Archive of November 20, 2011

Church remembers its fourth Pope, St. Clement I, on Nov. 23

Denver, Colo., Nov 20, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - On Nov. 23 Roman Catholics remember the fourth Pope, St. Clement I, a disciple of the apostles who inherited the authority of St. Peter in the first century. Eastern Catholics celebrate his feast on Nov. 25.

The details of Clement's life, before his conversion and even afterward, are largely unknown. Some aspects of his writings have led scholars to believe that the fourth Pope either came from a Jewish background, or had converted to Judaism earlier in life before entering the Catholic Church.

Tradition suggests that Clement was the son of a Roman named Faustinus, and that he joined the Church in Rome during its early years through the preaching of Saint Peter or Saint Paul. He went on to share in the missionary journeys of the apostles, and may even have assisted the first Pope in running the Church on a local level.

After the deaths of St. Peter's first two successors, the canonized Popes Linus and Cletus, Clement took up St. Peter's position of primacy in the Church around the year 90. One of his most important tasks, during nearly 10 years as Pope, was to resolve serious problems in the Church of Corinth, which St. Paul had also struggled to discipline.

Clement's own letter to the Corinthians, though not part of the biblical canon, offers an important look at the role of authority and charity in the early Church. Its introduction suggests that Pope Clement composed it while his own local Church faced persecution from the Roman Emperor Domitian.

In the letter, the Pope describes how the Corinthians had once been “distinguished by humility,” being “in no respect puffed up with pride” and “more willing to give than to receive.” But in time, “the worthless rose up against the honored, those of no reputation against such as were renowned, the foolish against the wise, the young against those advanced in years.”

“Let us give up vain and fruitless cares, and approach to the glorious and venerable rule of our holy calling,” Pope Clement wrote in his call to repentance. “Let us attend to what is good, pleasing, and acceptable in the sight of him who formed us.”

Order and discipline, he noted, are at least as important in the Church as they are in the rest of creation, where the powers of nature follow God's decrees. The Pope also warned the Corinthians to follow “those who cultivate peace with godliness,” rather than “those who hypocritically profess to desire it.”

The Church Clement headed was one that honored tradition and right order as fundamentals of its life.

“It behooves us to do all things in order, which the Lord has commanded us to perform at stated times,” he told the Corinthians. God, he said, “has enjoined offerings and service to be performed ... not thoughtlessly or irregularly, but at the appointed times and hours.”

“Where and by whom (God) desires these things to be done, he himself has fixed by his own supreme will, in order that all things being piously done according to his good pleasure, may be acceptable to him.”

The fourth Pope's writings reveal much about the early Church, but little about his own life. According to one later account, he died in exile during the reign of the Emperor Trajan, who purportedly banished Clement to Crimea (near modern Ukraine) and had him killed in retaliation for evangelizing the local people. In 868 the Greek missionary St. Cyril claimed to have recovered St. Clement's bones.

St. Clement I probably died around the year 100. He is among the saints mentioned in the Western Church's most traditional Eucharistic prayer, the Roman Canon.

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Couples attend marriage gathering in Sioux City, hear talk from bishop

Sioux City, Iowa, Nov 20, 2011 (CNA) - Helping their spouse get to heaven is one of the main jobs of married couples said Bishop R. Walker Nickless at the marriage night held Oct. 28 at Stoney Creek Inn in Sioux City, Iowa.

The bishop was the guest speaker for the marriage gathering sponsored by the diocese’s Office of Religious Education and Family Life. About 30 couples from various parts of the diocese attended.

Welcoming the couples to the event, Sean Martin, director of religious education and family life, referred to Bishop Nickless’ pastoral letter in which the bishop called sacramental marriage the source of holiness for spouses, and through them, the children.

“I’m sure in the bishop’s address we will be reminded and learn some various ways of putting our faith into action in our personal lives, marriages and in the world all for the love of Christ Jesus,” Martin said.

Prior to the bishop’s talk, the couples enjoyed a meal and socializing with one another.

Through attending the gathering, Dana Koinzan, said it allowed her to see there are other people who are trying to walk in their married life with faith.

“It provides affirmation that you are on the right track,” Koinzan said, the parishioner of Cathedral of the Epiphany in Sioux City.

For Dan McCarty of Alton who attended the gathering with his wife Theresa, it provided a chance “to spend some time together and talk about our marriage and faith. What more fun can you have than that?”

He called bishop’s presentation thought-provoking.

