.- Before tens of thousands of faithful gathered in St. Peter’s Square for the Angelus Sunday, Pope Benedict XVI asked all present to pray, “invoking Mary, Mother and Queen of Africa,” for his upcoming apostolic voyage to Africa. The Pope described himself as a pilgrim in Africa proclaiming Christ crucified, who renews the world.
The Holy Father referred to the reading for the Third Sunday of Lent from St. Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians, saying “Paul stresses that he has nothing to offer and to give than the Good News of his Cross.”
“This is the grace of the Gospel that is capable of transforming the world; this is the grace that can renew Africa, because it generates an irresistible power of peace and of profound, radical reconciliation,” the Pontiff explained. “The Church, then, does not pursue economic, social and political goals; the Church proclaims Christ, certain that the Gospel can touch the hearts of all and transform them, thus renewing persons and societies from within.”
Benedict announced that he will visit Yaoundé, Cameroon and Luanda, Angola and asked for prayers from all to his patron saint, St. Joseph. During his visit to Africa from March 17-23, Benedict XVI will celebrate his name day on the Feast of St. Joseph, March 19.
“St. Joseph,” Pope Benedict said, “warned by an angel in a dream, had to flee with Mary to Egypt, in northeast Africa, in order to protect the newborn Jesus, whom Herod wanted to kill. This fulfilled the Scriptures: Jesus trod in the footsteps of the ancient patriarchs, and, like the people of Israel, he returned to the Promised Land after being in exile in Egypt.”
“I entrust to the heavenly intercession of this great Saint the upcoming pilgrimage and the populations of Africa as a whole, with the challenges that mark them and the hopes that animate them,” the Pope added. “In particular, I think of the victims of hunger, of disease, of injustice, of fratricidal conflicts and of every form of violence that continues to afflict adults and children, without sparing missionaries, priests, religious and volunteers."
In Yaoundé, Cameroon, the Holy Father will present to the bishops of Africa the working document of the Second Special Assembly for Africa of the Synod of Bishops, which will be held in October 2009 at the Vatican. In Angola, he said, he will visit a country that “after its long internal war has regained peace and is now called to rebuild itself in justice.”
After the Angelus, the Pope greeted university students and professors in Rome for the "Pauline Jubilee of Universities," promoted by the Congregation for Catholic Education and by the Pontifical Council for Culture. "Dear university students and professors,” the Pontiff said, “I encourage you and I accompany you with my prayers."
Benedict XVI also addressed the tens of thousands of Girl Scouts, who filled St. Peter's Square almost to capacity. Pope Benedict told them, "Always say your 'Here I am!' to God, like the Virgin Mary; say it with your hearts, and you will be rays of light for the world. Thank you for coming!"
In his greeting in English, the Holy Father exclaimed: “I welcome all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors present at today’s Angelus. As we continue our Lenten journey, may our resolve to follow Jesus be strengthened through prayer, forgiveness, fasting and assistance to those in need.
“This Tuesday I leave Rome for my visit to Cameroon and Angola. My presence in the great Continent of Africa forms part of the preparation for the Special Assembly of the Synod of Bishops dedicated to the theme: ‘The Church in Africa in Service to Reconciliation, Justice and Peace.’
“I ask each of you to join me in praying that my visit will be a time of spiritual renewal for all Africans and an occasion in which civic and religious leaders will strengthen their resolve to walk the path of justice, integrity and compassion. May the lives of African men, women and children be transformed in hope! Upon all of you gathered and your loved ones, I gladly invoke the strength and peace of Christ the Lord.”