Monday, March 16, 2009

"The Announcement of Peace"

Before anything else, a little mood music to get us all into the spirit of the days....

On this eve of B16's departure for Africa, the Pope's message at yesterday's Angelus departed from its usual matter of the daily readings and focused instead on the visit at hand.

Via Zenit, here it is in full translation:
Dear Brothers and Sisters!

I will be making my first apostolic visit to Africa from Tuesday, March 17, to Monday, March 23. I will travel to Cameroon and to its capital, Yaoundé, to deliver the “instrumentum laboris” for the Second Special Assembly for Africa of the Synod of Bishops, which will take place in October here in the Vatican. From there I will travel to Luanda, the capital of Angola, a country that, after a long civil war, has found peace again and is now called to rebuild itself in justice.

With this visit I intend to embrace the whole African continent: its thousands of differences and profound religious soul; its ancient cultures and its toilsome road to development and reconciliation; its grave problems, its painful wounds and its enormous possibilities and hopes. I intend to confirm the African Catholics in faith, to encourage the Christians in their ecumenical commitment, and bring to all the announcement of peace that the Lord has entrusted to his Church.

As I prepare myself for this missionary journey, in my soul resounds the words of the Apostle Paul that the liturgy proposes for our meditation on this third Sunday of Lent: “We proclaim Christ crucified,” the Apostle writes to the Christians of Corinth, “a scandal to the Jews and foolishness to the pagans; but for those who are called, whether Jews or Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God” (1 Corinthians 1:23-24).

Yes, dear brothers and sisters! I depart for African with the awareness of having nothing else to propose and give to those whom I will meet if not Christ and the Good News of his cross, mystery of supreme love, of divine love that defeats all human resistance and in the end makes forgiveness and love of enemies possible. This is the grace of the Gospel that is capable of transforming the world; this is the grace that can renew Africa, because it generates an irresistible power of peace and of deep and radical reconciliation. The Church does not pursue economic, social and political objectives; the Church proclaims Christ, certain that the Gospel can touch the hearts of all and transform them, renewing persons and society from within.

On March 19, during the pastoral visit to Africa, we will celebrate the Solemnity of St. Joseph, patron of the universal Church, and my personal patron. St. Joseph, warned in a dream by an angel, had to flee with Mary to Egypt, in Africa, to take the newly born Jesus to a safe place, far from King Herod who wanted to kill him. The Scriptures were thus fulfilled: Jesus followed in the footsteps of the patriarchs of old and, like the people of Israel, reentered the Promised Land after having been in exile in Egypt. To the heavenly intercession of this great saint I entrust this upcoming pilgrimage and the peoples of all of Africa, with the challenges that face them and the hopes that animate them. I think especially of the victims of hunger, disease, injustices, of the fratricidal conflicts and of every form of violence that, unfortunately, continues to strike adults and children, without sparing missionaries, priests, religious, and volunteers. Brothers and sisters, accompany me on this trip with your prayers, invoking Mary, Mother and Queen of Africa.
And for a richer picture of what's doing on the ground (well, among other things), the bishops of Nigeria -- the continent's largest country and home to a booming Catholic community whose "generous growth" won high praise from the Pope on its ad limina visit to Rome last month -- concluded a post-meeting plenary over the weekend, releasing a closing statement on "The Word of God and the Building of the Nigerian Nation," snipped below:

With all the added exposure this visit will bring for Africa's ecclesiastical A-list, one particular figure to keep an eye out for over the week is Archbishop John Onaiyekan of Abuja -- one of the continent's best-regarded, most media savvy movers on the church scene.

The former chair of the Nigerian bench and head of the 400,000-member church in the country's new capital, the Scripture scholar made waves during last October's Synod on the Word by endorsing the Democratic candidate... for the American Presidency.