virgin Mary, his Mother, teach you to love more and more through prayer, forgiveness and charity. I entrust you to her, together with your families and teachers.

Look! I have this rosary in my pocket. The rosary is like a tool that we can use to pray. It is easy to pray the rosary. Maybe you know how already; if not, ask your parents to help you to learn how.

At the end of this meeting, each one of you will receive a rosary. When you hold it in your hands, you can pray for the Pope, for the Church and for every important intention.

And now, before I bless you all with great affection, let us pray together a Hail Mary for children throughout the world, especially for those who are sick, who are hungry and in places of war.

Let us pray together: Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.

How infinitely sweet the Holy Father is with children!

It's been quite frustrating that newsphoto agencies show so little of what takes place as the Pope passes through on local streets and avenues when he visits anywhere. An exception was his ride from the airport to the center of Yaounde, Cameroon, in 2009, when there were enough photos to give an idea of the crowds. But later on, when Andrea Tornielli described a similar motorcade route to Luanda, the Angolan capital, with even greater crowds than in Yaounde, there was not a single newsphoto available. This time, we also only have Giacomo Galeazzi's word description but not the photos....

Local Catholics line 40-km papal
route from Cotonou to Ouidah

by Giacomo Galeazzi
Translated from

COTONOU, Nov. 19 - The crowds celebrated the passage of the papal motorcade singing and waving flaglets.

An impressive number of persons lined the nearly 40 kms between Cotonou and Ouidah as the Pope traveled this morning for important events scheduled in the smaller city.

Before that, Benedict XVI met with the political and religious leaders of Benin, as well as the diplomatic corps, at the Presidential Palace in Cotonou.

Among the Beninese officials was Beninese Chancellor, Mme. Koubourath Osseni, a Muslim, who delivered the greeting to the Pope in behalf of those present.

The Pope paid a courtesy call on President Boni Yayi before leaving for Ouidah. After their private conversation, there was an exchange of gifts.

President Yayi gave the Pope a pectoral cross inscribed with 'Benin 2011 - Reconciliation, justice, paix', liturgical vestments embroidedered by Beninese nuns, and some traditional robes made of fabrics printed with the images of Benedict XVI, John Paul II and Cardinal Bernardin Gantin.

While the Pope met with the President, Cardinal Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone, accompanied by his deputy (Sostituto) Mons. Giovanni Becciu, the Nuncio to Benin and the President of the Benin bishops' conference, met with the Foreign Minister.

Fr. Lombardi said that among the subjects discussed was the contribution of the Church in Benin to the life and development of Beninese society.

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 11/20/2011 12:40 AM]
11/20/2011 1:40 AM
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The Archbishop of Vienna is obviously not a stupid man, though we have many reasons to doubt whether he is wise at all, especially in the so many questionable pastoral decisions and actions he has made over the past few years. So why does he continue to do these things? His latest apparent defiance of common sense and seeming lapse in pastoral judgment is rather appalling, IMHO:

Cardinal Schönborn once again hosts
Medjugorje 'seer' and 'apparition'
in the Cathedral of Vienna

November 17, 2011

Cardinal Christoph Schönborn celebrated Mass at Vienna’s cathedral of St. Stephen on November 17, as part of a televised and live-streamed event that included testimony from a Medjugorje 'seer' who promised an 'apparition' of the Virgin Mary immediately before the Mass.

Ivan Dragicevic, one of theMedjugorje natives who claim to have been receiving daily apparitions of the Virgin Mary since 1981, spoke in the cathedral, in an event that was offered on live streaming video broadcast [and billed as a 'Prayer for Peace' event on the archdiocesan website].

The program called for an 'apparition' at 6:40 pm, Vienna time [which is apparently the standard time at which the apparition manifests itself anywhere in the world one of the 'seers' happens to be].

Dragicevic said that the 'Mother of God' would bless all those present— and that this blessing would extend to those watching the internet broadcast.

The event in the Vienna cathedral caused consternation among Catholics who have questioned the validity of the alleged apparitions at Medjugorje. Bishops in Bosnia-Herzegovina, where Medjugorje is located, have strongly discouraged interest in the “Medjugorje phenomenon.” Still the alleged seers have continued to make public appearances in Catholic churches around the world, with the apparent approval of other bishops.

Cardinal Schönborn has a history of showing support for the Medjugorje “seers.” Early in 2010, he was forced to apologize to Bishop Ratko Peric of Mostar (the local diocese) for creating difficulties with his public expressions of support during a “private” visit to Medjugorje in December 2009 [a visit which he did not inform Bishop Peric about, although his office alerted various media agencies to it] Later in the year, however, he welcomed the “seers” to Vienna where they spoke at the Cathedral and he praised their devotion.

Last year the Vatican created a special commission to study the Medjugorje phenomenon, in response to pleas for a definitive statement from the Holy See on the alleged apparitions. The commission - chaired by Cardinal Camillo Ruini, the retired vicar of the Rome diocese — has held meetings and interviews but has not issued any public statement.

The good cardinal is obviously convinced that the 'apparitions' in Medjugorje are genuine, or he would not go out of his way to so openly defy standard practice and episcopal discipline in the Church, about which the following blog has more to say. The blogger is a secular Carmelite who lives in Michigan, and has apparently followed the controversy about Medjugorje closely over the years.

Medjugorje and situational
collegiality among bishops

from 'Te Deum Laudamus'
by Diane Kornesiewiewski
November 16, 2011

In light of the scheduled, televised, and highly advertised "apparition" with Medjugorje visionaries taking place in the Vienna Cathedral tomorrow (Nov 17), I thought I would just raise a few questions and offer some thoughts.

It's all happening with the explicit approval of Cardinal Schonborn, who will be participating to some extent. ['To some extent' is an understatement considering that the published program has him say the Mass in the Cathedral right after the 'scheduled apparition' of Medjugorje's 'Gospa' to one of the 'seers' after he delibvers his testimonial - all this in the Cathedral of St. Stephen in Vienna!]

So, I ask, is this yet another slap from Vienna for the Bishop of Mostar, and his brother bishops in Bosnia & Herzegovina, as well as Croatia, who do not permit the Medjugorje visionaries to have "apparitions" on church property?

Just to clarify: I commonly put the word, apparition, in quotes when discussing Medjugorje because at this point, they are merely alleged apparitions.

Setting aside any question of authenticity in Medjugorje, which is currently in the care of Cardinal Ruini and his commission, I would like to focus on a peripheral issue: Church hierarchy hosting, in their parishes and cathedrals, visionaries of apparitions not yet deemed worthy of belief at any level of the Church.

Repeating a point I made in my opener: There is not a diocese you can go to in the whole of Bosnia & Herzegovina, or anywhere in the former Yugoslavia, which allow the seers of Medjugorje to witness "apparitions" on Church property.

Yet, you can go to Vienna, Chicago, Boston, and a number of other cities throughout the world where cardinals and bishops are bringing, or permitting, public manifestations of unapproved "apparitions" to take place in parishes and the diocesan cathedrals.

While sometimes noting that the phenomena of Medjugorje are still be examined, websites for parishes and cathedrals hosting these events feature advertisements referring to the lady of Medjugorje as the Blessed Virgin Mary.

[What all this reinforces is the fact that even bishops take Church rules and discipline a la carte - they will follow what they agree with and do what they please otherwise. Forgive the digression, but has been my primary argument, precisely, against a utopian 'world government': The Catholic Church which has 2,000 years more experience than any institution on earth, cannot even impose the discipline of faith on all those who have supposedly chosen the faith as their personal set of beliefs. Why would any secular world authority, which cannot claim having been instituted by Christ as the Church was, do any better at all? The Church, at least, has the principle of individual responsibility and the Last Judgment as ultimate tools of enforcement. What would a secular world authority have that would make it more effective than the United Nations?]
Diocesan staff, including vocations directors are actively participating, offering their own testimonies on church property, lending further credibility to the unapproved apparition.

The event being publicized for November 17th at the cathedral in Vienna features the following (emphasis mine in bold):

4:00 PM Vienna (10:00 AM USA-EST): Testimonies, including Magnus MacFarlane-Barrow, founder of MARY's MEALS
5:00 PM Vienna (11:00 AM USA-EST): Ivan's Testimony6:00 PM Vienna (12:00 PM USA-EST): Rosary
6:40 PM Vienna (12:40 PM USA-EST): Apparition
7:00 PM Vienna (1:00 PM USA-EST): Holy Mass - Presider and Homilist, Cardinal Christoph Schoenborn
8:00 PM Vienna (2:00 PM USA-EST): Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament
9:00 PM Vienna (3:00 PM USA-EST): Adoration ends

The Archdiocese of Vienna website has the above on its official website, but omits the 6:40 pm SAT (Standard Apparition Time) event, though it publicizes Ivan's testimonial in the accompanying news release.

There are some other oddities with this event. For example, from Medjugorje Today in an article entitled: "Mary will bless apparition viewers online":

Ivan told us that those connected through the internet are prayed over by Our Lady the same as those kneeling right next to him during the apparition. And the religious items they have with them that they would like Our Lady to bless are blessed the same as the religious items placed right in front of her during the apparition” MaryTV President Denis Nolan recalls.

I'm so dumb-founded that such things are taking place in a diocesan cathedral, especially ahead of the question of authenticity being answered, I got off track.....

What does this say about collegiality when a bishop permits visionaries from another diocese to do things they are not permitted to do in their home diocese, and what are its fruits?

What message does it convey to the faithful, if not to create confusion and pit one bishop against another, if only in their hearts? What feelings does it cause towards the local ordinary, if not contempt and disdain because he does not permit these things?

He, the Bishop of Mostar, within whose jurisdiction Medjugorje lies, and the other bishops of the region are following the 1991 Zadar Declaration, which remains in effect until a new pronouncement is made. In part, it states:

Yet the gathering of the faithful from various parts of the world to Medjugorje, inspired by reasons of faith or other motives, require the pastoral attention and care, first of all, of the local Bishop and then of the other bishops with him, so that in Medjugorje and all connected with it, a healthy devotion towards the Blessed Virgin Mary according to the teachings of the Church may be promoted. The Bishops will also provide special liturgical and pastoral directives corresponding to this aim. At the same time, they will continue to study all the events of Medjugorje through the commissions.

You can read the rest of the post at

There's also a variety of opinion in the comboxes on Father Z'a blog entry about Cardinal Schoenborn's latest publicity-attracting gimmick, which is not just a defiance of common sense and Church discipline, but of the man he claims to be his mentor, Benedict XVI. Is this Schoenborn's 'Hail Mary' [or should we say 'Hail Gospa'] maneuver in the desperate hope that somehow the 'seers' of Medjugorje through their 'Gospa' will reverse the sad state of the Church in Austria? That state of affairs is even more pathetic when that Church's most prominent prelate sets dubious examples like this.

I decided to do a search for any report of the Vienna event, because KATHNET, the Austrian Catholic news agency, does not carry it - and I wonder why not! The only report I could find immediately was the news account in the Archdiocese of Vienna's own website. It leaves no doubt at all that the Archdiocese - and presumably its Cardinal - have placed themselves firmly among the 'true believers' of Medjugorje, unequivocally identifying the 'apparition' as the 'Mother of God':

5,000 believers at the 'Peace Prayer'
in St. Stephen's Cathedral

Translated from

Nov. 18, 2011 - More than 5,000 persons gathered Thursday evening for the Peace Prayer in St. Stephen's Cathedral, which was also watched by 250,000 viewers live on the Internet.

For the fourth time, the Peace Prayer with the slogan 'Message for you' was held at the Cathedral. With more than 5,000 participants, the meeting ranks among the largest religious gatherings in Austria. [What a pathetic statistic!]

It was an occasion entirely under the sign of the Mother of God, the "Queen of Peace". With this title, the Mother of God has identified herself for over thirty years to six young persons in the Herzegovinian village of Medjugorje.

Guest of honor at the prayer event was seer Ivan Dragicevic of Medjugorje. In his testimonial he recalled that the Mother of God had identified herself from the beginning as the 'Queen of Peace' and has always urged the need for conversion and prayer for peace in the world.

"We have grown away form God and would go into the future alone", Ivan lamented, saying that no one in the world can make the gift of peace, but that the world would come to nothing if man does nOT decide for God.

Another guest of honor was the Scotsman Magnus MacFarlane-Barrow who was chosen last year as one of teh Top Ten Heros of 2010 by CNN TV. He spoke about his nine-year-old initiative "Mary's Meals', which solicits contributions of ten euro to provide a needy child with school meals for one whole year.

he said he was inspired by the messengers of Medjugorje, and that now, thanks to worldwide support and volunteers, he is able to provide school meals for 600,000 children worldwide. He says this positive outcome is the 'fruit of prayer'.

In his homily at the Mass said after the testimonials, Cardinal Christoph Schoenborn, who was the host of the Peace Prayer, encouraged the faithful to learn from the witness of faith shown by the early Christians and by the victims of Nazism. [The news item does not say if he said anything about Medjugorje or anything related to Medjugorje. He ought to preach that 'apparitions' are not necessary to affirm and live one's faith in God.

The prayer meeting was broadcast worldwide on the Internet portal mary A quarter million watched the livestream in 100 countries.

[It turns out is the live 24/7 video streaming service of anything and everything about Medjugorje. The archdiocesan item about the event has three pictures, two of which are identified (Schoenborn and MacFarlane) but the first one - presumably the 'seer' Ivan, is not captioned. Despite the obvious efforts in the news release to try and play down the Archdiocese's faith in Medjugorje - for instance, no mention of the programmed 'apparition' in St. Stephen's - no one can doubt Schoenborn's open devotion which he has been propagating, without even bothering to wait for the outcome of the formal inquiry ordered by Benedict XVI.]
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Allen has the journalistic penchant for the facile paradox, but in this case, his title makes no sense at all. Why would a Pope - no matter how Eurocentric, which this Pope is not - go to Africa to deliver a Eurocentric message and not an African one? Besides, using the adjective Eurocentric for Benedict XVI is highly inappropriate and simply wrong!

The Pope is the Universal Pastor and must be - and certainly is - equally concerned about every part of the world. When Benedict XVI speaks about the problems and conditions specific to Europe, he is necessarily Eurocentric; just as when he speaks about those specific to Africa, he is Africacentric; about Asia, Asia-centric, etc.

