Aide Says Ponitff to Pack Hope for Africa Trip

Spokesman Expects Whole Church to Focus on Continent

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VATICAN CITY, NOV. 3, 2008 ( Benedict XVI will make his first trip to Africa to give hope to peoples that suffer violence and poverty, says a Vatican spokesman.

Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, director of the Vatican press office, affirmed this on the most recent edition of Vatican Television’s «Octava Dies.»

The Holy Father announced at the end of the world Synod of Bishops his plans to travel to Angola and Cameroon next March, an announcement that Father Lombardi called «an important piece of news.»

«John Paul II,» he said, «who had given Africa his passionate attention — coming to be called ‘John Paul II the African’ by [the late] Cardinal Hyacinthe Thiandoum [of Dakar, Sengal] — was unable to return to the continent during the last years of his pontificate. His last brief trips there were in ’98 to Nigeria and in 2000 to Egypt and Sinai.»

For his part, Benedict XVI has not yet traveled to Africa in his three and a half years as Pope.

«Certainly, Africa, with its grave problems, has been present in his words and his heart, but a trip always has broad implications of participation, presence and direct contact,» Father Lombardi continued. «Moreover, 2009 will be the year of the special assembly of the synod of bishops for Africa, and the Pope’s trip will have a fundamental role in its preparation, such that the whole of the Church will direct its gaze toward Africa.

«The spiritual and practical solidarity of the universal community of believers will accompany the renewed commitment of growth in the Catholic communities which — like that of Angola — already have five centuries of life, have their history and tradition with their base that serves for looking to the future.»

«All of us have in mind the dramatic images of conflict and poverty, but also an extraordinary vitality of the continent, which must be liberated, animated, sustained and oriented, so that Africans can build Africa with dignity and hope,» Father Lombardi concluded. «A message of hope: This is certainly what Pope Benedict XVI will bring to African lands.»

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