Fred and Susanne Reding, parishioners of St. Michael of Whittemore, came to the gathering to hear the bishop speak about marriage. She wanted to learn more about how they can help the bishop and the church.

“Every chance we can get to see and be with the bishop is very worthwhile,” said Fred.

As Bishop Nickless began his presentation, he said some may be wondering what would “an old, celibate, Catholic bishop have to say about marriage?” He provided several examples of his experiences dealing with marriage.

Personal experiences

“I am one of 10 children. I watched my parents grow in their married love for 57 years,” said Bishop Nickless, whose mom died 10 days after his ordination as a bishop. Being the oldest, he noted that he saw both good and challenging things in his parents’ married life. He called them “a very normal couple with a normal family.”

After his mother died, Bishop Nickless said he experienced five years of watching his father miss his wife. “In some ways I think my dad died this past September of a broken heart,” he added.

Bishop Nickless mentioned that eight of his siblings are married and he witnessed seven of the marriages. In those relationships he has seen not only blessings but struggles, and despite challenges all remain married.

As a priest, the bishop noted, he had prepared hundreds of couples for marriage.

“I really loved to prepare couples for marriage and communication was at the center of everything we had to do,” he said. “They really needed to know each other and share things with one another.”

While the bishop didn’t shy away from talking to the couples about cohabitation, Bishop Nickless acknowledged that he wishes he would have spent more time educating them about contraception and natural family planning. He also wishes he would have stressed the importance of spending time in prayer as a couple.

“Those are some of the reasons why I have some knowledge about marriage, but there is another reason – I’m married,” he said. “I am married to the church, you are my beloved and I am called to lay down my life for you. Priests represent Christ and his bride is the church.”

Using a Scripture reference, the bishop said that in marriage a man and woman are united with each other and the two become one flesh.

“They love each other as they love themselves and cherish each other’s bodies as their own,” he said. “This union is an image of the relationship between Christ and his church.”

The bishop quoted St. Paul, “He who loves his wife, loves himself. For no one hates his own flesh but rather nourishes and cherishes it even as Christ does the church because we are members of his body. For this reason, a man shall leave his father and his mother and be joined to his wife and the two become one flesh. This is a great mystery but I speak in reverence to Christ and the church.”

Bishop Nickless pointed out that St. Paul used this image of marriage to help understand the relationship between Christ and his church.

“All of you who are in the sacrament of marriage, reflect that for us,” he said. “You are reflections of what Christ’s love for the church is all about. The way you lay down your lives for each other just as Christ did for us is a great example to the church and especially to us as priests.”

Priests, the bishop noted, have the advantage of seeing many, many married couples. They can experience the couple’s pains, sorrows and disappointments. But they can also see the many joys.

“It is wonderful to be in a happy marriage,” Bishop Nickless said. “I want to thank all of you who struggle everyday to make your marriages work. It is not only work, but it can become a real source of grace and holiness.”

He told them that God called them to the vocation of marriage so that they can help each other get to heaven.

Pastoral priorities

Bishop Nickless gave them an overview of his pastoral letter “Ecclesia Semper Reformanda” (The Church is Always in Need of Renewal) that included his five pastoral priorities for the diocese: 1) Renewed reverence, love, adoration and devotion to the Blessed Sacrament. 2) Strengthen catechesis on every level, beginning with and focusing on adults. 3) The first two priorities help with the third - fostering holy families that are the foundation of the church and society. 4) Fostering vocations to the priesthood and consecrated life. 5) Embracing the missionary character of the faith.

Two of those priorities, he noted, tie in with their attendance at the marriage gathering: providing adult catechesis and fostering holy families.

Just as he came up with priorities for this diocese, Bishop Nickless noted that the U.S. bishops have also identified priorities. Marriage and family was among the priorities. As a result, the bishop said the committee on laity, marriage, family life and youth wrote a pastoral letter in 2010 called “Marriage: Love and Life in the Divine Plan.”

“It’s no surprise that marriage and family life was chosen as a priority because when you think about what is happening in our society to marriage and family – in our country it is under attack in so many ways,” he said.

He cited some struggles: cohabitation, the lack of significance of the sacrament of marriage and marriage as a whole, same-sex marriage, contraception, sterilization, in-vitro fertilization and more.

Bishop Nickless said the church in recent years has worked very hard to help marriages and families such as providing better marriage preparation and resources for natural family planning.

He referred to the bishops’ document on marriage and reminded them that marriage had two purposes: the good of the spouse as well as procreation and education of children. He stressed that these two purposes are inseparable.

