Benedict XVI speaks of prayer for reconciliation and peace
Luanda, March 22, 2009 - Only the light of God can overcome the great "darkness" present in "many parts of our world," the evil represented by wars and tribal violence, but also by the egoism of men who exploit other men, leading to that hedonism which is at the source of escape into drugs, "sexual irresponsibility," destruction of families and innocent human lives through abortion. Benedict XVI today addressed an invitation to reconciliation and hope to all of Africa, from the esplanade of Cimangola, in Luanda, Angola, where a million people gathered to participate in the great celebration that in a certain way concludes the first trip of Benedict XVI to Africa, from where he will depart again tomorrow.
"Our prayer," he said at the Angelus, "rises today from Angola, from Africa, and embraces the whole world. May the men and women from throughout the world who join us in our prayer, turn their eyes to Africa, to this great Continent so filled with hope, yet so thirsty for justice, for peace, for a sound and integral development that can ensure a future of progress and peace for its people."
Peace, reconciliation, and justice, which will be the theme of the Synod for Africa next October, take on special resonance in this country where 27 years of civil war have left more than one antipersonnel mine for each of the 13 million inhabitants, and where the enormous natural resources - from oil to diamonds - are giving rise to economic development dominated by China - which does not "interfere" in questions like respect for human rights - with extremely deep social inequalities.
The pope also made reference to war. Taking as his point of departure the readings at Mass, he said that "its vivid description of the destruction and ruin caused by war echoes the personal experience of so many people in this country amid the terrible ravages of the civil war. How true it is that war can 'destroy everything of value' (cf. 2 Chr 36:19): families, whole communities, the fruit of menís labour, the hopes which guide and sustain their lives and work! This experience is all too familiar to Africa as a whole: the destructive power of civil strife, the descent into a maelstrom of hatred and revenge, the squandering of the efforts of generations of good people. When Godís word Ė a word meant to build up individuals, communities and the whole human family Ė is neglected, and when Godís law is 'ridiculed, despised, laughed at' (ibid., v. 16), the result can only be destruction and injustice: the abasement of our common humanity and the betrayal of our vocation to be sons and daughters of a merciful Father, brothers and sisters of his beloved Son."
"How much darkness," he added, "there is in so many parts of our world! Tragically, the clouds of evil have also overshadowed Africa, including this beloved nation of Angola. We think of the evil of war, the murderous fruits of tribalism and ethnic rivalry, the greed which corrupts menís hearts, enslaves the poor, and robs future generations of the resources they need to create a more equitable and just society Ė a society truly and authentically African in its genius and values. And what of that insidious spirit of selfishness which closes individuals in upon themselves, breaks up families, and, by supplanting the great ideals of generosity and self-sacrifice, inevitably leads to hedonism, the escape into false utopias through drug use, sexual irresponsibility, the weakening of the marriage bond and the break-up of families, and the pressure to destroy innocent human life through abortion?"
To this country and to Africa as a whole, represented here by bishops and faithful who came from all the nearby countries, the pope's message was that of becoming "new" thanks to the faith. God, he said, has given us "his commandments, not as a burden, but as a source of freedom: the freedom to become men and women of wisdom, teachers of justice and peace, people who believe in others and seek their authentic good. God created us to live in the light, and to be light for the world around us!" The "gift" of the Gospel, he added, "affirm, purify and ennoble the profound human values present in your native culture and traditions: your strong families, your deep religious sense, your joyful celebration of the gift of life, your appreciation of the wisdom of the elderly and the aspirations of the young."
To the young people who are the majority of the population on this continent, and whom, yesterday, he had urged to have the courage to make definitive decisions, to take on a lifelong commitments, today he said they should "grow in your friendship with Jesus." "Seek his will for you by listening to his word daily, and by allowing his law to shape your lives and your relationships. In this way you will become wise and generous prophets of Godís saving love. Become evangelizers of your own peers, leading them by your own example to an appreciation of the beauty and truth of the Gospel, and the hope of a future shaped by the values of Godís Kingdom. The Church needs your witness! Do not be afraid to respond generously to Godís call, whether it be to serve him as a priest or a religious, as a Christian parent, or in the many forms of service to others which the Church sets before you."
The pope had already spoken about young people at the beginning of the Mass, when he expressed his sadness over the death of two young women yesterday at the stadium of Luanda and sent his wishes for a speedy recovery to the 40 young people injured in the stampede at the entrance to the stadium. "I wish to include in this Eucharist," he said, "a special prayer for the two young women who yesterday lost their lives at the stadium Dos Coqueiros. Let us entrust them," he continued, "to Jesus, that he may welcome them into his kingdom. To their relatives and friends I express my solidarity and my most profound condolences, in part because they were coming to see me. At the same time, I pray for those injured, and wish them a speedy recovery. Let us entrust ourselves," he concluded, "to the unfathomable designs of God."
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