Key Moment for Angola, Says Cardinal Martino

Urges National Reconciliation at a Symposium

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LUANDA, Angola, MARCH 7, 2005 ( National reconciliation is crucial in order for Angola to achieve peace and development, says a Vatican official.

Cardinal Renato Martino, president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, made that point Sunday at the close of a Church-promoted symposium here aimed at fostering peace in this African nation.

The symposium, entitled «Builders of Peace,» was held in preparation for the 2006 elections.

The country’s 27-year civil war ended in 2002. Fighting between the Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola and the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola followed independence from Portugal in 1975.

Up to 1.5 million lives may have been lost in the quarter-century of fighting in the southern African nation.

«This is a most important moment to begin to build internal peace and it requires reconciliation,» Cardinal Martino said in an interview on Vatican Radio. «Reconciliation is an imperative condition to be able to live in peace and to collaborate in the country’s development.»

He emphasized the contribution that the Church offers to reconciliation through Vatican Radio, which is experiencing difficulties, posed by the government, in broadcasting throughout the country of 10.9 million people.

«In a democracy, all those who make up the country must be able to express freely their own position, suggestions and aspirations,» said Cardinal Martino.

«This seems to be also a prerogative of Vatican Radio, as it is an expression of a large part of the Angolan people and, therefore, a condition for Catholics to be able to make their voice heard,» he continued.

«And this forms part of participation in communal life, which is one of the principal characteristics of democracy,» he noted.

Cardinal Martino invited the Angolans to «be agents in the process of democracy, as democracy is not only the result of formal respect of the rules, but rather the fruit of convinced acceptance of the values that express and inspire democratic processes, namely, the dignity of every human person, respect for the rights of man, and the common good.»

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