“Marriage is not merely a private institution – something just between you two but it is the foundation of the family where children learn values and virtues that make them good Christians as well as good citizens,” said the bishop, quoting from the document.

He told the couples that they symbolize life and love.

One attendee asked how they might help the bishop in his efforts. He told them to go to Mass and educate their children.

“I can’t tell you how much your example means to the church – to be faithful in your marriage commitments. You have your ups and downs, your problems and difficulties and so do I,” the bishop said. “You all have your own ways of dealing with things. It’s communication, talking and praying with one another.”

Individuals shared stories about couples who had provided great examples of married life. Many mentioned the example of their parents.

The bishop reminded them of the importance of having faith, hope and love in their marriages.

Printed with permission from The Catholic Globe, newspaper for the Diocese of Sioux City, Iowa.

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President accused of breaking Notre Dame 'conscience' pledge

Denver, Colo., Nov 20, 2011 (CNA) - Obama administration critics say the president misled his religious supporters in a 2009 Notre Dame speech, in which he supported conscience protections and “common ground” on issues like abortion.

“Two and a half years after President Obama was given an honorary degree at America’s flagship Catholic University and delivered its commencement address, at least we have clarity,” wrote Kansas Catholic Conference Director Michael Schuttloffel, in a Nov. 13 column.

“Willful blindness regarding this Administration’s true intentions is no longer possible,” wrote Schuttloffel, who highlighted conflict between the moderate tone of Obama's Notre Dame commencement speech and his administration's policies.

Washington Post columnist Michael Gerson voiced similar concerns in a Nov. 14 column. He accused the president, who courted the Catholic vote in the 2008 election, of “(turning) his back on Catholics.”

“The conscience protections of Catholics are under assault, particularly by the Department of Health and Human Services,” wrote Gerson. “And Obama’s Catholic strategy is in shambles.”

Both writers urged their readers to compare President Obama's words at Notre Dame with his later actions.

In his May 2009 speech, President Obama expressed a desire to “work through these conflicts” over issues like abortion and stem cells, in order to “join hands in common effort.”

“Maybe we won't agree on abortion,” the president proposed. “Let's honor the conscience of those who disagree with abortion, and draft a sensible conscience clause, and make sure that all of our health care policies are grounded in clear ethics and sound science, as well as respect for the equality of women.”

Schuttloffel compared the president's invitation to Notre Dame, and his moderate tone there, to the legendary “Trojan Horse” of Greek mythology – a giant, hollow statue presented as a peace offering from the opposing army, with legions of soldiers waiting within.

“The folly of those Catholics who issued and defended that invitation, like the Trojans who wheeled the great wooden horse inside their city walls, has been laid bare,” the Kansas Catholic Conference director stated.

He indicated that the administration's contraceptive mandate, which includes at least one abortion-causing drug, made a mockery of the president's talk about “trying to find common ground” with pro-life advocates.

“With the eager assistance of old friends at Planned Parenthood, Health and Human Services Secretary (Kathleen) Sebelius recently unveiled a list of 'preventive services' that all private and public health plans will eventually be required to provide,” Schuttloffel noted.

“It includes contraceptives, sterilization, and even the abortifacient 'Ella,' which has the capacity to end a pregnancy after fertilization.”

“Because the new policy prohibits copays or deductibles for these “services,” they will for provided for 'free,'” Schuttloffel pointed out. “Which means they will be paid for with the premiums and taxes of people who do not use these services and who object to them.”

In his Washington Post column, Gerson compared the president's past praise of conscience rights, with his administration's choice to cut funding from the U.S. Catholic bishops' work against human trafficking.

On Jan. 12, 2009 – eight days before President Obama's inauguration – the American Civil Liberties Union sued the Department of Health and Human Services over its work with the U.S. bishops' Migration and Refugee Services.

The ACLU accused the government agency of setting up “an establishment of religion” by funding the Catholic humanitarian program, which did not refer women for abortion or contraception.

In October 2011, the Obama administration cut funding for the highly-rated program, after declaring it would give preference to programs offering “the full range of legally permissible gynecological and obstetric care.”

“This was described by one official as 'standard procedure,'” wrote Gerson.

“So it is now standard procedure in the Obama administration to deny funding to some Catholic programs based solely on their pro-life beliefs.”

At Notre Dame, Obama promoted a “presumption of good faith” between those on opposite sides of the abortion debate. “When we open our hearts and our minds to those who may not think like we do or believe what we do,” he said, “that's when we discover at least the possibility of common ground. “

At an October 2011 Chicago fundraiser, however, the president's Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said she was “in a war” against political opponents who “want to roll back the last 50 years in progress women have made in comprehensive health care in America.”