At the same time, these geographically-focused messages are also universal, just as his general messages are always universal, addressed not just to Catholics and Christians, regardless of geographical location, but to all men willing to listen.... But 'Eurocentric' happens to be one of the myths established and propagated by MSM about Benedict XVI, and even intelligent persons who ought to know better cannot resist indulging the myth.

From a Eurocentric Pope,
a remarkably African message

by John Allen Jr.

MNovember 19, 2011

COTONOU - If one were to survey African Catholic leaders about their most pressing social challenges, responses would likely focus on their struggles against corruption and religious intolerance.

As it happens, those were precisely the two themes raised today by Pope Benedict XVI, in a highly anticipated speech to government and religious leaders at Benin’s Presidential Palace.

For an octogenarian German pontiff often accused of being Eurocentric, it came off as a remarkably ‘African’ message. (The charge of Eurocentrism continues to dog the pope. Just last week [more than a month ago, actually] veteran Italian journalist Marco Politi published a new book, Crisis of a Papacy, arguing that Benedict is insufficiently attentive to the “global and geopolitical” dimension of his role.) [Youd think Allen himself has not referred to Benedict XVI often as Eurocentric!]

Heading into this morning’s speech, Vatican aides had dropped hints that it shaped up as a centerpiece of the trip. [It was bound to be because he was addressing government officials, religious leaders and diplomats all together! Usually, he addresses the leaders of other faiths separately.] Benedict’s broad theme was Africa as a continent of hope, which he insisted is not “mere rhetoric” but rather “a personal conviction which is also that of the Church.”

The Pope noted that hope seems to be stirring in many parts of the world; he made an indirect reference to the Arab Spring and to the birth of a new state, South Sudan, in Africa.

Yet surveying the socio-political realities of the moment, Benedict conceded, it can be depressingly difficult to make the case for optimism.

“There are too many scandals and injustices, too much corruption and greed, too many errors and lies, too much violence which leads to misery and death,” he said.

Benedict called upon political leaders to embrace good governance and eliminate corruption, thereby giving people a reason for hope. “Do not cut them off from their future by mutilating their present!” he said.

Those words carry special resonance in Benin, a country rocked last year by its own Bernie Madoff scandal in the form of a Ponzi scheme perpetrated by one of the country’s major investment houses. The “ICC Services” meltdown drained five percent of Benin’s GDP, costing thousands of small investors more than $330 million.

For observers here, the fact that Benedict spoke this morning before some of the same political and commercial leaders in Benin who presided over the ICC Services fiasco lent his words special subtext.

More broadly, many analysts believe affluent nations could meet the Millennium Goals, throw open their markets, eliminate subsidies, and pay the Tobin Tax in full, but it would make little difference to global poverty if the resulting transfers of wealth simply end up in the pockets of corrupt elites.

Estimates of the total cost of corruption worldwide are in the neighborhood of $500 billion to $1 trillion, dwarfing the total amount spent by Western nations on overseas development assistance. The World Bank Institute reported in 2004 that countries which limit corruption and improve the rule of law can increase national incomes four-fold, calling it the “400 percent governance dividend.”

In that context, Benedict’s strong appeal this morning for government to serve the common good corresponds with the top social justice priority of the African Church.

It’s also reminiscent of his last African outing, in March 2009, when he said in Cameroon that “Christians must never remain silent in the face of corruption and abuses of power.”

On the subject of inter-religious dialogue, Benedict XVI was equally impassioned.

“Everyone of good sense understands that a serene and respectful dialogue about cultural and religious differences must be promoted,” he said. “No religion, and no culture, may justify appeal or recourse to intolerance and violence.”

“Aggression,” the pontiff said, “is an outmoded relational form which appeals to superficial and ignoble instincts.”

Though the pope did not directly reference religious violence in some parts of Africa, sometimes related to attempts in majority Muslim areas to impose Islamic law, he did insist that “conscience is a sanctuary to be respected.”

That message too carries special weight in Benin, a country that’s 27 percent Catholic but with substantial pockets of Muslims, which has so far avoided the Christian-Muslim violence that’s marred its larger neighbor, Nigeria. The country’s president, Thomas Boni Yayi, is a Christian Evangelical who comes from a Muslim family.

When Benedict said that “Africa can offer all of us food for thought” on inter-religious dialogue, this may be part of what he had in mind.

As Benedict sometimes does when he is especially invested in a subject, he offered a simile to drive home his argument. The different cultures and religions, he said, are like the fingers on a hand, each one different but all essential to make the hand work. When they work together, he said, it’s a hand that can be held out in friendship.

“What could be more beautiful than a proffered hand?” Benedict asked. “Our hand too can become an instrument of dialogue. It can make hope flourish, above all when our intelligence stammers and our heart stumbles.”

“Hatred is a failure, indifference is an impasse, and dialogue is an openness!” the Pope said.

In a typical touch, Benedict XVI suggested that dialogue can take many forms, including “cooperation in social or cultural areas” even when strictly theological exchange doesn’t seem possible.

In a sign that Benedict’s message of dialogue may find receptive soil in Benin, the country’s national TV broadcaster this morning carried a report on a prayer meeting organized last night in Cotonou by a major Evangelical church to pray for the success of the Pope’s trip.

Relations between Catholicism and some of the multiform Evangelical and Pentecostal churches in Africa are sometimes strained, and just yesterday Benedict warned that Catholics should not “imitate” these groups, which sometimes blend Christianity with elements of traditional tribal religion.

Yet the Evangelical pastor quoted on Benin television insisted, “We are all together with the Pope.”

Benedict XVI delivered the speech before a crowd of several hundred diplomats, politicians, and religious leaders gathered in the main hall of the Presidential Palace.

Among the dignitaries in the front row were James Knight, U.S. Ambassador to Benin, and Mathieu Kérékou, who once ruled the country as the officially Marxist “People’s Republic of Benin” from 1974 to 1989.

In his remarks to the Pope, Benin's President Thomas Yayi Boni vowed to base the policies of Benin on Christian values, a rhetorical trope that’s common in Africa but relatively rare in the European political discourse to which Benedict is accustomed.

Boni used a bit of verbiage that raised some eyebrows among locals. He referred to his current term as president as his “second and last,” indicating that he plans to step down. Although the constitution of Benin limits the president to two terms, there has been speculation here that Boni might attempt to amend the constitution to remain in power.

His comments this morning seem to suggest that’s not the case. As a reporter for a local paper put it, “He said it, and he said it in the presence of the Holy Father. Now he’s stuck with it.”

Just before the pope's arrival this morning, there was a reminder of the chronic challenges of development in some African societies. The power went out in the Presidential Palace, as the local electrical grid was momentarily overloaded. Quickly, however, on-site generators kicked in, and power was restored.

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 11/20/2011 5:36 AM]
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Last night, I stupidly forgot all about the last event yesterday, Day 2 of the visit, which was the Pope's meeting with the bishops of Benin at the Apostolic Nunciature, after which he dined with them.

Day 2: Meeting with Bishops of Benin
Apostolic Nunciature, Cotonou

Here is the Vatican translation of the Holy Father's text delivered in French:

Your Eminences,
Dear Archbishop Ganyé,
President of the Episcopal Conference of Benin,
Dear Brother Bishops,

It is a great joy for me to meet this evening with you, the pastors of the Catholic Church in Benin. I thank the President of the Episcopal Conference of Benin, Archbishop Antoine Ganyé, for the fraternal words of greeting which he offered in your name.

With you, I am happy to give thanks to the Lord for the one hundred and fiftieth anniversary of the beginning of the evangelization of your country.

To be exact, it was on the 18th of April 1861 that the first missionaries of the Society of the African Missions disembarked at Ouidah, thus beginning a new page in the proclamation of the Gospel in West Africa.

To all the missionaries, bishops, priests, men and women religious, and lay people who have come from their own homeland or whose origins are in this country, who have laboured since that time and up to our own day, the Church is particularly grateful. They have generously given their lives, at times in a heroic manner, so that the love of God may be proclaimed to all.

The celebration of this Jubilee must be for your communities and for each of their members, an occasion of profound spiritual renewal. It falls to you, as Pastors of the People of God, to discern its dimensions in the light of the word of God.

The Year of Faith, which I announced to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council, will certainly be a propitious occasion for enabling the faithful to rediscover and to deepen their faith in the Person of the Saviour of Man.

It is because they chose to place Christ at the centre of their lives that, in the past one hundred and fifty years, men and women have had the courage to place everything at the service of the Gospel. Today, this same approach must be at the heart of the whole Church.

It is the crucified and glorious face of Christ which ought to guide us, so that we may witness to his love for the world. This attitude requires a constant conversion in order to give new strength to the prophetic dimension of our proclamation.

To those who have received the mission of leading the people of God, falls the responsibility of quickening this attitude in them and helping them to discern the signs of the presence of God in the heart of persons and events.

May all the faithful have this personal and communal encounter with Christ, and become his messengers. This meeting with Christ must be solidly rooted in openness to and meditation on the Word of God. The Scriptures must have a central place in the life of the Church and of each Christian.

Hence, I encourage you to help them to rediscover Scripture as a source of constant renewal, so that it may unify the daily lives of the faithful and be ever more at the heart of every ecclesial activity.

The Church can not keep this Word of God to herself; hers is the vocation to announce it to the world. This Jubilee Year should be a privileged occasion for the Church in Benin to give renewed vigour to her missionary consciousness.

Apostolic zeal, which should animate all the faithful, is a direct result of their baptism, and they cannot shirk their responsibility to profess their faith in Christ and his Gospel wherever they find themselves, and in their daily lives.

Bishops and priests, for their part, are called to revive this awareness within families, in parishes, in communities and in the different ecclesial movements.

I would like once more to highlight the admirable and essential role played by catechists in the missionary activities of your dioceses.

On the other hand, as I emphasized in the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Verbum Domini, “In no way can the Church restrict her pastoral work to the ‘ordinary maintenance’ of those who already know the Gospel of Christ. Missionary outreach is a clear sign of the maturity of an ecclesial community”
(No. 95).

The Church, therefore, must reach out to everyone. I encourage you to persevere in your efforts to share missionary personnel with those dioceses experiencing a shortage, whether in your own country, in other African nations or in distant continents. Do not be afraid to call forth missionary vocations among the priests, religious and the laity!

So that the world may believe this Word which the Church proclaims, it is indispensible that Christ’s disciples be united among themselves
(cf. Jn 17: 21). As leaders and pastors of your people, you are called to have a lively consciousness of the sacramental fraternity which unites you, and of the unique mission which has been entrusted to you, so that you may be effective signs and promoters of unity within your dioceses.

With your priests, an attitude of listening, and of personal and paternal concern must prevail so that, conscious of your affection for them, they may live their priestly vocation with peace and sincerity, spread its joy around them and faithfully exercise their priestly duties.

I therefore invite you to help your priests and faithful to rediscover for themselves the beauty of the priesthood and of the priestly ministry.

The difficulties which are met along the way and which can at times be serious, must never lead to discouragement, but on the contrary become incentives to the awakening among priests and bishops of a deep spiritual life which fills their hearts with an ever greater love for Christ and with overflowing zeal for the sanctification of the People of God.

Likewise, a strengthening of the bonds of fraternity and of friendship between all will be an important support, and will promote advancement in the search for spiritual and human development.

Dear Brother Bishops, the formation of the future priests of your dioceses is a reality to which you must pay particular attention. I strongly encourage you to make it one of your pastoral priorities.

It is absolutely necessary that a solid human, intellectual and spiritual formation allow young people to attain a personal, psychological and affective maturity, which prepares them to assume to duties of the priesthood, especially in the area of interpersonal relations.

For their part, as I noted in the Letter which I addressed recently to all seminarians, “the most important thing in our path towards the priesthood and during the whole of our priestly lives, is our personal relationship with God in Jesus Christ. The priest … is God’s messenger to his people. He wants to lead them to God and in this way foster an authentic communion between all men and women”.

It is in this perspective that seminarians must learn to live in constant contact with God. Since the choice of formators is an important responsibility incumbent upon you Bishops, I invite you to exercise this duty with prudence and discernment.

Formators, each of whom must possess the necessary human and intellectual qualities, must be concerned with their own advancement along the path to holiness, as well that that of the young to whom they have the mission of helping in the search for the will of God in their lives.

The episcopal ministry to which the Lord has called you has its share of joys and sorrows. To each of you present here this evening, I would like to leave a word of hope.

In the course of the last hundred and fifty years, the Lord has done great things in the midst of the people of Benin. Be assured that he will continue to accompany you from day to day in your commitment to the work of evangelization. Always be pastors after the heart of God, authentic servants of the Gospel. It is precisely this that men and women of our times expect from you.

Dear Brother Bishops, at the end of this time together, I wish to express my great joy at having returned to Africa, and in particular to Benin, for this double celebration: the one hundred and fiftieth anniversary of the evangelization of your country and the presentation of the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Africae Munus.

I would like to thank you, and through you all the people of Benin, for the warm welcome, I would say simply for the African welcome, which you have given to me.

I entrust all of your dioceses, as well as you and your episcopal ministry, to the Virgin Mary, Our lady of Africa. May she watch over the people of Benin! With great affection, I willingly impart my Apostolic Blessing, which I happily extend to the priests, to the men and women religious, to the catechists and to all the lay faithful of your dioceses!

The banner for this post is something 'new' because just as stupidly, I had failed all these months to check for an official site for the papal visit, of which the bishops' conference of Benin has an excellent site. Terrible inexplicable oversight on my part, when I always check for official sites of any event that is related to any of the Pope's activities.
[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 11/20/2011 2:56 PM]
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Sunday, November 20

Celebrated on the last Sunday of the liturgical year

Jesus is not often portrayed as a king, literally. The oldest known portrait of Christ is the 6th-century Pantocrator (leftmost photo) at the Monastery of St. Catherine in Sinai. Christ the King is often depicted as the Pantocrator, especially in Orthodox imagery. Christ at the Last Judgment (detail from Michelangelo's fresco) is the other usual 'kingly' portrayal of Christ. 'King of the Jews' images come with Crucifixion portrayals.
Readings for today's Mass:

the saint of the day:

Fourth from left: Portrait of the saint in her 80s.
ST. ROSE PHILIPPINE DUCHESNE (b France 1769, d USA 1852), Nun, Mother Superior and Missionary
Born to an aristocratic family in Grenoble, she became a Visitation nun and did charitable work for 9 years following the French Revolution. When her convent closed, she joined the Sisters of the Sacred Heart and at age 49, was sent as a missionary to the United States, where she had hoped to work with native Americans. She and her sisters set up schools in Missouri and Louisiana. She was 72 when she was finally assigned to work with an Indian tribe. Mother Duchesne was 87 when she died. She was canonized in 1988.


