VATICAN CITY, APRIL 1, 2009 ( Benedict XVI made an extensive balance of his trip to Cameroon and Angola during this week's general audience in St. Peter's Square.

Although he limited his journey to the two African countries, the Pontiff said he "wished to embrace all the African people and bless them in the name of the Lord."

The Holy Father called Cameroon, the "heart of Africa," and noted its many characteristics, including "its profound religious soul, which unites the very numerous ethnic groups that inhabit it."

"In Cameroon," he explained, "more than a quarter of the population is Catholic, and they coexist peacefully with the other religious communities. This is why in 1995 my beloved Predecessor John Paul II chose precisely the capital of this nation to promulgate the apostolic exhortation 'Ecclesia in Africa,' after the first synodal assembly dedicated precisely to the African continent."

Benedict XVI's trip to the continent coincided with the publication of the "instrumentum laboris" for the Second Special Assembly for Africa, which will take place in October.

He presented the working document for the synod during a Mass at Yaoundé's Amadou Ahidjo Stadium, which he said was "undoubtedly one of the culminating moments of the journey."

"The synodal assembly will take place in Rome," the Pope noted, "but in a certain sense it has already started in the heart of the African continent, in the heart of the Christian family that lives, suffers and hopes there."

"Faith in the 'God who is close,'" he added, "who has shown us in Jesus his face of love, is the guarantee of a sure hope, for Africa and for the whole world, guarantee of a future of reconciliation, justice and peace."


After the liturgy, the Holy Father met with members of the Special Council for Africa of the Synod of Bishops: "We reflected together on the history of Africa from a theological and pastoral perspective.

"It was almost as the first meeting of the synod itself, in a fraternal debate between the various episcopates and the Pope in view of the synod of reconciliation and peace in Africa."

Benedict XVI explained: "In the present age, which witnesses an Africa determined to consolidate its political independence and the building of its national identities in a globalized context, the Church accompanies Africans offering the great message of Vatican Council II, implemented through the first, and now the second special synodal assembly.

"In the midst of conflicts, unfortunately numerous and tragic, that still afflict the different regions of this continent, the Church knows she is a sign and instrument of unity and reconciliation so that the whole of Africa can build, united, a future of justice, solidarity and peace, carrying out the teachings of the Gospel."
The Pope recalled his meetings with bishops both in Cameroon and Angola, during which he spoke to them about "the urgency of evangelization," and the need to "always an example for their priests and for all the faithful."

Turning his attention to Angola, which has recently ended a long civil war and is now working to reconstruct, the Pontiff called the nation "emblematic": "In Angola one touches with one's hand what my venerated predecessors have repeated: Everything is lost with war, everything can be reborn with peace.

"But to reconstruct a nation, many moral energies are necessary. And because of this, once again, the role of the Church is important, called to develop an educational function, working in depth to renew and form consciences."