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The surprise of Africa

· Pope Francis’ interview with journalists on the return flight from Bangui ·

“Africa was a surprise for me. I thought: God surprises us, but Africa surprises us too”. With images of his first journey to the continent still vivid in his mind, Pope Francis spoke to journalists on the return flight to Rome on Monday afternoon, 30 November.

For over an hour, responding to a dozen questions, he confronted numerous current topics such as the ongoing trial in the Vatican over the misappropriation and disclosure of confidential documents, the conference in Paris, regarding which he recalled that the planet “is at the brink of suicide”, but he voiced his trust in the action of the leaders at the summit.

Most of the questions dealt with the various legs of the journey, beginning with the first stop in Kenya. When asked what he felt, meeting the poor families of the slum, the Pontiff shared that he had felt great sadness. He then spoke of the children in the subsequent visit to the only paediatric hospital of Bangui and the Central African Republic. He recalled that the children in intensive care do not even have the supplies for oxygen. Many of them are malnourished and and are already condemned to certain death. This led him to renew his denunciation of idolatry, which arises with the loss of identity as children of God and instead seeks a tailor-made god. He emphasized that if humanity doesn’t change, there will be no end to the miseries, tragedies, wars, injustices and the children dying of starvation.

Regarding the visit in Uganda, the Pope spoke of how this country identifies with its Martyrs. “The people, both Catholic and Anglican”, he said, “venerate the Martyrs”. In his visit to the Anglican and Catholic shrines, he noted that “the remembrance of the Martyrs” is the peoples’ “identity card, the courage to give one’s life for an ideal”. In his final remarks, the Pope noted that the Central African Republic has a desire for peace, reconciliation and forgiveness.

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