Sunday, November 20

and presentation of the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation to the Bishops of Africa

Stade de l'Amitie (Friendship Stadium)
- Homily
- Remarks by the Holy Father

1215 Lunch with the members of the Special Council for Africa
of the General Secretariat of the Bishops' Synod

Apostolic Nunciature

1600 DEPARTURE CEREMONY at the Cardinal Gantin International Airport
-Address by the Holy Father

1630 Departure for Rome


2200 Arrival at Ciampino airport.

Benin is one hour ahead of Rome time.

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 11/20/2011 3:31 PM]
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Day 3: Mass and presentation
of 'Africae munus' to bishops

Stade de l'amitie, Cotonou

When the Holy Father addressed the bishops of Benin yesterday, he thanked them for 'the warm welcome - I would say simply, the African welcome - that the people of Benin have given me". The photos from the Mass today capture the unique quality of that 'African welcome'.

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 11/20/2011 4:42 PM]
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Day 3: Mass and Presentation
of 'Africae munus' to bishops of Africa

Stade de l'Amitie, Cotonou

Pope Benedict presents
'Africae Munus'

November 20, 2011

Pope Benedict XVI's final public event in Benin on the final day of his apostolic visit to Bening which falls on the Feast of Christ the King was the Holy Mass that he concelebrated in Cotonou with over 200 Bishops from across the continent to whom he presented his Post-Synodal exhortation Africae Munus, which he signed yesterday in Ouidah.

Here is a report by Veronica Scarisbrick:
The atmosphere was prayerful but joyful Sunday morning in the Stade de l’amitié, the friendship stadium just outside Cotonou.

The stadium can hold up to 30000 people. But on Sunday, there wasn’t space enough for everyone - 80.000 more spilled out around the stadium

It was an orderly congregation, not just from Benin but from different parts of Africa, eager to welcome the Successor of Peter. They came from neighbouring countries: Togo, Nigeria, Burkina Faso Niger . And the languages used during this Mass were often local.

But the outreach of this Mass wasn’t just local - it was to the entire African continent.

Two hundred bishops from across Africa concelebrated the Eucharist with the Holy Father on this Feast of Christ the King. After the Mass, the Pope presented each of them with a copy of his Post-Synodal Exhortation Africae Munus.

Yetserday, at the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception in nearby Ouidah, he had signed four copies of the document - in Latin, the universal language of the Catholic Church, and the remaining three in the languages commonly spoken across Africa: French, Portuguese and English.

This exhortation is the concluding document of the 2009 October Special Assembly of the Synod of Bishops which took place in the Vatican to discuss the objectives of reconciliation, justice and peace throughout Africa and what the Church in African can do to promote and achieve these objectives.

Many of the African bishops who were present today were also at the 2009 Synodal Assembly. There are 36 national bishops' conferences across Africa, 7 regional conferences and a Special Episcopal Council for Africa.

This is what the Pope said in English before presneting the Exhortation:

One of the first missions of the Church is the proclamation of Jesus Christ and his Gospel ad gentes, that is the evangelization of those at a distance from the Church in one way or another.

I hope that this Exhortation will guide you in the proclamation of the Good News of Jesus in Africa.

It is not just a message or a word. It is above all openness and adhesion to a person: Jesus Christ the incarnate Word. He alone possesses the words of life eternal (cf. Jn 6:68)!

Following the example of Christ, all Christians are called to reflect the mercy of the Father and the light of the Holy Spirit.

Evangelization presupposes and brings with it reconciliation and it promotes peace and justice.

During his homily, he said this in English:

On this feast day, we rejoice together in the reign of Christ the King over the whole world. He is the one who removes all that hinders reconciliation, justice and peace.

We are reminded that true royalty does not consist in a show of power, but in the humility of service; not in the oppression of the weak, but in the ability to protect them and to lead them to life in abundance (cf. Jn 10:10).

Christ reigns from the Cross and, with his arms open wide, he embraces all the peoples of the world and draws them into unity. Through the Cross, he breaks down the walls of division, he reconciles us with each other and with the Father.

We pray today for the people of Africa, that all may be able to live in justice, peace and the joy of the Kingdom of God (cf. Rom 14:17).

With these sentiments I affectionately greet all the English-speaking faithful who have come from Ghana and Nigeria and neighbouring countries. May God bless all of you!

Here is the Vatican translation of the Holy Father's homily:

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Following in the footsteps of my blessed predecessor Pope John Paul II, it is a great joy for me to visit for the second time this dear continent of Africa, coming among you, in Benin, to address to you a message of hope and of peace.

I would like first of all to express my cordial gratitude to Archbishop Antoine Ganyé Cotonou, for his words of welcome and to greet the Bishops of Benin, as well as the Cardinals and Bishops from various African countries and from other continents.

To all of you, dear brothers and sisters, who have come to this Mass celebrated by the Successor of Peter, I offer my warm greetings. I am thinking certainly of the faithful of Benin, but also of those from other French-speaking countries, such as Togo, Burkina Faso, Niger and others.

Our Eucharistic celebration on the Solemnity of Christ the King is an occasion to give thank to God for the one hundred and fifty years that have passed since the beginnings of the evangelization of Benin; it is also an occasion to express our gratitude to him for the Second Special Assembly of the Synod of African Bishops which was held in Rome a few months ago.

The Gospel which we have just heard tells us that Jesus, the Son of Man, the ultimate judge of our lives, wished to appear as one who hungers and thirsts, as a stranger, as one of those who are naked, sick or imprisoned, ultimately, of those who suffer or are outcast; how we treat them will be taken as the way we treat Jesus himself.

We do not see here a simple literary device, or a simple metaphor. Jesus’s entire existence is an example of it. He, the Son of God, became man, he shared our existence, even down to the smallest details, he became the servant of the least of his brothers and sisters. He who had nowhere to lay his head, was condemned to death on a cross. This is the King we celebrate!

Without a doubt this can appear a little disconcerting to us. Today, like two thousand years ago, accustomed to seeing the signs of royalty in success, power, money and ability, we find it hard to accept such a king, a king who makes himself the servant of the little ones, of the most humble, a king whose throne is a cross.

And yet, the Scriptures tell us, in this is the glory of Christ revealed; it is in the humility of his earthly existence that he finds his power to judge the world. For him, to reign is to serve! And what he asks of us is to follow him along the way, to serve, to be attentive to the cry of the poor, the weak, the outcast.

The baptized know that the decision to follow Christ can entail great sacrifices, at times even the sacrifice of one’s life. However, as Saint Paul reminds us, Christ has overcome death and he brings us with him in his resurrection. He introduces us to a new world, a world of freedom and joy.

Today, so much still binds us to the world of the past, so many fears hold us prisoners and prevent us from living in freedom and happiness. Let us allow Christ to free us from the world of the past! Our faith in him, which frees us from all our fears and miseries, gives us access to a new world, a world where justice and truth are not a byword, a world of interior freedom and of peace with ourselves, with our neighbours and with God. This is the gift God gave us at our baptism!

“Come, O blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world”
(Mt 25:34). Let us receive this word of blessing which the Son of Man will, on the Day of Judgement, address to those who have recognized his presence in the lowliest of their brethren, with a heart free and full of the love of the Lord!

Brothers and sisters, the words of the Gospel are truly words of hope, because the King of the universe has drawn near to us, the servant of the least and lowliest.

Here I would like to greet with affection all those persons who are suffering, those who are sick, those affected by AIDS or by other illnesses, to all those forgotten by society.

Have courage! The Pope is close to you in his thoughts and prayers.

Have courage! Jesus wanted to identify himself with the poor, with the sick; he wanted to share your suffering and to see you as his brothers and sisters, to free you from every affliction, from all suffering. Every sick person, every poor person deserves our respect and our love because, through them, God shows us the way to heaven.

This morning, I invite you once again to rejoice with me. One hundred and fifty years ago the cross of Christ was raised in your country, and the Gospel was proclaimed for the first time.

Today, we give thanks to God for the work accomplished by the missionaries, by the “apostolic workers” who first came from among you or from distant lands, bishops, priests, men and women religious, catechists, all those who, both yesterday and today, enabled the growth of the faith in Jesus Christ on the African continent.

I honour here the memory of the venerable Cardinal Bernardin Gantin, an example of faith and of wisdom for Benin and for the entire African continent.

Dear brothers and sisters, everyone who has received this marvellous gift of faith, this gift of an encounter with the risen Lord, feels in turn the need to proclaim it to others.

The Church exists to proclaim this Good News! And this duty is always urgent! After 150 years, many are those who have not heard the message of salvation in Christ! Many, too, are those who are hesitant to open their hearts to the word of God!

Many are those whose faith is weak, whose way of thinking, habits and lifestyle do not know the reality of the Gospel, and who think that seeking selfish satisfaction, easy gain or power is the ultimate goal of human life.

With enthusiasm, be ardent witnesses of the faith which you have received! Make the loving face of the Saviour shine in every place, in particular before the young, who search for reasons to live and hope in a difficult world!

The Church in Benin has received much from her missionaries: she must in turn carry this message of hope to people who do not know or who no longer know the Lord Jesus.

Dear brothers and sisters, I ask you to be concerned for evangelization in your country, and among the peoples of your continent and the whole world.

The recent Synod of Bishops for Africa stated this in no uncertain terms: the man of hope, the Christian, cannot be uninterested in his brothers and sisters. This would be completely opposed to the example of Jesus.

The Christian is a tireless builder of communion, peace and solidarity - gifts which Jesus himself has given us. By being faithful to him, we will cooperate in the realization of God’s plan of salvation for humanity.

Dear brothers and sisters, I urge you, therefore, to strengthen your faith in Jesus Christ, to be authentically converted to him. He alone gives us the true life and can liberate us for all our fears and sluggishness, from all our anguish. Rediscover the roots of your existence in the baptism which you received and which makes you children of God!

May Jesus Christ give you strength to live as Christians and to find ways to transmit generously to new generations what you have received from your fathers in faith!

[In Fon: May the Lord fill you with his graces!]

For English-speaking pilgrims, he said this:

On this feast day, we rejoice together in the reign of Christ the King over the whole world. He is the one who removes all that hinders reconciliation, justice and peace.

We are reminded that true royalty does not consist in a show of power, but in the humility of service; not in the oppression of the weak, but in the ability to protect them and to lead them to life in abundance
(cf. Jn 10:10).

Christ reigns from the Cross and, with his arms open wide, he embraces all the peoples of the world and draws them into unity. Through the Cross, he breaks down the walls of division, he reconciles us with each other and with the Father.

We pray today for the people of Africa, that all may be able to live in justice, peace and the joy of the Kingdom of God
(cf. Rom 14:17).

With these sentiments I affectionately greet all the English-speaking faithful who have come from Ghana and Nigeria and neighbouring countries. May God bless all of you!

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 11/20/2011 5:22 PM]
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The Pope has left Benin... We congratulate him for another grace-filled apostolic visit and wish him a restful trip home...

Day 3:
Presentation of 'Africae munus'
and Angelus

Here is the official text of the Holy Father's message before presenting the Bishops of Africa with his Apostolic Exhortation summarizing the pastoral points agreed upon at the Second Secial Assembly on Africa by the Synod of Bishops held at the Vatican in October 2009. The Pope began the message in French and concluded in English.

Your Eminences,
Dear Brother Bishops and Priests,
Dear Brothers and Sisters,

In the course of this solemn liturgical celebration, we have given thanks to the Lord for the gift of the Second Special Assembly for Africa of the Synod of Bishops, which met in October 2009 to discuss the theme: The Church in Africa in Service to Reconciliation, of Justice and Peace: ‘You are the salt of the earth… you are the light of the world’ (Mt 5:13-14).

I thank all of the Synod Fathers for their contribution to this Assembly. My gratitude goes as well to the Secretary General of the Synod of Bishops, Archbishop Nikola Eterović, for the results achieved and for the greeting which he has just addressed in your name.

Yesterday I signed the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Africae Munus. Today I am happy to offer it to each of the Particular Churches through you, the Presidents of the Episcopal Conferences of Africa – both national and regional - and through the Presidents of the Synods of the Eastern Catholic Churches.

Upon the reception of this Exhortation, the phase of assimilation and application of its theological, ecclesiological, spiritual and pastoral data begins at the local level. This text seeks to promote, encourage and consolidate the various local initiatives already in place. It seeks as well to inspire other initiatives for the upbuilding of the Catholic Church in Africa.

In English, he said:
One of the first missions of the Church is the proclamation of Jesus Christ and his Gospel ad gentes, that is the evangelization of those at a distance from the Church in one way or another.

I hope that this Exhortation will guide you in the proclamation of the Good News of Jesus in Africa. It is not just a message or a word.

It is above all openness and adhesion to a person: Jesus Christ the incarnate Word. He alone possesses the words of life eternal (cf. Jn 6:68)! Following the example of Christ, all Christians are called to reflect the mercy of the Father and the light of the Holy Spirit. Evangelization presupposes and brings with it reconciliation and it promotes peace and justice.

Before the end of the Mass, the Holy Father said these remarks prior to leading the recitation of the Angelus:

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

At the conclusion of this solemn Eucharistic celebration, having been made one in Christ, let us turn with confidence to his Mother and pray the Angelus.

Now that I have consigned the Apostolic Exhortation Africae Munus, I wish to entrust to the Virgin Mary, Our Lady of Africa, the new chapter now opening for the Church on this continent, asking her to accompany the future evangelization of Africa as a whole and, in particular, of this land of Benin.

Mary joyfully accepted the Lord’s invitation to become the Mother of Jesus. May she show us how to respond to the mission which God entrusts to us today!

Mary is that earthly woman who received the privilege of becoming the Mother of the Saviour of the world. Who better than she knows the value and beauty of human life? May we never cease to be amazed before the gift of life!

Who better than she knows our needs as men and women who are still pilgrims on this earth? At foot of the Cross, united to her crucified Son, she is the Mother of Hope. This hope enables us to take up our daily lives with the power bestowed by the truth which is made known in Jesus.