“This is no longer the 'presumption of good faith,'” noted Gerson, who said the Obama appointee had shown “all the hallmarks of a vendetta” against the pro-life movement.

Schuttloffel said the contraceptive mandate's “so-called religious exemption” signals the Obama administration's true policy toward religious groups.

He called the narrow exemption the “most insidious aspect” of the Health and Human Services Department rules, since it “only applies to religious employers that have the inculcation of religious values as their purpose, and that employ and serve people who share their religious beliefs.” 

“It will therefore not apply to Catholic universities, hospitals, and charitable organizations that serve the general public,” Schuttloffel noted.

“This is of a piece with the Obama Administration’s various efforts to define religious freedom down to mean nothing more than the freedom to worship in private. The broad, two-centuries old understanding of the First Amendment’s guarantee of 'free exercise' is being eviscerated.”

“Under the new policy, religious institutions are only rewarded with a religious exemption if they restrict their activities to worship,” the Kansas Catholic Conference director observed.

“But if they function as full participants in society, bringing their faith to bear on public life through education, health care, and advocacy, they will then be forced to provide medical services they find deeply immoral.”

At Notre Dame's 2009 commencement, President Obama praised the university's students for “service … performed at schools and hospitals; international relief agencies and local charities.” He described such works as “incredibly impressive, and a powerful testament to this institution.”

But now, Schuttloffel indicated, the president's own policies endanger religious work in these areas.

“A new, circumscribed understanding of religious liberty is being implemented, by fiat, by those who reject religion’s legitimate contribution to the public square,” the conference director warned.

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Pope’s exhortation to help forge ‘new Africa’

Cotonou, Benin, Nov 20, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) -

Pope Benedict XVI’s new apostolic exhortation on Africa aims to encourage the dynamism of the Catholic Church and to prepare for upcoming decades of evangelization, a Vatican official has explained.

Archbishop Nikola Eterović, secretary general of the Synod of Bishops, said that in “Africae Munus” the Catholic Church in Africa “reaffirms her commitment to evangelization and human development” so that “the entire continent may become a vast field of reconciliation, justice and peace.”

“In this way … the Church contributes to forging the new Africa, which is increasingly called to become the ‘spiritual lung’ of humankind,” he said in his official summary of the exhortation issued on Nov. 19.

The new apostolic exhortation is a continuation of Pope John Paul II’s 1995 exhortation “Ecclesia in Africa,” the archbishop said. That earlier document “gave great impetus to the growth of the Church in Africa developing, among other things, the idea of the Church as Family of God.”

“Africae Munus,” whose name means “The Commitment of Africa,” is Pope Benedict’s response to the 57 propositions offered by the Synod of African Bishops which met in Rome from 4 to 25 October 2009. Their discussions were based on the theme “The Church in Africa, at the service of Reconciliation, Justice and Peace.”

Pope Benedict signed the exhortation on Nov. 19 in Benin and presented it to the bishops of Africa on Sunday.

Archbishop Eterović said the new exhortation aims to reinforce an “ecclesial dynamism” and to outline a program for pastoral activity for the coming decades of evangelization.

The first part of “Africae Munus” addresses the basic structures of the Catholic Church in Africa and how they serve the three key aims of the synod, reconciliation, justice and peace, especially through the Church’s mission of evangelization.

The second part of the document deals with the Catholic Church’s contribution to African society through education, health care and social communications.

In terms of practical conclusions, Archbishop Eterović said, the Pope stresses the need for the continuation of evangelization “ad gentes,” that is “the announcement of the Gospel to those who still do not know Jesus Christ.”

However, the Pope also calls for an increased emphasis on “new evangelization” of those African peoples who are nominally Christian but “may have distanced themselves from the Church or who do not behave in a Christian fashion.”

African Christians, and in particular the clergy and consecrated persons, are also called upon to support the new evangelization of secularized Western nations. “This is an exchange of gifts,” said the archbishop, as Western nations are the “countries which once produced missionaries who went forth to announce the Good News in Africa.”

The Pope’s exhortation asks the African Church to generate more causes for the canonization of saints because they are “exemplary heralds of justice and apostles of peace.”

The exhortation prioritizes strengthening both “the bonds of communion” between the Holy Father and the bishops of Africa, and the bonds among African bishops themselves.

To this end the Pope says it is important for the bishops to give effective support to the Symposium of Bishops’ Conferences of Africa and Madagascar (SECAM) as “a continental structure of solidarity and ecclesial communion.”

