Pope to foster 'hope, reconciliation' in Africa: Vatican
11 Mar 2009
VATICAN CITY: March 11, 2009. (AFP) Pope Benedict XVI's upcoming trip to Cameroon and Angola will be an occasion to foster hope and reconciliation on a continent torn by conflict, the Vatican spokesman said Tuesday.
"The first trip to Africa is a trip of hope and overall reconciliation," Federico Lombardi said as he briefed the Vatican press corps on the weeklong tour beginning next Tuesday.
Benedict would address all Africans on March 19 from the Cameroonian capital Yaounde where he was due to meet delegates from 52 African states preparing a synod on Africa to be held at the Vatican in October, Lombardi said.
In Angola, which is still recovering from 27 years of civil war, Benedict would urge the international community not to abandon Africa when he meets with diplomats posted in Luanda.
The German pope, who will turn 82 on April 16, would be making his 11th trip outside Italy in his four years as pontiff and his first to Africa.
Benedict has travelled to the continent only once before, as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger in 1987 when he visited the Democratic Republic of Congo (then Zaire), Lombardi said.
His globe-trotting predecessor John Paul II made 16 trips to the continent, visiting 42 countries, during his papacy of nearly three decades.
The Roman Catholic Church is more dynamic in Africa than any other continent despite competition from evangelical Protestant denominations and Islam.
According to official Vatican statistics, the number of African Catholics grew by three percent in 2007 while populations remained stable elsewhere in the world.
The pope was due to hold open-air masses in Yaounde on March 19 and in Luanda on March 22. Benedict was also to meet charities, youth and women's groups and representatives of other faiths.
The October synod would be on the theme of "The Church in Africa at the Service of Reconciliation, Justice and Peace."
A working document on the planned synod published in 2006 stressed the need for Africans to "assume their own responsibilities" in the continent's destiny without expecting all solutions to come from the West.