Dear Brothers and Sisters of Africa, this land which sheltered the Holy Family, may you continue to cultivate Christian family values.

At a time when so many families are separated, in exile, grief-stricken as a result of unending conflicts, may you be artisans of reconciliation and hope.

With Mary, Our Lady of the Magnificat, may you always abide in joy. May this joy remain deep within hearts of your families and your countries!

In the words of the Angelus, let us now turn to our beloved Mother. Before her let us place the intentions of our hearts. Let us now pray to her for Africa and for the whole world.

What beautiful farewell words to the people of Benin! I never cease to be amazed at how fresh Benedict XVI is able to convey his general Christian message and specific pastoral messages even in the brief remarks he prepares for the Angelus.
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Day 3: End of a visit
Departure from Cotonou

Pope ends Africa trip
with giant mass

COTONOU, Benin, Nov. 20 (AFP) - Pope Benedict XVI ended his second trip to Africa with a Mass for tens of thousands in the voodoo heartland of Benin and by issuing a grand vision for his Church's future on the continent.

Benedict left the West African nation following a three-day visit that saw him denounce corruption, label AIDS a mainly ethical problem, and encourage Africans to seek reconciliation in the face of conflicts.

For Sunday's Mass celebrated by Benedict, some 50,000 people filled a stadium in Cotonou, the economic capital of Benin, a country considered both a heartland of voodoo and a bastion of Catholicism - and where the two religions often mix.

Officials estimated another 30,000 people watched from outside the stadium, with the Pope's Mass projected onto giant screens.

Benedict arrived in his popemobile to a joyous welcome from the faithful, many wearing skirts or wraps with his picture. The 84-year-old Pope received warm cheers when he took a baby in his arms.

Ahead of his arrival, the crowd applauded each time the sun appeared from behind the clouds, some crying out, "Jesus!"

Benedict told the crowd they should work toward reconciliation in the face of conflict.

"Dear brothers and sisters of Africa, this land which sheltered the holy family, may you continue to cultivate Christian family values," he said.

"At a time when so many families are separated, in exile, grief-stricken as a result of unending conflicts, may you be artisans of reconciliation and hope."

On Saturday, Benedict had signed off on a roadmap for the Catholic Church in Africa at a basilica in the city of Ouidah, a centre of voodoo, with the Temple of Pythons and its 30-odd snakes just across the street [from the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception].

The document - an apostolic exhortation called Africa munus (Pledge for Africa) containing conclusions from a 2009 synod of African bishops - includes peace, reconciliation and justice as its main message.

He handed the roadmap to bishops from throughout the continent on Sunday.

It calls for good governance and the abolition of the death penalty while denouncing abuses, particularly against women and children, and describing AIDS as a mainly ethical problem that requires a medical response.

Changes in behaviour are needed to combat the disease, including sexual abstinence and rejection of promiscuity, it adds.

The church's position on AIDS and the use of condoms has long been controversial and carefully scrutinised, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa, home to nearly 70 per cent of the world's HIV cases.

Benedict singled out those suffering with AIDS or other illnesses during Sunday's Mass, expressing solidarity with them.

The Pope's visit to the country was heavy in symbolism, in a region that served as a major slave-trading centre and coming 150 years after what is considered the evangelisation of Benin by missionaries.

Slaves departing from Ouidah and elsewhere took their traditional voodoo beliefs with them and transplanted them in the Americas.

Benedict's visit also occurred with the Catholic Church facing a major challenge from evangelical movements that have made huge gains on the continent, attracting hundreds of thousands of followers. [Compared to the growth of Catholics numbered in the millions.]

At the same time, Africa also has the world's fastest-growing number of Catholics.

The Pope's health seemed to hold up well throughout the trip despite intense heat and a packed schedule - and he often seemed invigorated by the adoring crowds. [Thanks, AFP, for pointing this out!]

Here is the Vatican translation of the Holy Father's remarks before departing Benin:

Your Eminences, Your Excellencies,
Distinguished Authorities and Dear Friends,

My Apostolic Journey to Africa has now come to an end. I thank God for these days spent among you in joy and friendship. I thank you, Mr President, for your gracious words and for the many efforts made to make my stay pleasant.

I thank the various civil authorities and all the volunteers who generously contributed to the success of these days. Nor can I fail to thank all the people of Benin for their warm and enthusiastic welcome. I also thank the members of the Catholic Church, the Presidents of the various National and Regional Episcopal Conferences who joined us, and naturally, in a very particular way, the bishops of Benin.

I wanted to visit Africa once more; it is a continent for which I have a special regard and affection, for I am deeply convinced that it is a land of hope. I have already said this many times.

Here are found authentic values which have much to teach our world; they need only to spread and blossom with God’s help and the determination of Africans themselves.

The Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Africae Munus can greatly assist in this, for it opens up pastoral horizons and will lead to creative initiatives. I entrust it to the faithful of Africa as a whole, to study carefully and to translate into concrete actions in daily life.

Cardinal Gantin, that eminent son of Benin whose greatness was so widely acknowledged that this Airport bears his name, took part with me in a number of Synods. He made a vital and much-appreciated contribution to them. May he accompany the implementation of this document!

During my visit I was able to meet various components of Benin’s society and many members of the Church. These numerous meetings, very different in nature, testify to the possibility of a harmonious coexistence within the nation, and between Church and State.

Good will and mutual respect not only aid dialogue, but are essential for building unity between individuals, ethnic groups and peoples.

The word “Fraternity” is the first of the three words found on your national emblem. Living in unity as brethren, while respecting legitimate differences, is not something utopian.

Why should an African country not show the rest of the world the path to be taken towards living an authentic fraternity in justice, based on the greatness of the family and of labour? May Africans be able to experience reconciliation in peace and justice!

These are the prayerful good wishes which I express to you, with confidence and hope, before I leave Benin and the African continent.

Mr President, I express once more my heartfelt gratitude, which I extend to all your fellow citizens, to the bishops of Benin and to all the faithful of your country.

Let me also encourage the entire continent to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world. May God bless you all, through the intercession of Our Lady of Africa.

[in Fon: God bless Benin!]"


Our Beloved Holy Father has completed yet another apostolic visit,
his second to Africa, and this one near-perfect in all aspects.
May he have a safe and restful trip back to Rome...

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 11/20/2011 7:58 PM]
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Here are the first attempts by 2 Catholic reporters to inform their readers about Africae munus. I referred to it yesterday as a 64-page document because that is how it prints from my PC, but one report has it at 82 pages, and John Allen has even more pages - it all depends, of course, on the size of the page. In any case, it does demand a lot of reading, which is fascinating because it goes to the very heart of the pastoral activities that are necessary to convey the message of Christ and to carry out this message as a constant living witness to his Word and example, in the specific context of the peoples of Africa...

Pope asks African Catholics
to be 'apostles of reconciliation'

by John Thavis

VATICAN CITY, Nov. 20 (CNS) -- In a wide-ranging document on the Church's future in Africa, Pope Benedict XVI urged Catholics to become "apostles of reconciliation, justice and peace" across the troubled continent.

The key to the Church's mission in Africa, the Pope said, is for all Catholics to know the faith and the Church's social doctrine well, then bear witness to it in daily life.

The document, called an apostolic exhortation, explored the themes treated by the 2009 Synod of Bishops for Africa. Titled "Africae Munus" ("The Commitment of Africa"), the 138-page text offered what it called "guidelines for mission" in virtually every pastoral area, including the sacraments, social justice and interreligious dialogue.

The Psigned the document Nov. 19 during a ceremony in Ouidah, Benin, a slave trade city on the Atlantic coast. He was making a three-day visit to Benin, where he met with bishops from the African continent.

The document said Africa, like the rest of the world, was experiencing a culture shock that strikes at traditional values and ways of life. But faced with this "crisis of faith and hope," it said, Africa has the ability to be a spiritual inspiration because of the human and religious resources of its peoples.

The Pope said the Church should lead the way, promoting respect for human dignity and life at every stage, fighting against economic imbalance and environmental degradation, providing health care to those with AIDS and other diseases, educating the young and reconciling human hearts in places of ethnic tension.

These actions are the heart of the Church's evangelizing efforts, which include witness, words and service, and which must be based on the personal encounter with Christ, he said.

One specific proposal in the document was for a continent-wide "Year of Reconciliation" to beg God 's forgiveness for "all the evils and injuries mutually inflicted in Africa" and for the reconciliation of people who have been hurt in the church and in society.

Two separate sections of the document addressed men and women, in language that reflected the synod's concerns over discrimination against women in many African countries.

Women and girls have fewer opportunities than men and boys in Africa, and their dignity and essential contributions to the family and society are often unappreciated, the Pope said. Too many ancestral practices debase and degrade women, he added.

"Unfortunately, the evolution of ways of thinking in this area is much too slow. The church has the duty to contribute to the recognition and the liberation of women, following the example of Christ's own esteem for them," he said. He called women the "backbone" of local church communities in Africa.

The document reminded men to be faithful to their wives and to make a real contribution to the upbringing of their children. In an apparent reference to polygamy, it urged men to reject traditional practices that are "contrary to the Gospel and oppressive to women in particular."

The document touched on many other issues raised at the 2009 synod:

-- It pledged the Church's continuing assistance to AIDS patients and the Church's support for affordable treatment. But it said AIDS was an ethical as well as a medical problem, requiring "change of behavior," including sexual abstinence, rejection of sexual promiscuity and fidelity within marriage.

-- It said abortion, the "destruction of an innocent unborn child," is against God's will, and it encouraged Africans to be wary of confusing language in international documents on women's reproductive health that goes against the Church's teaching.

-- It urged Africans to continue to protect the institutions of marriage and the family and to maintain their traditional respect for the elderly.

"This beautiful African appreciation for old age should inspire Western societies to treat the elderly with greater dignity," it said.

-- The document said the Church must be present wherever human suffering exists and "make heard the silent cry of the innocent who suffer persecution, or of peoples whose governments mortgage the present and the future for personal interests."

-- It said African countries rightly expect outside assistance in dealing with their problems, but at the same time must themselves implement political, social and administrative justice at home.

-- On the issue of ecology, the document said private business and government groups have enriched themselves by exploiting resources in a way that causes pollution and desertification, putting countless species at risk and threatening the entire ecosystem.

"The plundering of the goods of the earth by a minority to the detriment of entire peoples is unacceptable, because it is immoral," it said.

-- The document said Catholic relations with Muslims were a mixed picture across Africa; in some countries, members of the two faiths get along well, while in others Christians are treated like "second-class citizens." It asked Church leaders to work through patient dialogue with Muslims toward juridical and practical recognition of religious freedom.

-- It warned that witchcraft is enjoying a revival in Africa, in part because of people's anxiety over health, the future and the environment. It asked bishops to face the challenge of Christians who have a "dual affiliation" to Christianity and traditional African religions. The Church must clearly reject any "magical elements," which cause division and ruin for families, it said.

-- It called on African bishops to find a correct response to the growing popularity of African independent churches, which have adopted elements of traditional African culture. It distinguished between those churches and religious sects, which it said were leading people of good faith astray.

The Church needs to study this phenomenon in order to "stem the hemorrhage of the faithful from the parishes to the sects," it said.

-- It denounced the "intolerable treatment" of many children in Africa, who are subjected to forced labor, trafficking and various forms of discrimination. "The Church is mother and could never abandon a single one of them," it said.

-- The document decried the rising crime rate in urban areas of Africa, but also said prisoners are frequently mistreated. It said society's leaders need to "make every effort to eliminate the death penalty" and to reform the penal system so that prisoners' human dignity is respected.

Benedict’s Africa plan:
Stay spiritual, and stay Catholic

by John L Allen Jr

Ouidah, Benin, Nov. 19 - Pope Benedict XVI came to Africa this weekend primarily to deliver his conclusions from a 2009 Synod of Bishops for Africa, representing a papal game plan for the faith in the region of its most explosive growth.

He chose an evocative setting – the city of Ouidah on Benin’s Atlantic coast, a onetime slave port known as the spiritual capital of the Vodun religion, referred to in the West as voodoo.

The Pontiff has repeatedly touted Africa as a source of hope, and he came it again today, repeating a 2009 line that Africa represents a “spiritual lung for a humanity that appears to be in a crisis of faith and hope.”

Benedict’s 138-page document on Africa, titled Africae Munus, or “Africa’s Commitment,” contains a bewildering variety of specifics, but its core boils down to two pleas to Africa’s roughly 150 million faithful: Stay on the spiritual plane, as opposed to becoming a political party, and stay Catholic.

In effect, Benedict argues throughout the text that the best contribution Catholicism can make to reconciliation, justice and peace in Africa, which was the theme of synod, is by fulfilling its spiritual mission – reconciling humanity to God and one another through Christ.

Preaching the gospel, promoting the sacraments, and saving souls, the Pope implied, is the distinctive contribution of the Church to the quest for peace and justice.

“To deprive the African continent of God would be to make it die a slow death, by taking away its very soul,” the Pope warned.

In that sense, Benedict called upon Catholics, and especially clergy, to avoid “immediate engagement with politics” – though at the same time, the Pontiff also clearly rejected the equal-and-opposite danger of “withdrawal” and “escape from concrete historical responsibility.”

“The Church’s mission is not political in nature,” the Pope writes at one point, and at another he adds that “Christ does not propose a revolution of a social or political kind.”

The temptation to direct political engagement may be especially strong in Africa, where religious bodies are often the most trusted exponents of civil society and of resistance to corrupt regimes. Ironically, one former Archbishop of Cotonou in Benin served, in effect, as the country’s leader during a transition from Marxism to democracy in the early 1990s.

Benedict also called on African Catholics to take their cues from church teaching and tradition, as opposed to an excessively “African” form of the faith. He referred to “dual affiliation”, meaning Catholics who also practice tribal religions, as a serious problem.

For instance, the Pope insisted that Catholics must practice individual confession, rather than drawing upon indigenous group-reconciliation ceremonies rooted in traditional African religion. He called upon the African bishops to carry out a study of these reconciliation ceremonies, while stressing that they “cannot in any way take the place of the sacrament.”

Benedict also rejected witchcraft, calling it a “scourge,” and called on African bishops not to “absolutize African culture,” which could lead to spiritual excuses for “a nationalism that can easily blind.”
Much of the specific content of Africae Munus is already familiar, but two distinct themes stand out.