The Pope calls for a deeper appreciation of the Eucharist and he endorses the Synod’s idea of a continental Eucharistic Congress.

Similarly, there is to be greater promotion of the sacrament of penance, Archbishop Eterović noted. The exhortation suggests that each year African countries celebrate a day or week of reconciliation particularly during Advent or Lent.

There may also be a “continental-wide Year of Reconciliation” to “beg of God special forgiveness” for both “all the evils and injuries mutually inflicted in Africa” and for “the reconciliation of persons and groups who have been hurt in the Church and in the whole of society.”

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Be ‘light in Africa,’ Pope tells bishops

Cotonou, Benin, Nov 20, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) -

Pope Benedict XVI has presented “Africae Munus,” his apostolic exhortation on the future of Christianity in Africa, to the bishops of the continent.

“Be the salt of the African earth, blessed by the blood of so many martyrs – men, women and children, witnesses of the Christian faith even to the supreme gift of their lives!” said the Pope as he handed over his document after Sunday Mass in the Benin city of Conotou Nov. 20.

“Become the light of the world, the light in Africa which seeks, amid tribulations, the path of peace and justice for all its citizens. Your light is Jesus, the Christ, ‘the Light of the World.’ May God bless you, dear Africa!”

The Pope offered Mass this morning before an estimated congregation of over 80,000 people drawn from all over West Africa. The Mass took place at the Friendship Stadium in Cotonou where he was joined by over 200 African bishops and over 1000 priests from Benin.

“Africae Munus” is the Pope’s personal response to the recommendations of the 2009 Synod of African Bishops held in Rome.

“I hope that this exhortation will guide you in the proclamation of the Good News of Jesus in Africa,” said the Pope, “it is not just a message or a word. It is above all openness and adhesion to a person: Jesus Christ the incarnate Word. He alone possesses the words of life eternal.”

Today also marked the Solemnity of Christ the King instituted in 1925 by Pope Pius XI as a response to growing secularism.

“On this feast day, we rejoice together in the reign of Christ the King over the whole world,” said Pope Benedict in his homily.

“He is the one who removes all that hinders reconciliation, justice and peace.  We are reminded that true royalty does not consist in a show of power, but in the humility of service; not in the oppression of the weak, but in the ability to protect them and to lead them to life in abundance.”

Just as happened at the time of Christ, the Pope said that modern man is also drawn to “success, power, money and ability,” as signs of “royalty.” Thus, he still finds it “hard to accept such a king, a king who makes himself the servant of the little ones, of the most humble, a king whose throne is a cross.”

Reflecting upon the gospel of the day in which “the Son of Man,” rewards and punishes people according to how they treated the most vulnerable, the Pope said that for Christ “to reign is to serve,” and so “what he asks of us is to follow him along the way, to serve, to be attentive to the cry of the poor, the weak, the outcast.”  

The Pope took the opportunity to give a particular greeting to the sick within the vast congregation including “those affected by AIDS or by other illnesses.”

“Have courage!” he told them, “the Pope is close to you in his thoughts and prayers.  Have courage!”

He explained that Jesus wanted to share their suffering and “to see you as his brothers and sisters, to free you from every affliction, from all suffering.”

“Every sick person, every poor person deserves our respect and our love,” he said, “because, through them, God shows us the way to heaven.”

Christ the King came to liberate everybody from both physical and spiritual affliction and to create “a new world, a world of freedom and joy,” the Pope explained.

And yet, today, “so much still binds us to the world of the past,” and “so many fears hold us prisoners and prevent us from living in freedom and happiness.” The answer is to “allow Christ to free us from the world of the past!” as it is Christ alone who “gives us the true life and can liberate us for all our fears and sluggishness, from all our anguish.”

The choice is ours, said the Pope as “we – and we alone – can prevent him from reigning over us and consequently obstructing his Lordship over our families, society and history,” if we choose not to accept his kingship. “His Kingdom can be threatened in our hearts,” he said, because “there God comes face to face with our freedom.”

This explains the importance he attaches to evangelization in “Africae Munus,” he said.

“(T)he man of hope, the Christian, cannot be uninterested in his brothers and sisters,” but has to “make the loving face of the Savior shine in every place, in particular before the young, who search for reasons to live and hope in a difficult world!”

Therefore, just as the first missionaries to Benin had done 150 years ago, “may Jesus Christ give you strength to live as Christians and to find ways to transmit generously to new generations what you have received from your fathers in faith!”

