Pope Benedict XVI’s Sunday Angelus address highlighted the plight of those affected by drought and famine in the Horn of Africa.
“One thinks of the many brothers and sisters these days, in the Horn of Africa, who suffer the dramatic consequences of famine, exacerbated by war and the lack of strong institutions,” the Pope told pilgrims gathered in the courtyard of his summer residence at Castel Gandolfo, 15 miles to the south of Rome.
The Horn of Africa refers to the group of countries situated on the Somali peninsula in the north-east of the continent. These include Ethiopia, Djibouti and Somalia itself. All three states plus Kenya, which borders to the south, have been declared a drought zone by the United Nations. It’s estimated to be the worst of its kind in 60 years.
“The Word of God recalls how the water and bread are necessary for every human being,” said Pope Benedict drawing upon today’s Gospel passage which retold the story of the multiplication of the loaves and fishes by Jesus.
“Jesus reminds us our own responsibility: to do what we can to help those who suffer from hunger and thirst. The task is immense. In this vacation time, do not forget others and do not be afraid to open our hands and hearts to help all those in need.”
The U.N. has also declared a famine in parts of Somalia. There, at least six out of every 10,000 children are dying every day due to starvation says the U.N. 25 percent of the Somali population is also now displaced. The situation is being made worse in those parts of the country controlled by Islamist groups who are refusing to accept Western aid.
The Pope said today’s Gospel “reminds us that it is forbidden to be indifferent to the tragedy of hunger and thirst! It encourages us to give them food to eat, and share our bread with the needy. Following Christ we must be sensitive to the poverty of nations.”
Pope Benedict said that Jesus Christ wants to take care of both our physical and spiritual needs.
“Christ is attentive to material needs but wants to give more because man is always ‘hungry for something more, has need of something more’,” he said quoting from his 2007 book Jesus of Nazareth.
This need is fulfilled in the Eucharist which is foreshadowed in today’s Gospel, said the Pope. He added that the Eucharist helps us to love God more and, so, to love others too.
“In the Eucharist Jesus also makes us witnesses of God’s compassion for each brother and sister. The Eucharistic mystery thus gives rise to the service of charity towards the other.”
He then concluded by imparting his apostolic blessing.
The Pope will return to his Rome residence in September.