First, Benedict clearly links the push to fight corruption in political and economic life to the need for good government inside the church itself.

Speaking to Africa’s bishops, Benedict writes: “To make your message credible, see to it that your dioceses become models in the conduct of personnel, in transparency and good financial management.”

“Do not hesitate to seek help from experts in auditing, so as to give a good example to the faithful and to society at large,” the Pope writes.

At another point, Benedict insists that Church employees must receive “just remuneration … in order to strengthen the Church’s credibility.” He also directs a similar message to Church-affiliated health care institutions, insisting that “the management of grant monies must aim at transparency.”

Second, this theologian-Pope encouraged the bishops of Africa to take a special interest in “the life of the intellect and reason, so as to foster a habit of rational dialogue and critical analysis within society and in the Church.”

Repeating the most distinctive feature of his own comments at the 2009 Synod for Africa, Benedict augured the emergence in the 21st century of a distinctively African contribution to Catholic theology, analogous to the great Africa fathers of the early church such as Clement and Origen.

“Perhaps this century will permit, by God’s grace, the rebirth on your continent, albeit surely in a new and different form, of the prestigious School of Alexandria,” the Pope writes.

In terms of other specifics, Africae Munus contains a wide variety of papal recommendations and injunctions. They include:

- An endorsement of truth and reconciliation commissions, stressing that reconciliation must not come at the expense of accountability.

It must include, he writes, “the pursuit of those responsible for these conflicts, those who commissioned crimes and who were involved in trafficking of all kinds, and the determination of their responsibility. Victims have a right to truth and justice.”

- The Church’s responsibility to act as a “sentinel” in denouncing injustice. The Church, the Pope writes, “feels the duty to be present wherever human suffering exists and to make heard the silent cry of the innocent who suffer persecution, or of peoples whose governments mortgage the present and future for personal interests.”

- A call to preserve the traditional family, which, Benedict warns, faces various threats: “Distortion of the very notion of marriage and family, devaluation of maternity and trivialization of abortion, easy divorce and the relativism of a ‘new ethics.’”

- A strong plug to defend the rights and role of women. “Women’s dignity and rights, as well as their essential contribution to the family and to society, have not been fully acknowledged or appreciated,” the Pope writes.

“The Church has the duty to contribute to the recognition and liberation of women” and to promote for them “a place in society equal to that of men.”

- Defense of Church teaching on abstinence outside marriage and fidelity within it as the best anti-AIDS strategy, coupled with a strong call for anti-AIDS medication to be made widely available “at minimum cost.”

- A call to combat illiteracy, which the pope called “a scourge on a par with the pandemics” and “a form of social death.” (According to the United Nations, illiteracy rates in West Africa, where Benin is located, are the highest in the world. Sixty-five million adults in the region, representing forty percent of the adult population, cannot read and write.)

- Urging political leaders to combat poverty and to protect the environment.

“Fundamental goods such as land and water,” the Pope writes, are critical for “the human life of present and future generations and for peace between peoples.”

- Support for an independent judiciary and human prison systems, and for abolition of the death penalty.

- Endorsement of good government and anti-corruption efforts.

- A mixed evaluation of African Independent Churches, which encompass a sprawling variety of Evangelical and Pentecostal movements as well as syncretistic forms of traditional tribal religion.

Benedict warns that they sometimes “offer a religious veneer to a variety of heterodox, anti-Christian beliefs, but also writes that they are a new reality “in the ecumenical field.”

- Support for dialogue with Muslims, coupled with insistence on respect for freedom of belief and worship. “Religious freedom is the road to peace,” the Pope writes.

Many experts have predicted an “African moment” in the global Church in the 21st century, given Catholicism’s explosive growth here. (The Catholic population of sub-Saharan Africa grew almost 7,000 percent during the 20th century.)

One foretaste of that “African moment” has been the rapid growth in African priests serving outside the continent, especially in Europe and North America.

Despite the fact that the priest shortage is actually far more acute in Africa than in the West – the priest-to-person ratio is the United States is 1-1,300, while in sub-Saharan Africa it’s almost 1-5,000 --- Benedict encouraged what observers often refer to as the “reverse mission,” meaning African priests serving in the Western societies which once dispatched missionaries to Africa.

The Pope called on African bishops to “respond generously to the requests of their confreres in countries lacking vocations, and assist the faithful deprived of priests.”

On the NCR blog today, John Allen also has a pre-departure wrap-up of the Benin trip, preceded by a striking apercu of Benedict XVI's concern for social justice as the Pope's own form of 'liberation theology'...[/C}
As I have to be away for several hours, here is the link to the Allen piece:

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 11/20/2011 9:05 PM]
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I had no chance to look up how the African media - at least the Francophone and Anglophone media - have been reporting on the Pope's visit, but this analysis today from a South African newspaper, although it contains a number of questionable statements, represents an African media viewpoint, for a change...

Voodoo, snakes, condoms and
the Pope's new African reality

by Simon Allison

21 November 2011

The Pope was in Africa this weekend, visiting the little West African country of Benin which is producing priests a lot faster than anywhere in Europe. It seems the future of the Catholic Church is in Africa, and it looks like the Pope knows it.

On the second day of his trip to Benin - a destination referred to all too often in the international media coverage as either simply "Africa" or the "the heartland of Africa's voodoo religion" - Pope Benedict XVI unveiled the Catholic Church's Pledge for Africa (Africae munus).

The importance of this document should not be under-estimated, as it is the guide by which Africa's Catholics are supposed to live their lives - and there are a lot of African Catholics. It tells them how to deal with the conflicts between tradition and modernity, what to think about HIV/Aids and urges peace, justice and reconciliation on the continent.

The Catholic Church is growing faster in Africa than in anywhere else in the world. Churches are full, congregations are enthusiastic and seminaries are hopelessly oversubscribed with young men eager to spread the word (and, perhaps, a fair few chancers desirous of the job security offered by the priesthood).

Benin in particular is witness to something of a Catholic resurgence, with the Catholic population growing to nearly 30% of the population in recent years. The country's Ouidah seminary is a training ground for new African priests, some of whom - in a wonderful irony given the colonial impact of Catholic missionaries in Africa - are being groomed to preach in Europe, where the Church is struggling to find enough priests to fill its increasingly empty churches.

But Benin, and the city of Ouidah in particular, was an unlikely place for the Pope to launch the church's Pledge for Africa; but one that delighted the foreign correspondents in attendance.

The official religion of Benin is voodoo, and Ouidah is that religion's spiritual home. The juxtaposition between the Pope's pious Catholicism and Voodoo's mystical spiritualism, with - if only in the West- all its dark connotations and the myth, beloved in movies, of voodoo dolls and pins, was too much for journalists to resist.

"As [the Pope] signed the papal treatise, several dozen Voodoo practitioners sat in plastic chairs in the Temple of the Pythons located at the opposite end of the basilica's square. The high priest, who sat with his foot on a bottle of gin, a traditional Voodoo spirit offering, said they listened carefully as the pope's message was projected outside through massive speakers mounted on the basilica," wrote Rukmini Callimachi for Associated Press.

A Reuters reporter had even more fun describing the Temple of Pythons.

"A sign painted on the wall outside the voodoo complex read 'Temple of the Pythons' and a statue of a bare-breasted woman holding several snakes stood by the entrance. Inside was a small stone house with about two dozen large and baby pythons. A voodoo priest put five or six around his neck and arms for a visiting reporter. Dressed in red, the snake priest and others dressed in white said they had nothing against the Pope's visit."

The Pope, remarkably, didn't seem to have too much against the voodoo priests; [Another lesson for Mr. Allison: The Pope would never ever offend other religions, or his host country, for that matter.]

Indeed, he said that the Church could learn from them. His Pledge for Africa, compiled with the recommendations of African clergy, emphasised how the modern and the traditional should work together, and that traditional practices should be examined to discern if aspects of them could be helpful to the human condition.

But traditional practices shouldn't be permitted in the Church if they clash directly with Church doctrine. It's up to bishops to "separate the good seed from the weeds" in this regard. [Mr. Allison must be commended for stating this distinction well and clearly, especially if he is not a Catholic himself.]

The Pledge also addressed the issue of HIV/AIDS, which is something that tripped up Pope Benedict on his last visit to the continent, when he appeared to say that condoms increase the spread of HIV/Aids - a distinctly un-scientific and counter-factual message. [Unfortunately, Mr. Allison falls into the usual MSM fallacy here and misrepresentation of what the Pope actually said. But it is not 'counter-factual' - though perhaps 'counter-inutitive' - that reliance on condom use alone as the primary strategy for preventing the spread of the infection tends to help spread it because condom users assume it is necessarily failsafe when it is not, for so many reasons, beginning with the fact that poor-quality condoms often get distributed in the Third World.]

He has since recanted on this claim [NOT AT ALL!], acknowledging that there are some instances where a condom could be helpful, but the Church still doesn't condone condom use. Its official policy is repeated in this latest document, which describes AIDS as an "ethical problem" [that subsequently requires medical treatment] and advocates abstinence as the most effective solution. [A policy that has been scientifically documented to work in those African countries that have managed to reduce the ravages of AIDS in their populations.]

Generally, Pope Benedict seemed surprisingly in tune with his audience on this trip. As well as castigating corruption, he had some harsh words about how Africa is often portrayed. It's worth quoting him in full.

"Too often, our mind is blocked by prejudices or by images which give a negative impression of the realities of Africa, the fruit of a bleak analysis. It is tempting to point to what does not work; it is easy to assume the judgemental tone of the moraliser or of the expert who imposes his conclusions and proposes, at the end of the day, few useful solutions. It is also tempting to analyse the realities of Africa like a curious ethnologist or like someone who sees the vast resources only in terms of energy, minerals, agriculture and humanity easily exploited for often dubious ends. These are reductionist and disrespectful points of view which lead to the unhelpful 'objectification' of Africa and her inhabitants."

This is an unusual, but refreshing, viewpoint from a man who is moraliser-in-chief of one of the most judgmental (if too often not moral) bodies in the world, the Catholic Church, and it's an important sentiment [Now I am sure Mr. Allison is not Catholic! Catholicism is never 'judgmental' - the Lord alone judges. Sin is an individual responsibility, which the individual must atone for, and for which he must answer eventually at the Last Judgment before Christ. Repeated statement of the Church's teachings is not being judgmental - it is catechetical and meant to help the individual sinner assume his responsibility.]

Africa is too often understood simplistically by those who think they know better, and this is a major part of the continent's problems.

It's a good thing that the Pope is starting to understand Africa better. [How condescending! Where was this reporter in March 2009 when Benedict XVI was in Cameroon and Angola? Obviously, he is not aware either of what this Pope has been saying to all the African bishops who visit him at the Vatican.]

It might not be too long before Africans form the majority if his flock; already Africans are the hope for the future of the Catholic congregation. The Pope may have left Africa on Monday, but the Church is here to stay.

The reason I didn't post the following yesterday as is, when I had no time to fisk it, is that I knew at first reading I had issues with it, as striking as Allen's premise is. He is usually quite good at catching attention with his premises, but once you go through his arguments, the fallacies emerge easily, so I humbly beg to disagree with him on many points... Starting with the use of the words 'lonely' and 'liberation theology' referred to Benedict XVI. In 'lonely', Allen seems to be echoing his colleague Marco Politi's unfounded byt so oft-repeated canard that Benedict XVI lives 'isolated in his ivory tower, cocooned in his books, and out of touch with the real world'...

The lonely liberation theology
of Benedict XVI

by John L Allen Jr

Nov. 20, 2011

Cotonou, Benin -- Anyone just tuning in now to Pope Benedict XVI, who doesn’t know much about him but somehow caught wind of his Nov. 18-20 trip to Benin, could be forgiven a bit of confusion about exactly what the Pope came here to say about the political role of Catholicism in Africa. [First of all, the ordinary person who follows the news but is not particularly a Vatican junkie would not assume that the Pope came to Africa to say something 'about the political role of Catholciism', since that is not what Popes usually talk about - so no 'confuson' could possibly arise. I regret that Allen apparently never rereads the colloquial introductions he generally makes for his columns: Colloquialism makes for loose use of words, and loose use of words makes for defective thinking.]

Understanding that a unique form of ‘liberation theology’ circulates in the Pope’s intellectual and spiritual bloodstream can, perhaps, help make sense of things.

(“Liberation theology” usually refers to a progressive theological movement pioneered in Latin America in the 1960s and 70s, which put the Church on the side of the poor in their political struggles, and which drew both praise and rebuke from the future Pope while he was the Vatican’s doctrinal czar.) [An absurdly reductive statement of what LT was about - as though the Church has never been on the side of the poor - which misses what the Church objects to in that teaching, which advocated that the Church ought to bring about social and political change directly as her primary mission, rather than the spiritual mission that Jesus entrusted to her.]

On the one hand, Benedict has repeatedly cried out in defense of the poor. During an open-air Mass this morning in a soccer stadium in Benin’s capital, before some 40,000 wildly enthusiastic, dancing and singing locals (with another 40,000 outside) he said “Jesus wanted to identify himself with the poor” and the poor deserve respect because “through them, God shows us the way to Heaven.”

Yesterday, in a highly anticipated speech at Benin’s Presidential Palace, Benedict sounded at times like a populist reformer. [Since when has a statement of obvious fact make anyone 'sound like a populist reformer'? The adjective 'populist' these days has the connotation of 'demagogic', not to mention 'opportunistic' because it often refers to politicians who take up an apparently popular notion and run with it uncritically, indeed, often exaggerating the idea to rouse the rabble. Benedict XVI obviously has no such intentions, and his manner and speech are so polarry anti-demagogic.

“There are too many scandals and injustices, too much corruption and greed, too many errors and lies, too much violence which leads to misery and death,” he said.

In his major document on the faith in Africa, Africae Munus, Benedict called on the Church to act as a “sentinel,” denouncing situations of injustice.

The Pontiff also took yet another swipe at neo-con ideologies. In his opening speech of the trip, he warned Africans that an “unconditional surrender to the laws of the market and of finance” is among the pathologies of modernity they would do well to avoid. [This is, of course, Allen's own confused ideological take on the Pope's statement. Surely he cannot think that those he calls 'neocons' - in the US liberal Catholic world, those would include George Weigel and Michael Novak - are in favor of 'unconditonal surrender to the laws of the market etc'!]]

