‘We praise the Lord together for this pilgrimage in Africa, and let us be guided by its key words: ‘Be strong in faith, do not be afraid’; ‘You will be my witnesses’; ‘Let us cross to the other side.'”
The Holy Father made this exhortation to the faithful gathered at his weekly General Audience this morning in St. Peter’s Square, as he discussed his recent Apostolic Visit to Africa, where he visited the capitals of Kenya, Uganda, and Central African Republic, Nov. 25-30.
Saying he brought a message of hope to each of the nation’s he visited, Francis noted that each of his stops had a special place in his heart.
Kenya, as a country blessed with great human and natural resources, he said, makes us reflect on “the worldwide challenge of protecting the environment and creating equitable, inclusive and sustainable models of development” and “the need to form our young in the ways of peace and fraternity.”
“I had the joy of bringing the word of hope of the Risen Jesus: ‘Be strong in faith, not fear,'” he said, recalling this was the visit’s motto, and remembered the tragic and heroic witness of those killed at the University of Garissa, on April 2, for being Christians.
“Their blood is the seed of peace and brotherhood for Kenya, for Africa and for the whole world,” he said.</p>
Turning to Uganda, which he referred to as the land of the martyrs, he expressed his hope that its Christian community perseveres in its witness of faith and charity, “and thus to be a leaven of hope for society as a whole.”
He also spoke about the Ugandan youth, who, despite difficulties, preserve the gift of hope and “try to live the Gospel and not according to the world, going against the current.” He also praised the example of the many priests, and consecrated men and women, who “renew daily their ‘yes’ to Christ and dedicate themselves with joy to the service of the holy people of God.” He also lauded the nation’s effective efforts to fight AIDS and welcome refugees.
Speaking on the final leg of his trip, the Pope reiterated that visiting the Central African Republic was the main point of his visit to the continent. With the country experiencing internal conflicts and great suffering, he reminded those present, that his opening of the first Holy Door of the Jubilee of Mercy is to be “as a sign of hope and strength for its people and for all our brothers and sisters in Africa.”
The Pope, off the cuff, spoke on missionaries who work and live in Africa and of their sacrifices. He also told the story of an 81-year-old Italian missionary who has been living there since about age 20, and invited young people to consider being missionaries, and to “never exclude” the possibility.
The Holy Father also asked those gathered to join him in commending Africans and their aspirations to Jesus, “our peace, who is himself the door which opens wide to the merciful love of our heavenly Father.”