John Paul II Mobilizes Representatives to Help Africa

Calls Them to Promote Encounter of Cultures with Christ

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CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy, SEPT. 27, 2004 ( John Paul II convoked the apostolic nuncios in Africa to study the best way to call the world’s attention to the tragedy of hunger and war the continent is enduring.

The meeting took place from Sept. 23-25 and concluded with an audience attended by the 26 papal diplomats at the papal summer residence of Castel Gandolfo. The Pope commissioned the nuncios to promote the encounter of African cultures with Christ.

“As papal representatives you are called to support the development of the ecclesial communities in favor of the integral progress of society, especially by supporting the encounter of the cultures with Christ and his Gospel,” the Holy Father clarified in his address delivered in Italian.

The Vatican Press Office published a statement Sept. 23 explaining that the decision to gather all the nuncios of Africa and Madagascar in Rome was to express to “the peoples and local Churches of Africa the spiritual closeness of Pope John Paul II and the solidarity of the whole Church.”

Moreover, the text stated, it “responded to the urgent need not to abandon that continent so that, using its abundant natural and human resources, it will be able to overcome the grave evils that afflict it and become a protagonist in its integral development.”

The Pope exhorted his representatives to be “witnesses of communion, fostering the overcoming of tensions and misunderstandings and victory over the temptation to particularity, and reinforcing the feeling of belonging to the one and undivided people of God.”

During the meeting, John Paul II expressed his awareness of the difficulties facing the apostolic nuncios in many African countries. He mentioned in particular the example of Irish Archbishop Michael Aidan Courtney, apostolic nuncio in Burundi, who was assassinated on Dec. 29, 2003, while working for peace in that country.

“Know that the Pope and the Roman Curia are by your side, as this meeting also attests,” he said.

Present at the meetings with the nuncios were Cardinal Angelo Sodano, Vatican secretary of state, Archbishop Leonardo Sandri, substitute for general affairs, Archbishop Giovanni Lajolo, Vatican secretary for relations with states, and the heads of different organizations of the Curia most directly interested in Africa.

The Vatican confirmed that, during the meetings, there was “an exchange of information” and reflection “on the political, social, economic, religious and ecclesial situation of the African continent and the most adequate ways to develop the delicate mission that has been entrusted to” the papal representatives.

Jacques Diouf, director general of the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization, addressed the meeting on the first day.

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