Yet Benedict XVI also issued a clear warning to stay out of politics, which could seem at odds with his biting social commentary. [No, Allen is misrepresenting Benedict XVI if he thinks he is telling Catholics 'to stay out of politics' - just review everything he has said about Italy needing a new generation of political leaders, urging lay Catholics to get involved in seeking to carry out Catholic principles through political action.]

While he rejected “withdrawal” and “escape from concrete historical responsibility,” he explicitly instructed clergy to steer clear of “immediate engagement with politics.” [There you have it! The warning was to the clergy, not to all Catholics in general. And that is in keeping with recent Church teaching against priest-politicians, since a priest should not be partisan.]

The Pope likewise stressed that “the Church’s mission is not political in nature.” At another point, he added that, “Christ does not propose a revolution of a social or political kind.” [Nothing that he has not said over and over in many different ways as Pope and as cardinal before that!]

So, what’s going on? When Benedict talks about defense of the poor, is he engaging in pious rhetoric without any real-world bite? Is this just papal double-talk, tossing a bone to the Church’s progressive constituency in one breath and its more traditional following in another? [Allen is setting up a straw man! But then, he is merely setting the stage for his next statement that is meant to be audacious, original and certainly attention-getting!]

In fact, the tension can be resolved with this insight: Benedict XVI has a distinctive form of liberation theology, and his various speeches and texts in Africa amount to vintage expressions of it. This “Benedictine” form of liberation theology is rooted in three basic convictions.

- The supernatural realm is the deepest and most “real” level of existence. Material forms of reality, including economic and political structures, are fundamentally conditioned by the quality of humanity’s relationship with God.
- Individual transformation must precede social transformation. Systems and structures cannot be liberated if the individual human heart doesn’t change first.
- Attempts by the Church to dictate political solutions end in disaster, among other things performing a disservice to the poor by reducing the social appetite for God. Preoccupied with secularism as he is, Benedict XVI knows well that rejection of religious faith in the West is , at least in part, a reaction against centuries of theocracy and clerical privilege.

Add it up, and what you get is this: Benedict XVI is genuinely scandalized by poverty and injustice, and he wants the Church to be a change agent. [Did we need Mr. Allen to point this out to us? Haven't all the modern Popes been 'scandalized by poverty and injustice'? It's just that John Paul II and now Benedict XVI have had more opportunity to speak about these issues because they represent egregiously obvious objective conditions in the world in our day, and because they have been able to address the global village of the modern info-tech era more frequently and instantaneously than their predecessors.]

In terms of how the Church promotes transformation, however, it’s not by lobbying or electoral strategy, but by inviting people into relationship with Christ – the Christ whose “preferential love for the poor” Benedict has repeatedly confirmed.

[Mr. Allen summarizes well the points of this Pope's teaching about the role of the Church in seeking to transform the world, which echoes what Cardinal Ratzinger said in the 1980s-1990s about liberation theology. But does that justify tagging this as Benedict's 'form of liberation theology'? Why encumber him with an unfortunate term that seemed deliberately chosen at the time to connote the double entendre of 'liberation' from the Church itself, and indeed, as it was preached, from the very idea of Christ's divine nature, since the 'liberation theologians' considered him principally as an all-too-human revolutionary guru. Why should Joseph Ratzinger/Benedict XVI's thinking - which goes back to the earliest traditions of the Church - be made to appear like a 'me too' effort? Why should it not be his 'theology of social action', for instance, following the social doctrine of the Church?]

Nurture love for Christ in the hearts of women and men, the Pope believes, and the revolution will come. Trying to start with the revolution first, he believes, is a recipe for heartache, which the tragic history of the 20th century eloquently illustrates.

That’s the liberation theology of Benedict XVI. It is, in some ways, a fairly lonely position, satisfying neither the zeal for concrete political advocacy of the Catholic left nor the laissez-faire instincts of at least part of the Catholic right.
{Was there anything in the three points Allen brought up that John Paul II (or Paul VI, for that matter) would not have said - and probably did say in ne way or another, if one goes through everything he said in almost 27 years as Pope? What makes Benedict XVI's well-reasoned and even self-evident arguments about social transformation 'a lonely position'? Popes are not supposed to take partisan positions, certainly not cater to the extreme left or extreme right of the Church. To say that his centrist nd centered, feet-on-the-ground-heart-with-God position is a 'lonely' one is to ignore the vast middle ground of Catholics who would agree with his approach!]

It’s also not clear how Benedict’s version of liberation theology will play in Africa itself, where religious leaders are accustomed to playing a robustly political role because the churches are often the only zones of life where civil society can take shape – the only safe environments in which dissent can be expressed, and where the power of the state doesn’t (at least, doesn’t always) reach.

Ironically, Benin itself is a good example of the point. This is a country where one former Archbishop of Cotonou, Isidore de Sousa, received special permission from the John Paul II to act as the effective leader of the country in the early 1990s, leading it through a transition from Marxism to democracy.

[Obviously, objective conditions play a part in determining what African prelates can and should do. Mons. De Souza was in a unique position to do what he was called on to do - apparently to no one's objections - and he did it well. But he limited himeself to what he was asked to do. After mediating a peaceful transition, he stepped out of the immediate political arena promptly. Contrary to what others in the same position would have been tempted to do, he didn't suddenly feel himself to be the Messiah of Benin and act accordingly!... In this respect, the various bishops' conferences in Africa have so far managed to have themselves heard on a variety of social and political issues without thereby engaging in partisan politics. Shouldn't we trust their discernment?]

In an interview yesterday with NCR, Archbishop John Onaiyekan of Abuja, Nigeria, called the tension between emphasizing a spiritual or a political mission as a “false dilemma.” [There you are! Straw man, did I say?] “It’s not as if you can’t be politically relevant if you don’t enter politics,” Onaiyekan said.

However Benedict’s liberation theology takes shape in Africa or other parts of the world, bringing it into focus at least has the virtue of rendering his various messages throughout this three-day journey consistent: Defend the poor, yes, but using the spiritual arsenal of the Church. [Not that he has only said this for the first time on this trip!]

[I certainly hope no one adopts Allen's terminology of 'Benedict's liberation theology' for all the reasons stated above! It's simply Benedict's social theology which follows the social doctrine of the Church.]

P.S. Too late... Either the Vaticanisti agreed among themselves that 'Benedict's liberation theology' was the common line they would all use - press corps usually take a herd approach to the 'line' they will take in reporting on their beat - or Giacomo Galeazzi was simply picking up from John Allen, in a report he wrote for La Stampa/Vatican Insider, entitled 'A liberation theology 'made in Africa'?' (Will translate when I find the time.) In any case, I still think it is a disservice to use the term 'liberation theology' for Benedict XVI's social Magisterium.

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 11/22/2011 7:03 AM]
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Monday, Nov. 21, 34th Week in Ordinary Time

The apocryphal Proto-Evangelium of James recounts that the girl Mary was consecrated to God by her parents Joachim and Anna, in thanksgiving for having the child after long years of barrenness. First celebrated in 6th century Jerusalem, the feast is one of the 12 major feasts in the Greek Orthodox liturgy, where it is formally known as 'the entry of the all-Holy Theotokos (God-bearer) into the temple'. It became a Catholic feast in the 16th century, emphasizing Mary's holiness from the start of her life - the one human being destined to be a living temple of God, 'greater than any temple built by man'.
Readings for today's Mass:

No events announced for the Holy Father today.

But what's hogging media attention on the Vatican around the world today is that the Pope has presumably accepted
the resignation of Cardinal Bernard Law as Arch-Priest of the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore and has named
Mons. Santos Abril y Castelló, a Spanish bishop who is currently the Vice Chamberlain of the Holy Roman Church
to succeed him.

Strangely, the Vatican announcement today only consists of the nomination of the new Arch-Priest and says nothing about Cardinal Law, who did turn 80 recently, and who therefore goes into canonical retirement and loses his right to vote in a a papal conclave. Nonetheless, here is the AP item and the headline that has been repeated verbatim by all the media outlets that have used it so far:

Disgraced ex-Boston archbishop
leaves Rome job

VATICAN CITY, Nov. 21 (AP) — Cardinal Bernard Law, who resigned in disgrace as Boston's archbishop in 2002 after the priest sex abuse scandal exploded in the United States, has left his subsequent job as head of a major Roman basilica.

The Vatican said Monday that Pope Benedict XVI had accepted Law's resignation as archpriest of St. Mary Major basilica [not in the Vatican press bulletin] and had named as as Law's replacement Spanish Monsignor Santos Abril y Castello.

Law's 2004 appointment as the archpriest of one of Rome's most important basilicas had been harshly criticized by advocates for clerical sex abuse victims, who charged that bishops who covered up for pedophile priests should be punished, not rewarded.

Law turned 80 earlier this month.

While I am among those who was very perplexed as well as near indignant over Cardinal Law's reassignment to a high-profile position in Rome after the Boston archdiocesan scandal, one must presume that Blessed John Paul II had his reasons for making such a controversial decision, and for Cardinal Law to have accepted the appointment. I thought he ought to have asked the Pope instead to retire to some monastery to perform his private penance while doing some other unheralded work, and he may have done so but the Pope overruled him. Meanwhile, Cardinal Law has had a decade to 'atone' for his misjudgments and consequent mis-actions regarding abusive priests in his diocese, and I would like to think that in this time, he has also sought to make private amends to the victims of those abusive priests. One wonders how he will spend his retirement.

It is very unfortunate that the man who in 1985 proposed the idea of a new Catechism of the Catholic Church which the Bishops' Synod approved - and has resulted in the Catechism we now have since 1992 - ended up being so embroiled in the sex-abuse scandal that he has become emblematic for many of the apparent tolerance that the Church hierarchy had in the past to the unspeakable offenses committed by priests - a tolerance and an indifference that enemies of the Church continue to ascribe to her, despite everything that has been done since 2001 when John Paul II gave the CDF competence over these cases, and the urgency and personal attention which Cardinal Ratzinger has given to this problem and continued with greater vigor after he became Benedict XVI.

Cardinal Law is unlikely to write his memoirs - though who knows? - so one must continue to be intrigued by what really has been going on with him since 2001 (I remember he gave an interview about it a few years back but I have to look it up). As we see, even his very retirement has stirred up the always-smouldering embers of the sex-abuse scandal all over.

- I thought it would be interesting to remind Vatican news junkies what occupied the media this time last year:

1. The third consistory of Benedict XVI's Pontificate took place on November 21, which is when the Solemnity of Christ the King occurred last year. When, in the third week of October this year, the Pope did not make any announcement of a new consistory, it all but ruled out any consistory in 2011.

For reasons well analyzed by Vaticanistas in a couple of articles posted on this thread - mostly having to do with the fact that several cardinals will be turning 80 in the next several months. It has been speculated that Benedict XVI would in fact hold off calling another consistory until he can name enough cardinals to fill the delector seats that would be left vacant by the cardinals who would have turned 80 between now and mid-2012.

2. OR's virtual sabotage of the launching of the Pope's book-length interview Light of the World with Peter Seewald, by printing an incorrect translation of the Pope's statements about condoms and AIDS, on the Saturday afternoon (Nov. 19) preceding the launching of the book (Nov. 22). The furor and attendant confusion over the supposed 'change' the Pope had made to Catholic teaching against the use of condoms sucked all the air in the Vatican's media space for the next week or so and almost overshadowed the book itself - except that the book was truly unprecedented and allowed the world a privileged look into Benedict's unique thinking and thought processes on a variety of topics that everyone might have wished to ask the Pope about.

3. On a less obvious level, the disappointment over the fact that the Catholic media, particularly the usually irrepressible and omnivorous Catholic blogosphere, had almost virtually ignored VERBUM DOMINI, Benedict XVI's post-synodal Apostolic Exhortation following the 2008 General Assembly of the Bishops' Synod on the Word of God. The exhortation was released on 11/11/10 (just over a year before the latest exhortation AFRICAE MUNUS was released last week), and has since gone on to become a LEV bestseller, as SACRAMENTUM CARITATIS (B16's first Ap-Exhort, on the Eucharist) had been before it.

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 11/21/2011 9:44 PM]
11/21/2011 8:29 PM
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While both the OR tomorrow and Fr. Lombardi on Vatican Radio are lamenting the lack of attention in the world media to the Pope's trip to Benin - because it was not associated with any controversies - a different kind of news is emerging about that trip...

Beninese see solar phenomena
during Benedict XVI’s visit

Translated from the Italian service of

Nov. 21, 2011

The day after the Mass celebrated by Benedict XVI at Contonou’s Friendship Stadium, even the bishops of Benin are now wondering about the extraordinary phenomenon around 8:00 a.m. attested to by the 80,000 faithful who had gathered for the Pope’s Mass.

They saw the sun and the moon at the same time – an extremely rare occurrence in Africa at the latitude of Benin – and this aroused great wonder among the faithful, as Vatican news director Fr. Federico Lombardi pointed out to newsmen yesterday.

Some witnesses even claimed to have seen the sun move but that they they were able to look directly at the sun as long as they could without being blinded.

Many Africans of course interpreted the phenomenon as something associated with the presence of the Pope. But African bishops and media are now more than interested because it has also been claimed that the phenomenon [of the moving, non-blinding sun] was reportedly not an isolated incident but one that took place many times during the visit.

Monsignor Renè-Marie Ehuzu, bishop of Porto Novo and president of the Benin bishops’ Commission for Social Ministry, who was the principal coordinator for the Pope’s visit, told the Italian news agency AGI that “On Saturday afternoon, while the Pope was en route to St. Rita’s parish in a Cotonou suburb, he stopped to bless the patients of a nearbyhospital, a similar phenomenon occurred, so that afterwards, many of the patients went to the hospital chapel to offer up a thanksgiving prayer”.

“During the three days of the visit,” Mon. Ehuzu said, “there have been testimonials to such occurrences with pictures captured on their cellphone cameras by those who saw them, some of them priests. I personally cannot offer an explanation but I do not think it is a result of mass hysteria”.

“The moon at this time of year is actually seen quite close to the sun, but usually as a pale sickle in the dawn light, and impossible to see when the sun is out. So if it could be seen with the sun, it could mean it was because the brightness of the sun itself was subdued which explains why the witnesses say they could look at it without being blinded”.

