Benedict XVI Calls South Africa "a Factor for Peace"

Receives President Mbeki in Audience

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VATICAN CITY, MAY 6, 2005 ( South Africa has a role to play in favor of peace and promoting moral values in the African continent, says Benedict XVI.

The Pope made this comment today when he received South African President Thabo Mbeki in audience.

During the meeting, characterized by cordialness, Mbeki, a partner of Nelson Mandela in the struggle against apartheid, “explained the situation in South Africa to His Holiness, also with reference to the rest of the African continent.”

According to the statement published by Vatican spokesman Joaquín Navarro Valls, the “Holy Father emphasized the role the Republic of South Africa can play as a factor for peace throughout the continent.”

The Bishop of Rome “also underlined the Church’s responsibility in promoting moral values in the Republic of South Africa and in the world.”

After Benedict XVI’s election, President Mbeki said in an official statement that the Pope “assumes leadership at a critical time in which the world’s collective wisdom and leadership including that of the religious community is most important to face up to challenges of deepening poverty and underdevelopment afflicting many people of the world.”

After the 15 minute private meeting, the Pope greeted Zanele Diamini, the South African president’s wife, and the entourage of eight persons that accompanied him. There was a “smiling, cordial, and not very formal ” atmosphere, said the journalists present.

Miranda Strydom, a South African reporter, asked the Pope: “Holiness, can you pray for our continent? We are working so hard.”

“I will, and pray for me,” replied the Pope.

After the meeting, Mbeki was received by Cardinal Angelo Sodano, Vatican secretary of state.

This was Benedict XVI’s second meeting with a head of state. He met with the president of Italy, Carlo Azeglio Ciampi, May 3.

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