With thousands of faithful gathered in St. Peter’s Square for the Angelus prayer on Sunday, Pope Benedict XVI spoke of the joy of the African Church he experienced during his recent trip to Cameroon and Angola. He expressed his thanks to God and to the Church in Africa, noting the fruitfulness of the work of missionaries who live in those lands.
“First of all,” Benedict XVI said, “I wish to the thank God and all those who in various ways worked for the success of the apostolic trip I undertook in recent days in Africa.”
”I call for the blessings of heaven to fall on the seeds scattered across this African land.”
The Pope also shared that he was impressed by the Africans sense of joy at being a part of the one family of God and their strong sense of the sacred.
Turning his attention to the Sunday Gospel, the Holy Father recalled Jesus’ words about the grain of wheat that dies and later bears great fruits. It is necessary for Jesus to die like a grain of wheat, he said, in order that “a new humanity develop and grow, free from the power of sin, but capable of living in brotherhood, like sons and daughters of the same Father who lives in heaven.”
“We saw this new humanity alive,” the Pontiff said, “albeit within its human limits, in the great celebration of faith we experienced together in Africa.
“Drawing a parallel between the Jesus’ parable and the efforts of missionaries in Africa, he said, “Wherever missionaries, like Jesus, spend their life for the Gospel, fruit is harvested in abundance.” “To them, whether women and men religious or lay men and women, I wish to express my special gratitude for the good they do,” Pope Benedict added. “ It was beautiful to see the fruit of their love for Christ and realize how deep the appreciation for them among Christians is.”
The Pope concluded, “Let us thank God and pray to Mary that Christ’s message of hope and love spreads across the entire world.”
After the Marian prayer, the Holy Father greeted hundreds of African residents of Rome, who showed up to support the Pope’s message on AIDS and condoms as well as the Pontiff’s proposals for fostering economic and spiritual renewal in Africa. Addressing the group led by the Secretary of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, Archbishop Robert Sarah of Guinea, the Pope said, “You have come to express your joy and gratitude for my apostolic trip to Africa.” “I thank you wholeheartedly and pray for you, your families and your countries of origin. Thank you!”
Pope Benedict also urged young people in Rome to attend the Holy Mass he will celebrate on April 2 to mark the fourth anniversary of the death of John Paul II.
In his greeting to English-speaking pilgrims, Pope Benedict told them: “In these final weeks of Lent, let us intensify our prayer, fasting and almsgiving. In this way, we will prepare ourselves to meditate on Christ’s passion and death, so as to rejoice fully in the glory of his Resurrection. God bless you all!”