Equatorial Guinean Leader Hears Papal Call for Freedom

Pope Asks President Nguema to Work With Christian Community

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VATICAN CITY, DEC. 2, 2004 (Zenit.org).- John Paul II appealed for the implementation of freedom and the promotion of reconciliation, when he met in audience President Theodore Obiang Nguema of Equatorial Guinea.

The Pope said that in Equatorial Guinea «the Church, along with evangelization, develops with the means available a generous work of education, health and the promotion of the most disabled.»

«Inspired by the Gospel, she wishes only to serve the promotion of the dignity of man, in an appropriate climate of freedom, collaboration, reconciliation, understanding and respect, which makes possible the peaceful and fruitful fulfillment of her spiritual and humanitarian mission,» the Holy Father added.

John Paul II hoped that President Nguema’s visit to the Vatican today would «contribute to an understanding and to cordial and serene relations between the public authorities and the Christian community, which will benefit all the citizens in their yearnings to improve their conditions of life, in such a way that they will be able to fulfill themselves as persons and as children of God.»

The Pope, who visited Equatorial Guinea in 1982, expressed his «best wishes to all the Guinean people and invoked upon them abundant divine blessings that will encourage them in their hopes and legitimate aspirations.»

Although nominally a constitutional democracy since 1991, the 1996 and 2002 presidential elections, as well as the 1999 legislative elections in Equatorial Guinea, were widely seen as being flawed.

Despite the country’s economic windfall from oil production, resulting in a massive increase in government revenue in recent years, there have been few improvements in the country’s living standards.

Nguema’s visit took place a week after a trial, held in the capital, Malabo, sentenced several people found guilty of launching an attempted coup against the president last March.

About 94% of Equatorial Guinea’s 523,000 inhabitants are Catholics.

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