VATICAN CITY, MAY 25, 2005 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI appealed to the international community on Africa Day for greater commitment in solving that continent’s problems.
The Pope made his appeal during today’s general audience in St. Peter’s Square, which gathered about 27,000 pilgrims, including some African heads of state and government.
The African leaders at the audience were Blaise Compaore, president of Burkina Faso; Amadou Toumani Toure, president of Mali; and Absalom Themba Dlamini, prime minister of Swaziland, who were accompanied by their entourages.
“My thoughts and prayers are with the beloved people of Africa,” the Holy Father said in English at the end of the audience.
“I encourage our Catholic institutions to continue giving generous attention to their needs, and I hope and pray that the international community will become ever more involved in the problems of the African continent,” he added.
The Organization of African Unity was established on May 25, 1963. That date is now commemorated as Africa Day.
Africa is emerging as one of Benedict XVI’s main concerns. The Pope himself expressed this May 13, when he met with the priests of the Diocese of Rome in the Basilica of St. John Lateran.
On that occasion he said: “Africa is a continent of very great possibilities, of very great generosity on the part of its people, with a lively and impressive faith, but we must admit that Europe has exported, unfortunately, not only faith in Christ, but also vices.”
The Pope has already met personally and in group with the bishops of Rwanda, who came to Rome for their five-yearly visit. He is currently meeting with the bishops of Burundi.
On April 28, the former dean of the College of Cardinals, Cardinal Bernardin Gantin, met with Benedict XVI before returning to his home country of Benin.
In a private audience Cardinal Gantin, 83, discussed the acute problems of Africa and asked the Pope for his help.