The Pope's latest international journey is indeed already important. And this has been perceived by the media, although they have reduced it to a single aspect – distorted moreover in a polemic key – namely, the methods for preventing the spread of Aids.
Yes, Benedict XVI's presence in Cameroon and Angola is important, as the journalists in his entourage understood immediately from his answers to their questions as the aeroplane flew over the Sahara Desert. And this became clear in the Pope's first two Addresses, during the Welcome Ceremony and to the Bishops.
Indeed the journalists were the first to offer the Pope their congratulations – which our newspaper too offers him with affection – on the Feast Day of his Patron Saint.
This trip has various important aspects: the Visit – the third of a Pontiff in a little more than 20 years – to two large countries such as Cameroon, correctly presented as an “Africa in miniature”, and Angola; the closeness which the Bishop of Rome has chosen to express in this way to the entire African continent, where Catholicism is young and growing vigorously, with its ancient roots and remarkable achievements; and the collegial dimension, which this time has been accentuated more than usual on international Papal Visits.
This collegial aspect of the African journey was underlined by Benedict XVI when he was questioned about his presumed loneliness, a portrayal which, he said, he found “rather amusing”. He then immediately added that he is surrounded by friends, indeed, by a whole “network of friends”, formed first of all by the Cardinal Secretary of State and by his closest collaborators in a daily collegial commitment – which is a historical feature of the Roman Curia, marked by regular audiences, by visits from Bishops, by the Plenary Meetings of the Congregations – as he made a point of explaining to those who refuse to understand; in an ever more pronounced circular motion between the centre and the periphery.
His daily work includes the long and conscientious preparation of his Journeys. For almost half a century these journeys have become a new form of papal service. Like this one, in which not only the most senior officials in charge of the Secretariat of State are symbolically taking part but also a Cardinal Bishop who comes from Africa, the Cardinal Prefect and the Archbishop Secretary (also an African) of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, and the Archbishop Secretary of the Synod of Bishops.
Thanks to this preparation, through continual exchanges with the Papal Representatives in the various countries and with the Episcopates, the international Visits of the Bishop of Rome bear both immediate and lasting fruit – as can be seen in these very hours in the authentic and moving enthusiasm of the Cameroonian faithful.
Like his Predecessors, Benedict XVI travels to bear witness to the Lord and to proclaim him. And this is having a significant political effect. As now in his invitation to the African continent and the entire international community to join forces in a common commitment that will help surmount the global crisis.
St. Peter’s Square
Sept. 18, 2019
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