Some Catholics have pointed out that the phenomena described in Benin resemble those associated with the apparitions of Mary in Fatima.

It is well-known that the ‘miracle of the sun’ took place in Fatima on the days following a Marian apparition, and many times in Rome at Tre Fontane [I have to research the Tre Fontana allusion – I’m reading about it for the first time.]

In Cova da Iria, Fatima, as the three shepherd children prayed on October 13, 2917, as the news reports said at the time, the sun appeared a like a giant wheel on fire which spun and emanated multicolored light. It stopped spinning three times, and after the last pause, it seemed to detach itself from the firmament to hurl itself into the earth.

A similar phenomenon was observed by thousands of faithful at Tre Fontane [the site where the Apostle Paul is believed to have been beheaded] on April 12, 1947, and then again in 1968 and in 1980. In Fatima, it was repeated on May 13, 1918.

At Tre Fontane, the description of the first occurrence was similar to that at Fatima, without the final impression of the sun hurling itself towards the earth, but the next time, it was described to resemble a host, as if the sun itself had been covered by a gigantic host.

A private note by Pius XII, published in Andrea Tornielli’s 2009 book on the late Pope, recounts that he saw a similar phenomenon of the sun while walking in the Vatican Gardens in 1950, and that the Pope took this as a sign confirming the validity of the dogma of Mary’s Assumption that he was about to proclaim.

Thanks to Beatrice and her site, for this brief but powerful editorial from the site of France's Catholic TV service....

Out of Africa - its miseries and its faith,
Benedict XVI sees hope for the world

Translated from

November 21, 2011

The Africa of the poor, of shantytowns with cardboard houses along main highways, of petty business deals and great miseries - and its barefoot malnourished children...

The Africa of clans and ethnic tribes, of violence and wars - and its boy soldiers...

The Africa of many beliefs, traditions and religious wars - and its child shamans and witches...

The Africa of the rich red earth, its heat which can be witheringly dry or unhealthily humid, its deserts, its savannahs and its jungles - and its millions of children.

The Africa with her joie de vivre and vitality, her songs, her dances and her drums..

The Africa of the faith, of a Church at peak growth, her seminaries full to bursting, her zealous catechists, committed laymen and thousands of First Communicants...

Africa, the children of Africa, are nonetheless a source of hope for the world.

And that is what the Pope came to tell them in Benin: "Jesus loves you", "Do not be afraid!", "Africa is a spiritual lung for mankind".

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 11/22/2011 7:02 AM]
11/22/2011 12:00 AM
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Gifts and rights -
and Benedict XVI's distinction
between one and the other

by Fr. James V. Schall, S.J.

November 21, 2011

“The family model of the logic of love, of free giving and a reciprocal gift should be extended to a universal dimension. Commutative justice — ‘giving in order to acquire’—and distributive justice — ‘giving through duty’ are not sufficient to build up society. In order for true justice to exist it is necessary to add free gifting and solidarity.”
— Pope Benedict XVI, to Centesimus Annus Conference, October 15, 2011


In a brief talk on the fiftieth anniversary of the German charitable foundation, Adveniat, Benedict XVI remarked: “In the Lord’s Prayer, Christ teaches us to pray for the coming of the Kingdom. We cannot simply create it because it is above all a gift.”

In Plato’s shortest dialogue, the Clitophon, Socrates is chided because he is able to move souls by his speeches of how things ought to be, but he seems unable to bring those things about. Socrates, however, is not fooled by the import of this criticism.

He knows that it is not easy to reform man, especially if man does not reform his own soul first. Moreover, we may not be able to supply to ourselves everything we need for our highest end. We are by nature not just natural beings but supernatural ones, as Aquinas tells us.

Behind the claim that we can do everything by ourselves, there is something haughty, something critical of the gods. If they could, should they not simply give us everything we need, especially what is most important for us?

But if the Kingdom of God is a gift, it cannot come to us directly as a result of our own enterprise. As we read the epistles and gospels of the Masses at the end of any year, we are always reminded that Christ will come as a “thief” in the night, that we know not the day or hour. Christ will come when He wills, not when we demand or expect.

Yet, we live in a “rights” oriented culture. Our discourse, even our religious social discourse, is dominated by the concept of “rights.” This word in modern philosophy has a very specific meaning.

It is often claimed in Catholic literature that “rights” refer to that which is “owed” to human beings as such. Yet, the term really comes from Hobbes.

It means that each of us has a “right” to whatever we will. If we give up this “right” to the state or society, the word does not change its meaning.

It means that whatever the organization “wills” is “right.” Try as we may, this latter meaning will still be present no matter what we think the word means.

What does a “rights”-oriented world culture imply? If I have a “right” to everything I need for my happiness, however we define it, it follows that someone owes us what we do not have. We are made to be not giving but receiving beings.

If we do not have what we “have a right to,” it follows that someone else is at fault. We are victims. We demand our “rights.” Again, “rights” are whatever we want. Society is to be designed to give everyone what he wants, no matter what it is. W

e are unable to say that anything we or anyone else “wants” is “wrong.” It is only something different. We must organize things so everyone gets something of what he wants.

As a result of this mentality, no one can really “do” anything for anyone. If I lack something, someone else owes it to me. When I finally get it, I have no reason to thank anyone, for I only received what was “due” to me. As a result, a “rights” world leaves us with a profound sense of isolation.

If we do not have anything, whether it be material or spiritual, it is not our fault, but it is our “right” to have it. This situation gives governments enormous powers and ethical justification. They conceive it their duty to provide for everyone’s rights, whatever they are.

“Charity” becomes politicized. And even the donations and sacrifices whereby the poor receive from or are taken from for the poor, the “taking” action, whether it be by taxation or confiscation, is conceived as a “right.”

The rich and enterprising really had nothing to give. Their product was by definition a “social product.” And those who "created” wealth were not working for themselves. Whatever they produced was seen as a wealth to be redistributed in the name of someone’s “right” to have whatever he lacked.

Such often unperceived dangers of the notion of “rights” bring us to the question of gifts. Christianity is a “gift”-oriented revelation, though its representatives are constantly using the word “rights” in a way that has little relation to the manner in which the word is understood in the culture.

A “rights-oriented” mentality would maintain that man had everything he needed for human purposes. The Promethean tradition of man’s bravery in stealing fire from the gods is still with us. Aristotle’s advice that we should not listen to those who tell us that, being mortal, we should only listen to mortal things, strikes us as odd, even un-comprehensive. Yet it lies at the very origin of our culture, including Christian culture.

Yves Simon, in many of his works, spoke of the fact there is in man not only a need to have things but also, at a higher level, a need to give. If we prevent the capacity to give, we cease being human. One of the very reasons for the existence of private property is that it allows us to give freely what is ours.

If, in giving, the receiver thought he had a “right” to what was given anyhow, we would not only cease giving, but cease giving thanks. And the act of giving thanks is almost the most profound thing about us.

We have all received gifts that we did not “need.” And yet, if we examine the phenomenon of gift-giving, we see that the gift given is not primarily what a gift is about. Certainly, we give little gifts to neighbors or colleagues that do not mean much. Yet, the smallest gift is often the best we have.

The famous widow in the New Testament is praised not for the value of her gift, but because it represented all she had. She gave of herself. The gift, at its highest meaning, is our human effort to love one another, to give of ourselves to those willing we hope to receive it.

In his talk to the Centesimos Annus congress, Benedict used the phrase “free giving.” He even cites the phrase of John Paul II of a “law of ‘free giving,’” which of its very nature would be something beyond “law,” in the strict sense.

A “law” of giving would be like a “law” of friendship, something that cannot be a law. Of course, we can use the phrase “law” of giving or charity or friendship in the sense of describing its nature intellectually.

In such a description, the notion of free giving would have to appear. Friendship is a “reciprocal” willing to the other of what is good for him, not us, even though it is also our good. If it is “our good” that dominates such a relationship, by its own “law,” it is not really friendship. And yet we cannot will not to want friends or not to give them something.

Nor can we be friends or even human if we do not have a capacity to receive gifts. In a real sense, in spite of St. Paul’s insistene that it is better to give than to receive, the capacity to receive graciously is a better sign of our humanity than our capacity to give.

Simon points out that we are different from God in this, that God creates the objects of His love. We do not do this; we find them already created. Hence our primary relation to reality itself is that of receivers. And in revelation we are “receivers” of grace, of the Word, of life itself.

Benedict points out that marriage is itself based on “free giving.” Thus, it is also based on “free receiving.” One could not conceive of a marriage in which there is only “giving.”

Benedict tells us that “the family is the first place where one learns that the right approach in the social context and also in the world of work, economics and business, must be guided by caritas, in the logic of ‘free giving,’ giving, of solidarity, and of responsibility for each other.” “Free giving” is, presumably, opposed to “forced giving.”

This awareness explains why justice and charity are different yet related. Sometimes it seems that all we ever hear about is justice. This feeling is logical in a rights-oriented world. People are ever talking about what is “owed” to them, not what they can give.

But it is also true that we need something to give. This need, as I said earlier, is not just a material thing. Indeed, the greatest need we have is that someone love us, from our beginning. We cannot know what love is unless we are first loved.

That relationship is the very heart of the Christian revelation. We are what we are because we have received what we are. It is true that we are not automata. The primary result of our experience of being loved is to love in return, freely.

Benedict cites John Paul II who also used the term “free giving” in Centesimus Annus. “This ‘free giving’ takes the form of heartfelt acceptance, encounter and dialogue, disinterested availability, generous service, and deep solidarity” (#43).

In the family, we are not seen as an “object.” We are human subjects who see each other’s faces. Likewise in Caritas in veritate, Benedict stressed “the family model of the logic of love, of free giving and of reciprocal gift.”

Indeed, he foresaw this model as capable of universal extension, though it would require some thinking lest this extension end up in an ideology of universal “rights” that approved of anything on the grounds of charity or love.

It is of interest that Benedict specifically distinguishes charity from the two classic forms of justice.

Commutative justice returns to the individual what is owed to him. We “give in order to acquire,” as the Pope puts it.

Distributive justice is based on duty. I give because it is my obligation to others.

The Pope insists there is yet another notion, that of “free giving.” This can be service, love, money, intelligence, anything. And it is not “due.” It arises out of what we see in others. We do not just love them to “help” them, or to make them “right.” We do so because of the good we see in them. We are bound together by more than needs. We are bound also by truth.

In Caritas in veritate, as Benedict recalls, he observed that “the market of gratuitousness does not exist, and attitudes of graciousness cannot be established by law. Yet both the market and politics need individuals who are open to reciprocal gift” (38).

Aristotle has already said that the polity needs friendships more than it needs justice. The legislators should be concerned about this even though they should not be so foolish as to impose it. This latter was the danger we saw in the French Revolution and in most socialist movements where everyone was called "brother".

The Holy Father added that “Christians are duty bound to report evils, to witness to and to keep alive the value on which the person’s dignity is founded.” When we think of how much agony the Church and society has recently undergone because “evils” were not reported, we can better appreciate what the Pope had in mind.

But we must add that probably our greatest problem is — to go back to the “rights” question — the will that makes “rights” whatever we want, so there is no “reporting” of evils necessary, except the “evil” of not acknowledging all evils to be “human rights.”

This is why Benedict says that our love, ultimately, must be “truth-filled.” It is not true that we have a “right” to everything or a “duty” to give everyone what they “want.”

What is true is that we are, each of us, gifts of God in our very being. We are the beings who first discover what and that we are by first being loved, by receiving our very being.

Our response to this gift is not primarily what we have a “right” to, but what we can “freely give” in return for a gift of which none of us is worthy.

These reflections are very much apropos to the unpardonable class warfare now being carried on in the United States by President Obama, the Democrats and assorted leftists of all colors, who advocate the idea that the less privileged are entitled (they consider it their 'right') to coerce a share [to 'be gifted forcibly'] - of what the more privileged have worked for under the free enterprise model of democracy. Seeking to live off the honestly earned wealth of others without lifting a finger to help oneself, which is the goal of this new culture of entitlement - is just repulsively wrong and profoundly counter-productive. That is not what 'the American dream' is about.
[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 11/22/2011 5:10 AM]
11/22/2011 4:58 AM
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Amid continuing signs of anti-Christian discrimination in Pakistan, including a recent legal prohibition from using the name of Jesus on any texted nessages, there is this one exception:

Woman accused of blasphemy is freed
thanks to Christian-Muslim cooperation

by Shafique S. Khokhar

Faisalabad, Pakistan, Nov. 21 (AsiaNews) – Christians are grateful to the local Muslim community for conducting an “in-depth investigation” before they would condemn someone for blasphemy, a crime punishable with death or life in prison in Pakistan.

Thus, they have prevented an “untoward incident over a sensitive issue,” said Fr Naveed Arif, a priest at the Holy Rosary Catholic Church in Faisalabad. Speaking to AsiaNews, he could not hide his satisfaction over the outcome of the case, which he describes as “an example in inter-confessional harmony” with Islam.

The case involved a Christian woman, Agnes Bibi, who was accused of defaming the name of the prophet Muhammad. Arrested for blasphemy, she was able to have the original accusation dismissed and the case against her reduced to a lower charge. This allowed her to apply and get bail.

“I hope a culture of peace and religious harmony prevails whenever controversies arise in Pakistan,” the priest said, “because Christianity teaches us peace and harmony and is against intolerance and violence.”

Agnes Bibi, 50, is from Abin-e-Mariam Colony, Faisalabad. In order to undermine the position of Christians in a property dispute with Muslims, she was accused of blasphemy. On 16 February 2011, a complaint was failed against her and she was taken into custody three days later following an interrogation by a magistrate.

An in-depth investigation began on 5 March. After months of work and a number of depositions, the original charge was changed from blasphemy to that of “Promoting enmity between different groups” under Article 153-A of the Pakistan Penal Code.

Agnes Bibi told AsiaNews that in prison she prayed for her release, and that she was happy the judge granted her bail.

Her husband, Bashir Masih, 52, said that he had to take out a loan to pay for the bail imposed by the judge. “My wife is very sick and I have to raise money for her medical treatment,” he added.

NB: Agnes Bibi is different from Asha Bibi, who is still languishing in jail and facing execution on a similar fabricated charge of blasphemy a year before Agnes Bibi.

