LUANDA, Angola, MARCH 20, 2009 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI’s journey to Angola is regarded by the people of the nation as “a blessing of peace,” says the national director of Caritas-Angola.
Sister Marlene Wildner said in a statement ahead of the Pope’s arrival today that his arrival to the country “is a sign that the universal Church has not forgotten the Angolan people. Most of the population is highly mobilized in different ways, with prayers, community planning and groups coming from other provinces.”
The essential work Caritas carries out in Angola today is focused on programs for development and sustainability; professional formation, especially for young people and women; as well as the fight against AIDS and its prevention.
It is expected that the building of peace will be a key aspect of the papal visit to the country. Angola is emerging from a civil war that devastated the country for almost 30 years.
Caritas-Angola was one of the few humanitarian initiatives that worked during the years of conflict. It promoted the cease-fire that made humanitarian access possible and participated in an independent way in the peace negotiations.
It took food and medicines to inhabitants in the most distant regions, where no other organizations were present, and even succeeded in delivering the mail, guaranteeing communications among the peoples. In addition, it endeavored to reunite families that had been separated by the war.
According to Sister Wildner, there are still many challenges: “We must help Angola to build a society of reconciliation, solidarity, justice and peace. We must foster democracy and development, rebuilding the social bases of communities: education, health, housing, water, electricity, agriculture and professional formation.”
Benedict XVI arrived today to Angola, which was first evangelized by Portuguese missionaries in 1491.
The countries highest-ranking politicians greeted the Pontiff after midday at the Quatro de Fevereiro Airport of Luanda. In the afternoon he visited Angolan president Jose Eduardo dos Santos in Luanda’s presidential palace, and delivered an address to political and civil leaders as well as diplomatic corps.
The Pope also met with the bishops of Angola and São Tomé at Luanda’s apostolic nunciature.