.- Pope Benedict XVI has presented âAfricae Munus,â his apostolic exhortation on the future of Christianity in Africa, to the bishops of the continent.
âBe the salt of the African earth, blessed by the blood of so many martyrs â men, women and children, witnesses of the Christian faith even to the supreme gift of their lives!â said the Pope as he handed over his document after Sunday Mass in the Benin city of Conotou Nov. 20.
âBecome 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, âthe Light of the World.â May God bless you, dear Africa!â
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.
âAfricae Munusâ is the Popeâs personal response to the recommendations of the 2009 Synod of African Bishops held in Rome.
âI hope that this exhortation will guide you in the proclamation of the Good News of Jesus in Africa,â said the Pope, âit 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.â
Today also marked the Solemnity of Christ the King instituted in 1925 by Pope Pius XI as a response to growing secularism.
âOn this feast day, we rejoice together in the reign of Christ the King over the whole world,â said Pope Benedict in his homily.
âHe 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.â
Just as happened at the time of Christ, the Pope said that modern man is also drawn to âsuccess, power, money and ability,â as signs of âroyalty.â Thus, he still finds it âhard 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.â
Reflecting upon the gospel of the day in which âthe Son of Man,â rewards and punishes people according to how they treated the most vulnerable, the Pope said that for Christ âto reign is to serve,â and so âwhat 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.â
The Pope took the opportunity to give a particular greeting to the sick within the vast congregation including âthose affected by AIDS or by other illnesses.â
âHave courage!â he told them, âthe Pope is close to you in his thoughts and prayers. Have courage!â
He explained that Jesus wanted to share their suffering and âto see you as his brothers and sisters, to free you from every affliction, from all suffering.â
âEvery sick person, every poor person deserves our respect and our love,â he said, âbecause, through them, God shows us the way to heaven.â
Christ the King came to liberate everybody from both physical and spiritual affliction and to create âa new world, a world of freedom and joy,â the Pope explained.
And yet, today, âso much still binds us to the world of the past,â and âso many fears hold us prisoners and prevent us from living in freedom and happiness.â The answer is to âallow Christ to free us from the world of the past!â as it is Christ alone who âgives us the true life and can liberate us for all our fears and sluggishness, from all our anguish.â
The choice is ours, said the Pope as âwe â and we alone â can prevent him from reigning over us and consequently obstructing his Lordship over our families, society and history,â if we choose not to accept his kingship. âHis Kingdom can be threatened in our hearts,â he said, because âthere God comes face to face with our freedom.â
This explains the importance he attaches to evangelization in âAfricae Munus,â he said.
â(T)he man of hope, the Christian, cannot be uninterested in his brothers and sisters,â but has to âmake 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!â
Therefore, just as the first missionaries to Benin had done 150 years ago, âmay 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!â