With his trip to Africa, Pope Francis touched upon many themes, but there were some important central messages running through his speeches.
One of these regarded cooperation between different groups of believers. On speaking to the diplomatic corps in Kenya shortly after his arrival, Pope Francis spoke of mutual respect, dialogue and cooperation in a multiethnic society. The pursuit of the common good must be a goal for all, the Pontiff stressed.
It was a theme repeated in his address to the diplomatic corps in Bangui, in the Central African Republic. Unity in the midst of diversity and not fearing the views of others are vital, Pope Francis said.
He expressed the willingness of the Church to promote the common good, particularly by working for peace and reconciliation.
The theme of mutual respect was also a topic in the Pope’s address to the evangelical community in Bangui. He started by noting the common baptism that unites Christians. He also referred to another uniting factor – the ecumenism of blood.
“All our communities suffer indiscriminately as a result of injustice and the blind hatred unleashed by the devil,” he commented.
The shared suffering and shared mission unites all Christians, he insisted. He urged greater efforts to achieve unity, observing that the lack of unity among Christians is a scandal and contrary to God’s will.
It was a point he had already made in his speech to ecumenical and interreligious leaders in Nairobi. Dialogue is not optional or a luxury, but something essential, he affirmed.
Prophets of peace
Pope Francis also deplored the fact that young people are sometimes radicalized in the name of religion.
“How important it is that we be seen as prophets of peace, peacemakers who invite others to live in peace, harmony and mutual respect!,” he said.
He returned to this theme at his meeting with the Muslim community at the Grand Mosque in Bangui. Pope Francis insisted that Muslims and Christians are brothers and sisters. “Those who claim to believe in God must also be men and women of peace,” he said, referring to recent acts of violence.
“Together, we must say no to hatred, to revenge and to violence, particularly that violence which is perpetrated in the name of a religion or of God himself,” the Pontiff added.
Understanding why violence and other problems exist was a main theme of the spontaneous address Pope Francis gave to a gathering of young people in Kenya. The spirit of evil, he explained, “leads us to disunion, to tribalism, to corruption, to dependence on drugs.”
Life is full of difficulties and temptations to follow the path of evil, but he commented that we all have the possibility to choose. He urged them to reject both tribalism and corruption. “Corruption is not a way of life but a way of death,” he warned them.
The alternative is to build lives firmly based on faith and family life, a theme Pope Francis dealt with in his homily at the Mass held at the University of Nairobi. He mentioned the Gospel parable about building a house on rock, rather than sand.
God, “wants all of us to build our lives on the firm foundation of his word,” he explained and asks each one of his to go out and be his missionaries to convey the truth, beauty and power of the Gospel.
Rejecting materialism and indifference
Pope Francis also spoke of the importance of strong family life and the need to care for the elderly and the unborn, thus avoiding the errors of “a culture of materialism selfishness and indifference to others.”
Communicating the Gospel message was something the Pope spoke about in his speech to catechists and teachers in Uganda. Their work is a holy work, he said, and in the midst of obstacles and limited resources they should not forget that the Holy Spirit is present to give them light and strength.
He also reminded them that the Church in Uganda grew strong thanks to the testimony of martyrs, who gave witness to the truth that sets us free.
Pope Francis referred to the Catholic and Anglican martyrs again in his speech to Ugandan authorities. The celebration of the fiftieth anniversary of the canonization of the martyrs reminds, he said, “of the importance that faith, moral rectitude and commitment to the common good have played, and continue to play, in the cultural, economic and political life of this country.”
This, his visit to Africa, the Pope said, was meant to draw attention to Africa as a whole, as a continent of hope, with abundant natural resources, and blessed in its people.
“I pray that you, and all the beloved Ugandan people, will always prove worthy of the values which have shaped the soul of your nation,” he concluded. A prayer that could be applied to the entire continent.