· The Pope's Discourse in the Basilica of Ouidah ·
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.
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.
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!
St. Peter’s Square
Jan. 21, 2018
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