Pope Benedict XVI has urged the Catholic Church in Angola to build up family life while fighting witchcraft and tribalism.
“Christians breathe the spirit of his time and are under pressure from the mores of their society but, by the grace of baptism, are called to give up harmful prevailing trends and to go against the current, guided by the spirit of the Beatitudes,” said the Pope Oct. 29.
The Angolan bishops were in Rome for their “ad limina” visit during which they update the Pope and the Vatican on the Catholic Church in the southwest African state.
It is estimated that over half the Angolan population is Catholic although many newer converts still practice remnants of traditional African religions.
The Pope highlighted three areas where he wished to impart guidance and encourage the Angolan Church in its mission.
The first was family life where the Pope expressed concern at the low number of Catholic marriages in Angola. The country’s bishops have chose marriage and the family as their current pastoral priority.
“Help couples acquire the necessary human and spiritual maturity to take responsibly their mission as Christian spouses and parents,” said the Pope, “reminding them that their spousal love should be as unique and indissoluble as the covenant between Christ and his Church. This precious treasure is to be safeguarded at all costs.”
Pope Benedict visited Angola in 2009. There he heard firsthand how many Catholics mingle their Christianity with traditional African religions that often indulge in witchcraft.
He said the “abominable effect” of such practices can be witnessed in the “marginalization and even murder of children and the elderly, who are condemned by false dictates of witchcraft.”
“Mindful that human life is sacred in all its phases and situations,” he said, “continue, dear bishops, to raise your voice in favor of their victims.”
Finally the Pope turned to the issue of tribalism with many areas consisting of closed ethnic communities “not accepting people from other parts of the nation.”
“I express my appreciation to those of you who have accepted a pastoral mission outside the confines of their language or regional group,” he said to the bishops, adding that in the Church, “there is no place for any kind of division.”
“Around the altar meet men and women of all tribes, languages and nations, sharing the same body and blood of Jesus in the Eucharist, become brothers and sisters, truly kin,” said Pope Benedict.
He then concluded by entrusting Angola to the protection of the Virgin Mary before imparting his apostolic blessing.