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Pope Benedict: parishes must reach out to non-Catholics

Cotonou, Benin, Nov 20, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - Catholic parishes in Africa and around the world have to evangelize all people, not just those who are presently Catholic, Pope Benedict XVI has told the bishops of Benin.

“In no way can the Church restrict her pastoral work to the ‘ordinary maintenance’ of those who already know the Gospel of Christ,” he told the bishops gathered in the chapel of the apostolic nuncio’s residence in the city of Cotonou Nov. 19. 

“Missionary outreach is a clear sign of the maturity of an ecclesial community. The Church, therefore, must reach out to everyone.”

The Pope’s address came at the end of the day on which he signed his apostolic exhortation on the future of the Church in Africa, “Africae Munus.”

In it he stressed the need for evangelization “ad gentes,” to those who have never heard the Gospel. He also emphasized the need for a “new evangelization” of those who are nominally Catholic but have drifted from the Church.

“I encourage you to persevere in your efforts to share missionary personnel with those dioceses experiencing a shortage, whether in your own country, in other African nations or in distant continents,” he told the bishops.

There are an increasing number of African priests undertaking missionary work in Europe.

The Pope recalled how 150 years ago, on April 18, 1861, the first missionaries of the Society of the African Missions disembarked at Ouidah in Benin, “thus beginning a new page in the proclamation of the Gospel in West Africa.”

He called for a similar spirit of evangelization from Catholics in Benin today,  among both clergy and laity guided by “the crucified and glorious face of Christ” so that they “may witness to his love for the world.”

“Apostolic zeal, which should animate all the faithful, is a direct result of their baptism,” he said, “and they cannot shirk their responsibility to profess their faith in Christ and his Gospel wherever they find themselves, and in their daily lives.”

Bishops have “the mission of leading the people of God” and so have a particular responsibility to ensure laity, seminarians and priests are adequately formed for the task.

“I therefore invite you to help your priests and faithful to rediscover for themselves the beauty of the priesthood and of the priestly ministry,” he said.

Meanwhile it is “absolutely necessary” to provide “solid human, intellectual and spiritual formation” to seminarians that will equip them with “a personal, psychological and affective maturity” for the duties of the priesthood.

Again echoing a key theme of “Africae Munus,” the Pope called for sacred scripture to play a significant role in evangelization. Any encounter with Christ must be “solidly rooted in openness to and meditation on the Word of God.”

Scripture is a “source of constant renewal” and its rediscovery can unify the faithful and be at the heart of every church activity.

The Pope concluded by entrusting the dioceses of Benin and the episcopal ministry of each bishop to the Virgin Mary, Our Lady of Africa, praying that “she may watch over the people of Benin!”

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Pope Benedict calls Africa ‘a land of hope’

Cotonou, Benin, Nov 20, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) -

Pope Benedict XVI completed his three-day visit to Benin with a firm prediction that Africa can give a great Christian witness to the rest of the world.

 “It is a continent for which I have a special regard and affection, for I am deeply convinced that it is a land of hope,” he said at his departure ceremony at Cardinal Bernardin Gantin Airport in the city of Cotonou, Nov. 20.

“Here are found authentic values which have much to teach our world; they need only to spread and blossom with God’s help and the determination of Africans themselves.”

Pope Benedict spoke after to a farewell address by President Thomas Boni Yayi of Benin. The president and other civil leaders listened as the Pope explained his hope that his new apostolic exhortation “Africae Munus” can “greatly assist” Africa’s flourishing. 

“I entrust it to the faithful of Africa as a whole, to study carefully and to translate into concrete actions in daily life,” said the Pope.

He told President Yayi that the multi-religious Benin is a good example of the possibility of “harmonious coexistence within the nation, and between Church and State” and is proof that mutual respect “not only aids dialogue, but is essential for building unity between individuals, ethnic groups and peoples.”

The Pope noted that “fraternity” is the first of three words on Benin’s national emblem. He said this shows that “living in unity as brethren, while respecting legitimate differences, is not something utopian.”

“Why should an African country not show the rest of the world the path to be taken towards living an authentic fraternity in justice, based on the greatness of the family and of labor?”

Before boarding his chartered Alitalia flight back to Rome, Pope Benedict thanked God for three days spent “in joy and friendship” with the people of Africa. He encouraged the entire continent to be “the salt of the earth and the light of the world.”

“May God bless you all, through the intercession of Our Lady of Africa,” he concluded, proclaiming in the local language of Fon “God bless Benin!”

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