VATICAN CITY, OCT. 4, 2009 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the public address Benedict XVI gave today before praying the midday Angelus with the pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square.
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Dear Brothers and Sisters!
This morning the Eucharistic Celebration for the opening of the Second Special Assembly for Africa of the Synod of Bishops took place in St. Peter’s Basilica, during which prayers were also said in different African languages. My venerable predecessor, John Paul II, convoked the first “African Synod” in 1994, in view of the year 2000 and the third Christian millennium. He, who with his missionary zeal was so many times a pilgrim on African soil, gathered together the contents that emerged from that meeting in the apostolic exhortation “Ecclesia in Africa,” re-launching the evangelization of the continent. 15 years later this new assembly places itself in continuity with the first one, to verify the path taken, to consider certain aspects and to examine the most recent challenges. The theme that was chosen is: “The Church in Africa at the Service of Reconciliation, Justice and Peace,” accompanied by the words Christ addressed to his disciples: “You are the salt of the earth … you are the light of the world” (Matthew 5:13, 14).
Synods always constitute an intense ecclesial experience, an experience of pastoral collegial responsibility in regard to a specific aspect of the life of the Church, or rather, as in this case, of a part of the Christian people determined on the basis of a geographic area. The Pope and his closest coworkers join together with the designated members of the assembly, with the experts and auditors, to reflect on the chosen theme. It is important to emphasize that it is not a matter of a study group, nor a programmatic assembly. Communications and speeches are heard in the hall, there is discussion in groups, but we all know that we are not the protagonists: it is the Lord, his Holy Spirit, who guides the Church. The most important thing, for everyone, is listening: listening to each other and, everyone, listening to what the Lord wants to tell us. Thus the Synod takes place in a climate of faith and prayer, in religious obedience to the Word of God. It is the place of the Successor of Peter to convoke and guide the synodal assembly, gather together what emerges from the work and then offer the opportune pastoral instructions.
Dear Friends, Africa is a continent that has an extraordinary human wealth. Currently, its population amounts to nearly 1 billion inhabitants and its total birth rate is the highest in the world. Africa is a land fruitful with human life, but this life is unfortunately marked by such poverty and at times is tormented by terrible injustices. The Church is dedicated to overcome them with the power of the Gospel and the concrete solidarity of many charitable institutions and initiatives. Let us pray to the Virgin Mary that she bless the Second Special Assembly for Africa and obtain peace and development for that great and beloved continent.[After the Angelus the Holy Father made the following remarks in Italian:]
My thought turns, in this moment, to the populations of the Pacific and southeast Asia, stricken in recent days by violent natural calamities: the tsunami in the islands of Samoa and Tonga; the typhoon in the Philippines, that then hit Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia; the devastating earthquake in Indonesia. These catastrophes have caused grave losses of human life, numerous missing and homeless persons and enormous material damage. I think, furthermore, of those who are suffering from the floods in Sicily, especially around Messina. I invite everyone to join me in prayer for the victims and their loved ones. I am spiritually near to those who have been displaced and to all those persons who have been tried, imploring from God the relief of their pain. I ask that these brothers and sisters do not lack our solidarity and the support of the international community.
At the conclusion of the Angelus of this particular Sunday in which I have opened the Second Special Assembly for Africa of the Synod of Bishops, I cannot forget the conflicts that currently threaten the peace and security of the peoples of the African continent. I recent days I have followed with apprehension the grave episodes of violence that have shaken the population of Guinea. I express my condolences to the families of the victims, I invite the parties to dialogue, to reconciliation and I am certain that no efforts will be spared to arrive at an equitable and just solution.
Next Saturday afternoon, October 10, together with the synod fathers, I will lead a special recitation of the Rosary “with Africa and for Africa” in the Hall of Paul VI, with the special participation of young university students of Rome. The students of certain African countries will join in via satellite link. Dear Young University Students, I am expecting many of you, to entrust to Mary, “Sedes Sapientiae” (Seat of Wisdom), the path of the Church and the society of the African continent.[Translation by Joseph G. Trabbic] [The Pope greeted the pilgrims in various languages. In English, he said:]
I offer a warm welcome to the English-speaking visitors gathered for this Angelus prayer. I invite all of you to join me in praying for the Second Special Assembly of the Synod of Bishops for Africa, which opened this morning in Saint Peter’s Basilica. May this great ecclesial event strengthen the Church in Africa in her witness to the Gospel of Jesus Christ and in her efforts to promote reconciliation, justice and peace among its peoples. May the Synod also help turn the eyes of the world to that great continent and inspire renewed solidarity with our African brothers and sisters. As we entrust these prayers to the intercession of Our Lady, I invoke upon you and your families God’s blessings of joy and peace!
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