Cameroon President Assures Pope of Cooperation

Says Pontiff’s Visit Is Antidote to “Afro-pessimism”

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YAOUNDÉ, Cameroon, MARCH 18, 2009 ( After receiving Benedict XVI in the capital’s airport Tuesday afternoon, the Cameroon president committed himself to promote civic rights and affirmed that the Papal visit is an antidote to “Afro-pessimism.”
In his welcome address to the Pope, President Paul Biya acknowledged that “it is impossible not to support the Church’s appeal for greater justice for African peoples, decimated by pandemics, poverty and hunger, on occasions deprived of their most elementary rights and subjected to degrading conditions of life.”
Quoting a Cameroonian priest, the president, in office since November 1982, questioned “how it is possible not to hear the cry of the African man.”
He assured the Holy Father of his efforts as a political leader to “respond to the expectations of our people in the exercise of their civic rights and satisfaction of their needs in the areas of education, health and level of life.”
He spoke about the political system of his country of more than 18 million inhabitants, assuring the Pontiff that he will continue to make every effort to walk in the “good direction” of democracy.
Biya pointed out that the country’s priority must be the promotion of peace. He recalled, as an example of this commitment to peace, the negotiations regarding a dispute over the peninsula of Bakassi, which in 1981 almost ignited a war between Cameroon and Nigeria.
In 2002 the International Court of Justice decided that the territory is of Cameroonian sovereignty, and it was ceded to this country on Aug. 14, 2008.
Biya explained, “Thanks to shared goodwill and the support of the United Nations and of some friendly powers, this thorny problem was able to be resolved with general satisfaction.”
He added, “Thus, a path has been opened for a beneficent cooperation with our great brother,” Nigeria.
The president thanked the Holy Father for convoking the Second Special Synod for Africa, which will be held in Rome next October. The working document [instrumentum laboris] will be published Thursday.
He affirmed that in the Pope’s decision to hold this synod, Africans see “the constant interest you have in those who suffer because of war, poverty, sickness and oppression.”
“This affirmed solidarity,” he concluded, “is also an encouragement for them not to yield to ‘Afro-pessimism’ and to continue with their efforts to build a more just society of solidarity.”

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