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 11/22/2011 5:43 AM]
11/22/2011 5:35 AM
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Although an overwhelming majority of Americans profess to believe in God, their general awareness of institutional religion appears to be rather absymal, if one goes by the following survey...

Survey shows 41% of Americans can't name
anyone as 'most influential Christian leader'

by Paul Scicchitano

Nov. 21, 2011

Forty-one percent of Americans are unable to name the most influential Christian leader in the United States while another eight percent think it might be President Barack Obama.

Not surprisingly, evangelist Billy Graham garners the highest name recognition among Christian leaders with four out of every 10 Americans — some 19 percent — giving top recognition to the octogenarian, according to a new Barna Group study released Monday.

“Billy Graham is the name mentioned most often in response to the unaided survey question (a measure often described as “top-of-mind” awareness),” the survey finds.

Pope Benedict XVI or “the Pope” was the choice of only 9 percent of U.S. adults, perhaps due to the fact that he resides in the Vatican and not the United States.

“Researchers place a lot weight on top-of-mind awareness measures,” explains Lynn Hanacek, Barna Group vice president of research and project director. “It is a type of unaided awareness measurement — meaning that respondents answer on their own with no response options presented to them.”

She says that greater importance is typically placed on such recognition because it reflects the very first name that comes to mind — and typically suggests that the person, brand or organization has made a lasting impression.

Various pastors, ministry leaders, authors, politicians, and other public figures, including Oprah Winfrey, George W. Bush, T.D. Jakes, James Dobson, Franklin Graham and Maya Angelou each received one percent recognition as the most influential Christian leader.

“Looking at the big picture, only a limited number of individuals come to mind when Americans consider leadership of Christians on a national scale,” adds Hanacek, noting that the results may have been different simply by asking respondents if they heard of a specific individual.

While Billy Graham has more than twice the top-of-mind awareness of any other individual, his name was barely mentioned by the youngest respondents in the nationwide survey of 1,007 adults, ages 18 and older, according to the findings.

“In terms of national Christian leadership, there may well be a gap to be filled. However, it is also likely that leadership may be perceived differently at this time in our society,” the survey holds.

“If the role and relevance of national faith leadership is waning, it suggests an opportunity for more local and regional Christian leaders to emerge — whether in churches, ministries or a variety of other capacities.”

Among other findings of the telephone survey conducted on Aug. 1-14:

• Evangelical Christians are more likely to name Billy Graham (35 percent), Joyce Meyer (12 percent) and Franklin Graham (5 percent) as the most influential Christian leader.
• No evangelicals consider Pope Benedict to hold this distinction.
• A majority of atheists and agnostics (65 percent) and non Christians (52 percent) are unable to think of anyone they would consider to be an influential Christian leader.
• Protestants are more likely to name Billy Graham as the most significant leader (31 percent) while Catholics are just as likely to name the Pope (32 percent).
11/22/2011 7:49 AM
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Following are the Page 1 introductory article and the editorial from Page 1 of the 11/21-/11/22 double issue of L'Osservatore Romano containing the bulk of the newspaper's coverage of the Holy Father's apostolic visit to Benin... For once, I am grateful to the OR for its choice of Page 1 photograph, one that is luminous in every sense, which, I think, captures literally and symbolically, not just the entire essence of the Pope's visit, but the very idea of his role as loving Universal Pastor of the flock of Christ.

Benedict XVI exhorts Africa, 'land of hope',
to be 'salt of the earth, light of the world'

Translated from the 11/21-/11/22/11 issue of

Africa is 'a land of hope' - this is the 'intimate conviction' that impelled Benedict VI to make his second visit to the continent for which he has always held "a particular esteem and affection".

He said so Sunday afternoon, November 20, as he bade farewell to Benin at the end of an apostolic visit that began November 18.

"Here are found authentic values which have much to teach our world," he said in his farewell address at the Cotonou airport. "They need only to spread and blossom with God’s help and the determination of Africans themselves",

The Pope asked of Benin, in particular, to be the artisans of brotherhood to build unity among persons, races and peoples.

"Living in unity as brethren, while respecting legitimate differences, is not something utopian," he underescored. "Why should an African country not show the rest of the world the path to be taken towards living an authentic fraternity in justice, based on the greatness of the family and of labour? May Africans be able to experience reconciliation in peace and justice!"

Significant in this respect is the contribution that can be offered by the Holy Father's Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Africae Munus which he consigned to the Church in Africa at the Eucharistic celebration in Cotonou on Sunday.

"It opens up pastoral horizons and will lead to creative initiatives," the Pope said of it in his farewell address.. "I entrust it to the faithful of Africa as a whole, to study carefully and to translate into concrete actions in daily life".

Cardinal Gantin, that eminent son of Benin whose greatness was so widely acknowledged that this Airport bears his name, took part with me in a number of Synods. He made a vital and much-appreciated contribution to them. May he accompany the implementation of this document!
These are the prayerful good wishes which I express to you, with confidence and hope, before I leave Benin and the African continent.

In the light of this document, Benedict XVI called on the faithful in Africa to live their baptism by following the way of service shown by Christ, who "became man to be the servant of the least among his brethren".

In his homily on Sunday, the Pope said the Christian is called on to heed "the cry of the poor, the weak, the outcast." He particularly mentioned "all those persons who are suffering, those who are sick, those affected by AIDS or by other illnesses, to all those forgotten by society".

"Every sick person, every poor person deserves our respect and our love because, through them, God shows us the way to heaven," he added.

One felt this particularly on Saturday afternoon when Benedict XVI met with the children of St. Rita's parish in Cotonou. He asked the children to pray for all the children in thw world "who suffer from illness, hunger and war", and to help him, too, by praying for him.

A new world
by Giovanni Maria Vian
Translated from the 11/21-/11/22/11 issue of

Why can an African country not show the way for the rest of the world? Benedict XVI left Benin with a question that interpellates not just the continent which he visited for the second time in less than three years.

A way, he made clear, of living together in authentic brotherhood, based on family and work. And so, even the last of the Pope's addresses in Benin served to reiterate his strong encouragement for Africa and to admonish those who continue to exploit its people with ill-concealed forms of neo-colonialism.

Or those who end up ignoring Africa, as those in the media who have minimized or even completely ignored the Pope's trip, despite the reports of their own correspondents testifying to the importance and novelty of the trip.

But some media considered the event devoid of news interest, perhaps because it had nothing to do with condoms or priestly abuses which have seemed to become the indispensable elements for any news to be reported about the Catholic Church.

In fact, Benedict XVI's visit to Benin and the Apostolic Exhortation Africae munus which he signed in Ouidah are an important contribution to international coexistence and a true support for the commitment of the Catholic Church.

Not alien to the continent which gave refuge to the Holy Family fleeing Herod's persecution and where Christianity has very ancient roots as we know in Ethiopia, and as the Pope has often underscored, with the importance of the school of Alexandria, referring to the ancient Christian authors of North Africa who wrote in Latin.

As the Pope underscored once more, speaking to journalists on the flight to Benin, saying that in the 21st century, the announcement of the Gospel on the African continent should not be difficult nor done in the European way, but should be expressed as a universal message that is at once simple and profound: namely, "that God knows and loves us, and that the concrete expression of religion inspires collaboration and brotherhood".

This message is also contained in Africae munus, a document borne from Synodal collegiality, which Benedict XVI has presented with realism and hope. These are the two terms that marked his visit to Benin, expressed best in his address at the Presidential Palace in Cotonou.

Speaking to government officials, diplomats and religious leaders, the Pope did not gloss over the serious problems of Africa - which continue, unfortunately, to be very actual, but are certainly not exclusive to Africa. Nonetheless, he also vigorously contested the negative, reductive and disrespectful views about Africa that are habitually disseminated in the media.

Thus, while he denounced scandals and injustices, corruption and violence, asbove all, he looked to the future with optimism. 'Benedict XVI's African hope' was the headline of the French newspaper La Croix which effectively caught the sense of this trip.

And the hope of this Pope, a true friend of Africa, was expressed very well both by his lively and moving encounter with the children of St. Rita's parish, children who represent the future of the continent, as well as by his homily at the Mass on the Sunday of Christ the King, the last Sunday of this liturgical year.

In his homily, the Pope recalled, commenting on the Gospel description of the Last Judgment, that it is the Lord of the universe and of history who can liberate mankind from fear and who can introduce man to a new world of freedom and happiness.

And then, there is this report of the Pope's visit with the children of St. Rita's parish. one of those pieces with ambient detail and local color that regular newsmen covering the Pope do not bother to report, perhaps because they think such details are irrelevant... But nothing is irrelevant when the Pope takes part.

The Pope in the house of love
by Mario Ponzi
Translated from the 11/21-/11/22/11 issue of

At the end, curious and happy over the unusual gift they had just received from the Pope, they passed the rosary beads over their little hands - a simple but precious gift from Benedict XVI to some 200 children he met at the Parish of St. Rita in Cotonou last Saturday afternoon before ending his second day in Benin by meeting and dining with the Bishops of Africa at the Apostolic Nunciature.

The Pope had left behind an 'instrument', as he described it to the children, to help them pray. And to persuade their parents to do so as well. To pray for the Pope, as he asked them, for the Church and for all the important things they have need of.

Prayer would seem to be the anchor of salvation for many - and it surely is for those children who do not have the good fortune of these children who have found welcome, love and assistance from the Missionaries of Charity (Mother Teresa's order) at their Foyer Pace e Gioia.

The Pope first visited with the sisters before meeting the healthy children, and they took him to visit those receiving hospital care with their faces disfigured and their little bodies wracked by disease (including AIDS), who would have been abandoned without the loving assistance of these nuns.

Already on Friday evening, shortly after arriving in Benin, in the Basilica of Our Lady of Mercy in Cotonou, he greeted a small group of children suffering from leprosy. And it is on occasions like this that one sees one of the greatest scourges of the continent - the suffering of the innocent.

At St. Rita's, Benedict XVI found himself in the midst of some 200 children in the courtyard of the parish church. Dressed in their Sunday best, they had been awaiting him for hours. The younger ones dressed in Western clothes, with new dresses, shirts, scarves and shoes. The older ones in treaditional costumes appropriate for the simple dances they executed for the Pope.

When he entered the courtyard, the Holy Father was presented with Baby Benedicta, less than 15 days old. He caressed her and blessed her with the sign of the Cross. Then he sat back to listen to the songs and watch the dances the children had prepared for him. He was smiling, but his eyes had a trace of sorrow.

Later they all accompanied him to the parish church where he presented a mosaic of the 'Gypsy Madonna', an image dear to the children, since she is the image at the entrance to their home. It is called the 'Gypsy Madonna' because it had travelled around the world before ending up gracing the entrance to the Foyer.

When the Pope's travel coordinator Alberto Gasbarri and his assistant Paolo Corvini first visited Benin to check out the logistical aspects of the trip, they noticed the image which had been somewhat 'worn out' with time. They suggested a reconstruction in mosaic, a technique perfected in the Fabbrica di San Pietro at the Vatican.

In the parish church, the Pope was welcomed by songs from a missionary children's choir. Then after welcome remarks by the Bishop of Porto Novo, Mons. Rene-Marie Ehuzu, who is also in charge of the diocesan pastoral ministry for children, the Pope heard from Aicha Hunsunu, a nine-year-old girl who spoke to him about their plight.

Doubtless, Aicha does not know that at least 400,000 Beninese children are victims of human trafficking, or that the hospitals of Benin are overcrowded with children hospitalized in extreme stages of hunger or malnutrition. The hospital of Fatebenefratelli [literally, 'Do good, brothers' in Italian] in Tanguleta took care of more than 6,000 such children in 2010.

"Last year alone," says Fra Luca Beato, vice president of the non-profit organization that has supported the Fatebenefratelli hospitals for the past 15 years in Benin and Togo, "the number of children hospitalized for malnutrition at the hospital doubled from 3,000 to 6,000. And conditions are difficult - the patients have to be accommodated even along the hospital corridors on makeshift beds, and hospital staff have difficulty passing through".

But another kind of violence against children in Benin is described by Fr. Pierre Bio-Sanou, a missionary who lives among the Bariba tribe in northern Benin, where the people are overwhelmingly animist and obsessed by their belief in the power of witches.

He says: "An ancient tradition with them is that certain babies must be declared witches - those who are born by breech delivery, those who are born less than 8 months premature, those who are delivered face down - they are simply abandoned and left to die. But they are picked up by human traffickers who bring them who knows where - and when they go through the village with the newborn, everyone flees when they pass through."

And that's not to mention, he says, children who are born with birth defects. "For instance, a baby born with a tooth, or one who starts to develop upper teeth at eight months, is considered a witch and is subjected to violence that will cause death." He says that many families have learned to keep babies with minor birth defects out of sight.

Father Auguste, a local Capuchin, has been working with a nun from the local Institute of Children of Padre Pio, to fight this scourge, denouncing this widespread infanticide in many national and international forums.

He says, "In many regions, these barbarisms are still common practice, and although they have been condemned by some intitutions, there are no measures to stop the practices".

So even if they are not aware of all this, the children at St. Rita would be praying for them too.

The Church in Cotonou is very involved in helping the neediest with various structures to assist them concretely. In fact, the Pope's pediatric hospital in Rome, the Bambin Gesu, has reached an agreement with the Ospedala Padre Pio in N'dali, a rural area north of the capital, to train personnel in caring for victims of malnutrition. This would guarantee assistance and medical care for all needy children in the area which has about 500,000 inhabitants.

The celebration of the Pope's visit to St. Rita's parish lasted quite a while. The Pope, following an event-filled say, was happy to spend time with the children, despite a day of suffocating heat, with 97% humidity.

When he left the church, he found himself immersed in a huge crowd that was as colorful as it was festive. It was a challenge for the papal motorcade to leave the area, with the crowd singing and dancing, even women who bore wares for sale on their heads, balancing bread baskets, small freezers with cold drinks, or even cigarette dispensers. One woman even had a small old-fashioned cathode-ray TV set on her head. These women belong to the so-called walking market of Cotonou, which seems to be on every street, selling everything from food and clothing to a variety of household items.

It says something that they, too, decided to join the festive crowd who gathered for the Pope in a city that showed intense joy on the day the Pope came to visit Ouidah.

Now, if only the OR had seen fit to accompany this article with the appropriate pictures!
[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 11/22/2011 6:22 PM]
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