Pope Lauds South Africa's Support of Continent

Urges Country to Keep Moving Forward

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VATICAN CITY, JUNE 1, 2009 (Zenit.org).- South Africa, after its “rapid and peaceful” transition to democracy, has a unique opportunity to support the African continent, says Benedict XVI.

The Pope affirmed this Friday in a written address he gave to South Africa’s new ambassador to the Holy See, George Johannes. The Holy Father that day received in audience and addressed eight new ambassadors, giving each a written statement afterward. The envoys present represented Mongolia, India, Benin, New Zealand, South Africa, Burkina Faso, Namibia and Norway.

The Pontiff noted that “South Africa’s rapid and peaceful transition to democratic rule has been widely acclaimed” and he affirmed that the “Holy See has followed with interest and encouragement this historic period of change.”

He recognized the role of former president Nelson Mandela in the progress achieved, asking the ambassador to extend to Mandela his “personal good wishes for his health and well-being.”

“I also wish to recognize the contribution of all those many ordinary men and women whose integrity, reflected in their honest approach to work, has also helped to lay the foundations for a future of peace and prosperity for all,” he added.

The Bishop of Rome noted the size, population and economic resources of South Africa, saying these elements make it one of Africa’s most influential nations.

He continued: “This gives her a unique opportunity to support other African countries in their efforts to achieve stability and economic progress. Having overcome the isolation associated with the Apartheid era, yet drawing on its own painful experience, your country has made commendable efforts to bring about reconciliation in other lands through its peacekeeping forces and diplomatic initiatives. […]

“I encourage South Africa to strengthen her commitment to the noble task of assisting other nations along the road of peace and reconciliation and, especially in these difficult economic times, to continue to use her considerable human and material resources in ways conducive to the good governance and prosperity of neighboring countries.”

Referring to Johannes’ address in which the ambassador noted South African problems to overcome poverty, Benedict XVI affirmed that the “distress and aggressiveness caused by poverty, unemployment and family breakdown make the efforts of the government to address these difficulties all the more urgent.”

He went on to express confidence in the citizens of the nation: “The people of South Africa have shown great moral courage and wisdom in facing past injustices. I am confident that in the current struggle against poverty and corruption, such courage and wisdom will again prevail.”

The Pope added that the Church is confident its contribution in education, social programs and health care “have a positive impact on the life of the country.”

He particularly noted the Church’s efforts regarding HIV/AIDS: “[T]he Church takes seriously her part in the campaign against the spread of HIV/AIDS by emphasizing fidelity within marriage and abstinence outside of it. At the same time she already offers much assistance on a practical level to people suffering from this affliction on your continent and throughout the world.”

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Full text: www.zenit.org/article-26053?l=english

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