In St. Peter’s Basilica, during Sunday’s Opening Mass for the Synod of African Bishops, Pope Benedict XVI preached holiness as a means to societal reconciliation and peace. The Holy Father also called for a new evangelization of Africa, highlighting the primacy of God, marriage and protecting children from violence as the areas most in need of the Gospel.
Benedict XVI, who visited Cameron and Angola in March of this year, began by stating the unity between this Synod and the first one opened in 1994 by Pope John Paul II.
This “spiritual lung” that is Africa risks two “dangerous diseases,” he warned. "First, a disease that has spread throughout the Western world, namely practical materialism, combined with relativistic and nihilistic thinking.” The second, he said, is “religious fundamentalism. Mixed with political and economic interests, groups claiming different religious affiliations are spreading in Africa.”
For Pope Benedict, the work of the Synod must focus on two themes: marriage and children.
"Marriage as the Bible presents it, does not exist outside of our relationship with God,” he said. "To the extent that it preserves and develops its faith, Africa can find huge resources to donate to the benefit of the family founded on marriage."
The Synod, the Pope advised, should pay attention to "the reality of childhood, which is a large and unfortunately suffering part of the African population." The Church in Africa, he said, "manifests her own motherhood towards the smallest children, even those not yet born, for as the Lord Jesus, the Church does not see them primarily as recipients of care, lesser still as vessels for pietism or exploitation, but persons in their own right.”
To address these challenges, the Holy Father continued, the Church in Africa must implement “a new evangelization, which takes account of the rapid social changes of our time and the phenomenon of worldwide globalization.” In addition to numbers, "We need to focus increasingly on the 'high standard' of Christian life, that is holiness. Pastors, and all members of the ecclesial community, are called to be saints.”
He added: “The lay faithful are called to spread the fragrance of holiness in the family, workplace, school and all other social and political spheres. May the Church in Africa be a family of true disciples of Christ, where the difference between ethnic groups becomes a motive and stimulus for mutual human and spiritual enrichment."
"Reconciliation,” the Pontiff recalled, “is a gift of God that men have to plead for and accept. It is the stable foundation on which to build peace, a prerequisite for true progress of mankind and society, according to the design of justice willed by God.”
“By the redeeming grace of the Risen Lord,” he proclaimed, “Africa will be ever more enlightened by his light and, guided by the Holy Spirit, it will become a blessing for the universal Church, contributing their own and qualified to building a world more just and fraternal world.”
At the conclusion of his homily, Benedict XVI asked the cloistered monasteries and religious communities in Africa and spread all over the world, parishes and movements, the sick and suffering to accompany with prayer the work of the Synod Fathers "so that the Lord render fruitful this second Special Assembly.”