One million people gathered in Luanda, Angola on Sunday morning for the opportunity to see Pope Benedict XVI. In his message, the Holy Father spoke of the need for prayer to obtain peace because only the light of God can overcome the great "darkness" cast by war and greed.
Beginning his speech, the Holy Father noted that the vivid description of “the destruction and ruin caused by war” in today’s readings, “echoes the personal experience of so many people in this country amid the terrible ravages of the civil war.” He added: “How true it is that war can 'destroy everything of value:' families, whole communities, the fruit of men’s labor, the hopes which guide and sustain their lives and work!”
“This experience,” the Pontiff expounded, “is all too familiar to Africa as a whole: the destructive power of civil strife, the descent into a maelstrom of hatred and revenge, the squandering of the efforts of generations of good people.” He continued, “When God’s word, a word meant to build up individuals, communities and the whole human family, is neglected, and when God’s law is 'ridiculed, despised, laughed at,' the result can only be destruction and injustice: the abasement of our common humanity and the betrayal of our vocation to be sons and daughters of a merciful Father, brothers and sisters of his beloved Son."
“Tragically,” he continued, “the clouds of evil have also overshadowed Africa, including this beloved nation of Angola.”
Benedict XVI went on to explain that we can easily think of the evils of war on a large scale: “the murderous fruits of tribalism and ethnic rivalry, the greed which corrupts men’s hearts, enslaves the poor, and robs future generations of the resources they need to create a more equitable and just society,” however we don’t think of that “insidious spirit of selfishness which closes individuals in upon themselves, breaks up families, and, by supplanting the great ideals of generosity and self-sacrifice, inevitably leads to hedonism, the escape into false utopias through drug use, sexual irresponsibility, the weakening of the marriage bond and the break-up of families, and the pressure to destroy innocent human life through abortion.”
We need God and his commandments, “not as a burden, but as a source of freedom: the freedom to become men and women of wisdom, teachers of justice and peace, people who believe in others and seek their authentic good.” He added: “God created us to live in the light, and to be light for the world around us!"
Turning to address the young people in the audience, he emphasized the importance of growing in a friendship with Christ and spreading the “Good News” among others. He urged them: “Seek his will for you by listening to his word daily, and by allowing his law to shape your lives and your relationships.”
“In this way you will become wise and generous prophets of God’s saving love,” he continued. “Become evangelizers of your own peers, leading them by your own example to an appreciation of the beauty and truth of the Gospel, and the hope of a future shaped by the values of God’s Kingdom.”
“The Church needs your witness!” Pope Benedict concluded. “Do not be afraid to respond generously to God’s call, whether it be to serve him as a priest or a religious, as a Christian parent, or in the many forms of service to others which the Church sets before you."