Cardinal Arinze: Africa's Future Needs Peace

Expresses Hope for Upcoming Synod

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VATICAN CITY, NOV. 24, 2008 ( Nigerian-born Cardinal Francis Arinze says the theme for the October ’09 synod on Africa is «providential.»

The prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments affirmed this to L’Osservatore Romano. The Second Special Assembly for Africa of the Synod of Bishops will be on «The Church in Africa, at the Service of Reconciliation, Justice and Peace: You Are the Salt of the Earth; You Are the Light of the World.»

Cardinal Arinze said that on the continent, «though there are peaceful and democratic societies, there is still too much violence between ethnic groups, massacres and corruption.»

In this sense, the prelate affirmed that the synod theme is providential, because «there is a need for more justice and peace in Africa.»

«The Church does not have a miraculous recipe to solve the problems, and even less, political or economic solutions,» he said. «That is not her mission: She should preach the Gospel, which implies respect for the rights of others and the conversion of heart.

«If the heart converts, weapons will fall from the hands of the combatants.»

The Vatican official, who celebrated 50 years as a priest on Sunday, recalled his personal experience as the archbishop of Onitsha during Nigeria’s civil war in the 60s.

Despite the dangers he endured, the cardinal said that when he was called to Rome by Pope John Paul II in 1984 to preside over the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, he went with willingness, though «sincerely, I was content being the archbishop of Onitsha.»

«Definitely, those were hardly monotonous years,» he recalled. «When the war reached part of the archdiocese, I set about finding refuge for the fugitives and the displaced. I set about leaving these people in the care of the priests, and I sought international aid to solve the problem of a lack of basic necessities … It was a fruitful period of collaboration with priests, religious and laypeople.»

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