Today, on the Feast of St. Joseph, the Holy Father spoke to a vast crowd at the Amadou Ahidjo stadium in Yaounde, Cameroon. He encouraged the faithful to make Africa the continent of hope by following the example of St. Joseph, especially in times of trouble.
Upon arriving at the stadium, the Pope wove his way through the crowd in the popemobile, before entering the sacristy and beginning the celebration of a Mass marking the publication of the "Instrumentum laboris" (working document), of the Second Special Assembly for Africa of the Synod of Bishops.
In his address to the Cameroonian audience, the Holy Father stressed that God is the Author of Life and explained that “family today…is experiencing a difficult time,” but that “fidelity to God will help see it through.”
Society, the Pope said, has slowly been turning against the family. “Certain values of the traditional life have been overturned. Relationships between different generations have evolved in a way that no longer favors the transmission of accumulated knowledge and inherited wisdom. Too often we witness a rural exodus ... [and] the quality of family ties is deeply affected by this. Uprooted and fragile members of the younger generation who often - sadly - are without gainful employment, seek to cure their pain by living in ephemeral and man-made paradises."
But this is not “an irreversible, inevitable development,” the Holy Father countered.
In the face of these challenges, Africans must realize that “life as a gift from God,” he counseled.
“According to both Sacred Scripture and the wisest traditions of your continent, the arrival of a child is always a gift, a blessing from God. Today it is high time to place greater emphasis on this: every human being, every tiny human person, however weak, is created 'in the image and likeness of God.'"
The Pope then proclaimed the Gospel, saying, "Sons and daughters of Africa, do not be afraid to believe, to hope, and to love; do not be afraid to say that Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life, and that we can be saved by Him alone.”
Africa is called to hope through Christ the Pope exclaimed. “With Jesus Christ, who trod the African soil, Africa can become the continent of hope! We are all members of the peoples that God gave to Abraham as his descendants. Each and every one of us was thought, willed and loved by God. Each and every one of us has a role to play in the plan of God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.”
The Pontiff then encouraged the congregation to turn look to St. Joseph’s example in times of trouble. "If discouragement overwhelms you, think of the faith of Joseph; if anxiety has its grip on you, think of the hope of Joseph, that descendant of Abraham who hoped against hope; if exasperation or hatred seizes you, think of the love of Joseph, who was the first man to set eyes on the human face of God in the person of the Infant conceived by the Holy Spirit in the womb of the Virgin Mary."
Focusing on fathers, he urged them to take St. Joseph as their model. "He who kept watch over the Son of Man is able to teach them the deepest meaning of their own fatherhood," the Holy Father said. "In the same way, each father receives his children from God, and they are created in God's own image and likeness.” He also prayed: “Dear fathers, like St. Joseph, respect and love your spouse; and by your love and your wise presence, lead your children to God, where they must be."
Finally, turning to children without a father, those separated from their parents, abused or living in poverty, the Pope reminded them: “God loves you, He has not forgotten you, and St. Joseph protects you!"
Following the Mass, the Pope consigned the working document to the presidents of African national and regional bishops’ conferences. The theme of the meeting, which will be held at the Vatican in October 2009, is "The Church in Africa at the Service of Reconciliation, Justice and Peace: 'You are the salt of the earth. ... You are the light of the world.'"