ABOARD THE PAPAL PLANE, MARCH 18, 2009 (Zenit.org).- In the midst of the financial crisis, which might put a stop to programs for Africa’s development, Benedict XVI says he hopes to promote the Church’s social doctrine during his trip to the continent, in particular solidarity.
The Pope said this in a press conference with journalists Tuesday while flying to Cameroon for his 11th international apostolic journey, and his first to the African continent. During the next days he will also visit Angola.
In particular, he addressed the impact of the economic crisis on poor countries and the importance of ethics for the world economic order, an argument he will develop in the next encyclical.
“We were about to publish it,” he explained, “when this crisis was unleashed and we took the text up again to respond more adequately, in the ambit of our competence, in the ambit of the social doctrine of the Church, but with reference to the real elements of the present crisis.
“Hence I hope that the encyclical will also be an element, a force to overcome the present difficult situation.”
Benedict XVI said the cause of the recession is above all of an ethical nature: “We all know that an essential element of the crisis is, in fact, a lack of ethics in economic structures.”
For this reason, during his trip to Cameroon and Angola the Pontiff will speak of God and of the great values of Christian life, thus offering a contribution to the analysis and understanding of the economic crisis.
Benedict XVI said he would appeal to the international community to be in solidarity with Africa, especially Catholics: “The Church is catholic, that is, universal, open to all cultures, to all continents.
“It is present in all political systems and so solidarity is a fundamentally internal principle for Catholicism.
“Naturally, I would like to appeal first of all to Catholic solidarity itself, extending it however also to the solidarity of all those who see their responsibility in the human society of today.”
In Africa there are new governments and a new willingness to fight corruption, which is one of the great problems that must be defeated, he added.
The Bishop of Rome expressed his satisfaction at being able finally to visit this continent, a project he has hoped to realize since the beginning of his pontificate: “I love Africa, I have so many African friends from the time I was a professor up to today; I love the joy of the faith, the joyful faith that is found in Africa.”
The Holy Father acknowledged that in Africa, as in other places, the Church is not a “perfect society.” For this reason he will promote an “interior purification” of the Church, which is not a purification of the structures, but of the heart and the conscience, as structures are the result of what the heart is.
The Pope also spoke about AIDS and the Christian perspective on love and sexuality, as well as the effective commitment of so many Catholic institutions in favor of the sick.
“I would say that this problem of AIDS can’t be overcome only with publicity slogans,” he said. “If there is not the soul, if the Africans are not helped, the scourge can’t be resolved with the distribution of condoms: on the contrary, there is a risk of increasing the problem.
“The solution can only be found in a double commitment: first, a humanization of sexuality, that is, a spiritual and human renewal that brings with it a new way of behaving with one another; and second, a true friendship, also and above all for those who suffer, the willingness — even with sacrifice and self-denial — to be with the suffering. And these are the factors that help and that lead to visible progress.
Asked about the image of a Pontiff who is “alone,” isolated, published by the media recently following the controversies over the case of Bishop Richard Williamson and the lifting of the excommunication of three other prelates, followers of Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, Benedict XVI answered smiling: “To tell the truth, I must say that this myth of my loneliness makes me feel like smiling: In no way do I feel alone. Every day I receive, on the list of visits, my closest collaborators, starting with the secretary of state.”
“I am really surrounded by friends in a wonderful collaboration with bishops, with collaborators, with laymen and I am grateful for this.”
The Holy Father also spoke about religious sects, a widespread phenomenon in Africa, pointing out that the Christian proclamation is serene, as it proposes a God who is close to the human being and creates a great network of solidarity.
In fact, he said, traditional religions are opening themselves to the Gospel, as they are beginning to see that the God of Catholics is not a distant God.
The Pope confirmed his confidence in interreligious dialogue. Referring to relations with Muslims, he said that mutual respect is growing in the common ethical responsibility.
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