En route to Rome from Africa, Pope Benedict spoke with journalists about his impressions of the African Church. The Holy Father said that he was impressed with the awareness of the sacred at the liturgies, the powerful sense of belonging to the family of God amongst Africans and his encounter with the suffering.
During his six-day visit to Cameroon and Angola, Pope Benedict said that he was particularly impressed by "this almost exuberant cordiality, this delight, of a rejoicing Africa."
The awareness of the connection between the faithful and the universal Church through Peter’s successor was also evident to Benedict XVI. "I felt they saw in the Pope ... the personification of the fact that we are the children and the family of God. This family exists and we, with all our limitations, are part of it, and God is with us."
Perhaps thinking of World Youth Day gatherings, the Pope related that he was "also moved by the spirit of meditative absorption in liturgy, the powerful sense of the sacred; in the liturgies there was no self-presentation of groups, no self-animation, but the presence of the sacred, of God Himself; even the movements were always movements of respect and awareness of the divine presence."
One incident that deeply affected the Pope was the death of two young women who were trampled at the gathering for youth on Saturday.
"I was also profoundly affected by the death of two girls during the stampede of people entering the Stadio dos Coqueiros, on Saturday. I prayed, and continue to pray, for them. ... All of us pray and hope that in the future things may be organized in such a way that this does not happen again."
Benedict XVI also explained that his meeting with the physically disabled and those suffering from traumatic experiences would remain with him as a "special memory." At the Cardinal Leger Centre, the Pope said, "it touched my heart to see a world of so much suffering, all the suffering, sadness and poverty of human existence; but also to see how State and Church work together to help those who suffer.
"It is, I believe, evident that by helping the suffering man becomes more human, the world becomes more human."
The final highlight for Pope Benedict was the publication of the Instrumentum laboris or working document that will serve as guidelines for the forthcoming Synod for Africa.
The Holy Father recalled how on St. Joseph’s feast day he met with members of the Special Council for Africa, twelve bishops who spoke to me of the situation in their local Churches, their proposals, their expectations. Thus there emerged a detailed picture of the situation of the Church in Africa, how she moves, how she suffers, what she does, what are her hopes, her problems. There is much I could say, for example the Church in South Africa, which has gone through a difficult but substantially successful experience of reconciliation, now uses her experiences in an attempt at reconciliation in Burundi, and she seeks to do something similar, though facing enormous difficulties, in Zimbabwe."