Pilgrim of hope
Fr Pawel Rozpiatkowski
The Holy Father Benedict XVI begins his pilgrimage to Africa on 17 March. The Successor of St Peter is going to visit the Black Continent for the eleventh time. The tour will include only tow countries: Cameroon and Angola. Because of poverty and communication problems only small groups of both nations will be able to take part in the meetings. What can we be sure of? Enthusiasm and joy. The Pope has always been cordially welcomed there and perhaps he experiences such a welcome nowhere else although the people of Africa have not known the Holy Father for a long time since the history of Christianity on this continent is the shortest one. The Pope has never let the Africans down. He has always supported them. The inhabitants of Africa have not had much joy in their daily lives. Let me give you the latest news, received just before the papal pilgrimage. In Congo some other military forces are trying to achieve relative peace and the Japanese give eight million dollars for bomb disposal. In Madagascar the army threatens to intervene because of the political crisis. The Ugandan daily ‘New Vision’ focused on the case of the 23 year-old man who had been drafted into Kony’s army as a child and now as one of very few men, he dared to say ‘enough’. In Somalia the rebels warned of further attacks against the peace forces. Apart from conflicts that have afflicted many countries, poverty, which has grown because of the world crisis, strikes numerous people. The visit of the Holy Father to Cameroon and Angola is another chance for the world to look, even for a moment, at this most harmed continent. For the next days Africa will be in focus of the public opinion since it has no such luck every day as if the world has discerned that Africa is not worth speaking of because its situation is irreparable. Benedict XVI, like his predecessors, is the greatest advocate for those who are most afflicted. They can feel this support. The Holy Father is meeting the ecclesiastical community of the Black Continent. Undoubtedly, the religious aspect of his visit is most important. Although the Church in Africa is expensive and dynamic it needs to be strengthened and needs new impulses for actions. ‘It is a maturing Church’, Archbishop Henryk Hoser has said in his recent interview. Currently, he is the Bishop of Warsaw-Praga and for many years he worked as a missionary in Africa. The evangelisation of most African countries started only over one hundred years ago. And although it is still a missionary Church the number of local priests is increasing. The clergy and the laity hope that Benedict XVI’s visit will be another step in this maturing. In Cameroon Benedict XVI will give the representatives of the African Bishops’ Conference the ‘instrumentum laboris’, i.e. the working document for the Second Assembly for Africa of the Synod of Bishops, which is to be held in the Vatican. On 4-25 October 2009 the bishops will meet to discuss ‘The Church in Africa, at the Service of Reconciliation, Justice and Peace: You Are the Salt of the Earth; You Are the Light of the World.’ The topic itself points to the social problems of Africa. Certainly, at many places Benedict XVI will refer to injustice, peace and reconciliation and will present solutions for Africa’s problems. His solution will be to proclaim the love of merciful God. The community of believers has faced many challenges for years but now it faces new challenges: the expansion of Islam, which the bishops in many African countries pointed to, and the increasing economic exploitation of the Black Continent, in which China has taken the lead lately. Certainly, the pilgrimage is not going to be easy but the Africans will welcome Benedict XVI with great joy, resulting from their hope for better lives. The Holy Father returns to the Vatican on 23 March.