Don't Give Up on Africa, West Is Told

Papal Envoy Tells of Lessons the Continent Can Teach

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VATICAN CITY, NOV. 18, 2002 (Zenit.org).- The West shouldn’t give up on Africa, says a Vatican official fresh from a trip to AIDS-ravaged Uganda.

«We follow American television too readily,» warned Archbishop Paul Josef Cordes, president of the Pontifical Council «Cor Unum.» «CNN opens the horizon of our interest, but Africa is not of interest for the United States.»

The archbishop, who traveled to Uganda at the end of October to support the work of the country’s Catholic nongovernmental organizations and to donate $500,000 to AIDS programs, evaluated his trip for ZENIT.

The German archbishop believes that the West has much to learn from Africa.

«There is much poverty,» he acknowledged. «But it is a young, vital continent, which can teach us real anthropology, because it has not lived through our Enlightenment, which entails the separation of man in so many areas.»

«Africans have a stronger sensitivity,» he added. «They don’t need green areas to discover nature. And this should open us to the problems and riches of Africa.»

On just one Sunday afternoon, when he visited a medical center, Archbishop Cordes baptized 60 children. «It is a proof of the vitality and joy that Africans teach us old Westerners,» he said.

Part of the $500,000 papal donation was allocated to AVSI (Association of Volunteers for International Service), a Catholic nongovernmental organization created by members of the Communion and Liberation ecclesial movement.

The project’s objectives are to give orphans a family; to foster education through the construction and support of schools, to offer health education to prevent AIDS; to offer professional training, especially for boys who leave juvenile detention centers; to establish a home, run by the Missionaries of Charity, for children terminally ill with AIDS.

«In Uganda, 50% of the children have lost at least one parent because of AIDS,» said a «Cor Unum» press statement. «The majority of them run the risk of ending up on the street» and becoming involved in crime.

Archbishop Cordes expressed the Pope’s support for the home for terminally ill children.

«Uganda has become the laboratory country in the struggle against AIDS: It is one of the few nations where the rate of infection of the HIV virus has registered a decrease: from 9.51% to 8.30%,» the pontifical council reported on the eve of the archbishop’s trip.

«However, these results must not be considered the point of arrival but the beginning of new interest and new projects,» it added.

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