Winding down his final day in Cameroon, Pope Benedict met with 12 members of the Special Council for Africa of the Synod of Bishops and spoke about the group’s upcoming meeting on promoting reconciliation, justice and peace on the war-torn continent.
The meeting between the Holy Father and the bishops from Nigeria, Tanzania, South Africa, Algeria, Cameroon, Mozambique, Congo, Burkina Faso, Zambia, Madagascar and Egypt took place at 6:30 p.m. at the apostolic nunciature in Yaounde.
Addressing the gathering, the Pope began by turning to the long Christian history of Africa, beginning with Jesus’ stay in Egypt when his family fled Herod’s persecution.
"God chose your continent to become the dwelling-place of his Son. In Jesus, God drew near to all men and women, of course, but also, in a particular way, to the men and women of Africa," he said.
After mentioning the numerous Christian missionaries and martyrs that have played a key role in Africa’s story, Benedict XVI turned to the bishops’ upcoming meeting on Africa. The bishops will be meeting this next October at the Vatican to discuss how to bring reconciliation, justice and peace to their violence-wracked continent.
The Holy Father addressed this need, saying, "to carry out her mission well, the Church must be a community of persons reconciled with God and among themselves. In this way, she can proclaim the Good News of reconciliation to contemporary society, which unfortunately experiences in many places conflicts, acts of violence, war and hatred."
"The local or regional wars, massacres and genocides perpetrated on the continent must challenge us in a special way: if it is true that in Jesus Christ we belong to the same family and share the same life - since in our veins there flows the Blood of Christ Himself, Who has made us children of God, members of God's Family - there must no longer be hatred, injustice and internecine war."
Since the first Special Assembly for Africa, the Church has made progress in promoting the "preferential option for the poor" and helping to remedy the oppression of so many Africans, the Pope noted.
But now, the Church must work to build Christian communities that "increasingly become places of profound listening to the word of God and meditative reading of Sacred Scripture," places centered on the Eucharist which is "the source of a unity reconciled in peace," he said.
"In His flesh He has reconciled all peoples. In the power of the Holy Spirit, I appeal to everyone: 'Be reconciled to God!' No ethnic or cultural difference, no difference of race, sex or religion must become a cause for dispute among you. You are all children of the one God, our Father, Who is in heaven," the Holy Father exhorted.
He concluded by saying, "With this conviction, it will then be possible to build a more just and peaceful Africa, an Africa worthy of the legitimate expectations of all its children."