An African pro-life leader has noted the stark contrast between hostile media reports on Pope Benedict XVI’s Africa visit and the thousands of Africans who joyously greeted the pontiff as he arrived in Cameroon. He said the “true story” of the Pope’s visit is his inspiration of African Catholics and all people to have “hope” and to address the “root causes” of the continent’s problems.
“I saw over 2,000 people that stayed in heavy rain singing and praying as the Holy Father presided over vespers in the Basilica of Our Lady Queen of the Apostles. This is not a sign of dismay or disillusionment with the Church, but of devotion and joy,” said George Wirnkar, Director of Outreach for Human Life International’s (HLI) Francophone Africa Region.
“Perhaps the historic first visit of the Holy Father to Africa and his providential first stop in Yaoundé, Cameroon should herald an era where the authentic voice of Africans is heard rather than the imposed views of Western press who do not speak for the people of Africa—the continent of hope,” he continued, echoing Pope Benedict’s own description of Africa.
“The true story of the papal visit is that the Holy Father is inspiring African Catholics and all persons of good will to have hope, to deal directly with the root causes of the problems affecting our people, and resist the slogans of the West which offer false solutions to these problems.”
Some Western media outlets had seized upon Pope Benedict’s in-flight comments about condom usage in AIDS prevention programs. He had said:
"It is my belief that the most effective presence on the front in the battle against HIV/AIDS is precisely the Catholic Church and her institutions. I think of the Community of Sant’ Egidio, which does so much, visibly and invisibly to fight AIDS, of the Camillians, of all the nuns that are at the service of the sick.
“I would say that this problem of AIDS cannot be overcome with advertising slogans. If the soul is lacking, if Africans do not help one another, the scourge cannot be resolved by distributing condoms; quite the contrary, we risk worsening the problem. The solution can only come through a twofold commitment: firstly, the humanization of sexuality, in other words a spiritual and human renewal bringing a new way of behaving towards one another; and secondly, true friendship, above all with those who are suffering, a readiness - even through personal sacrifice - to be present with those who suffer. And these are the factors that help and bring visible progress.”
Joseph Meaney, Director of International Coordination for HLI, commented on the Pope’s remarks, saying:
“Pope Benedict gave a thoughtful, spiritual response indicating a solution that is increasingly confirmed by empirical science… The hopeful message articulated by the Holy Father is exactly what HLI is trying to bring to fruition in cooperation with African leaders like George Wirnkar. This is about affirming what is most life-giving in African culture.”
HLI reported that it recently concluded its first Africa conference of Medical Midwifery and Nursing Students for Life. Held March 13-14, the meeting’s more than 125 student participants listened to speakers and discussed pro-life issues.
Conference participants held 10 banners along Pope Benedict’s welcome route expressing support for him.
“Papal visits are usually a time of great spiritual renewal and a time when many people are listening to the Church,” said Wirnkar. “Speaking to physician trainees, practitioners, nurses and other medical professionals about issues which Pope Benedict and Pope John Paul II have taught so clearly is crucial, so the Holy Father’s visit seemed the perfect time to kick off this program.”
“It is vital that pro-life young people are not converted to the pro-abortion or population control mentality while in medical school,” Meaney added, saying the graduates of the program are the pro-life professionals of the future.
“HLI is proud to reach an ever larger audience in Africa with the pro-life message thanks to George Wirnkar and our other leaders,” he said.