Benedict XVI’s homily turned to Sunday’s first reading from Jeremiah. In the Book of Lamentations, there is an announcement of hope for the people of Israel, laid low by the invasion of the army of Nebuchadnezzar, the devastation of Jerusalem and the Temple and the deportation to Babylon.
In the Gospel, Jesus encounters Bartimaeus, who has lost his sight, along the road to Jerusalem. “God is light and creator of light,” the Pope explained. “Man is the son of light, made to see light, but has lost his sight and wanders.”
“Brothers, we give thanks because this ‘mysterious meeting of our poverty and the greatness’ of God is realized also in the Synodal Assembly for Africa, which today concludes,” he added. “God has renewed his call: ‘Courage! Rise up…”
“And also the Church in Africa, through the bishops, come from all the Countries of the Continent, from Madagascar and the other islands, has received the message of hope and light to walk the way leading to the Kingdom of God,” the Holy Father continued. “Bartimaeus becomes a witness to the light, giving a firsthand account of healing, renewal, regeneration.”
“This is the Church in the world, a community of persons reconciled, workers of justice and peace, ‘salt and light’ amid a society of men and nations… Moving testimony has demonstrated to us that even in these most dark moments of human history, the Holy Spirit is at work transforming the hearts of victims and persecutors so that they recognize brothers.”
The Pontiff directed the synod fathers to the example of the encyclical “Populorum progressio,” in which the Servant of God Pope Paul VI explained the principle of promoting a respectful development of local culture and locale. Pope Benedict added, “After more than forty years, this appears to be the only logic capable of freeing the African people from the slavery of hunger and sickness.”
Before the Angelus prayer, Pope Benedict spoke of the rich reality of the local Churches represented by the Synod Fathers. Animated by the Word of God and the Eucharist, he explained, the Church works so that “no one is without the necessities to live and so that all can have an existence worthy of a human being.”
Benedict XVI said he shared the joys of the Christian communities, “which continue to grow in quantity and quality.” He added, “Naturally, the actual problems of Africa and the great needs of reconciliation, justice and peace were immersed in the Assembly.”
“Today I desire to address all the African populations, especially those that share the Christian faith, so as to ideally entrust to them the ‘Final Message’ of the Synodal Assembly,” the Holy Father stated. “Dear brothers and sisters who hear me in Africa, I entrust in a special way to your prayers the fruit of this work of the Synod Fathers and I encourage you with the words of the Lord Jesus: You are the salt and light of the beloved African land!”
The Holy Father concluded by recalling next year’s Synod of Bishops for the Middle East, for which the “instrumentum laboris” will be presented during his visit to Cyprus.
After the Angelus prayer, the Pontiff extended his greeting to thousands of faithful who were gathered outside of Milan’s cathedral for the beatification of Father Carlo Gnocchi.
“Father Gnocchi worked ‘to restore the human person,’ gathering children orphaned and mutilated by the Second World War and offering them help and education. He gave his all until the very end and dying, donated his corneas to two blind children. His work has continued to develop and today the Father Gnocchi Foundation offers rehabilitation therapy to needy people of all ages. While I greet Cardinal Tettamanzi, Archbishop of Milan, and rejoice with the entire Ambrosian Church, I make my own the theme of this beatification: ‘Alongside life, forever.’”
Pope Benedict XVI’s homily for the close of the Synod of Bishops for Africa concluded with him saying that the Lord of history does not tire of renewing oppressed humanity since the time of Moses. “Rise up, African continent, the land which received the Savior as a child had to flee with Joseph and Mary to Egypt so as to save his life from the persecution of King Herod,” Pope Benedict proclaimed.