Fr. Filiberto Rodríguez, Superior of the Salesian Vice-Province in Angola, wrote a letter this week sharing his impressions of the successful visit to Africa by Pope Benedict XVI, as well as some criticism of the media coverage.
“In my opinion the Pope’s Visit more than satisfied the expectations there were. Making great sacrifices (walking miles and miles on foot – there are no buses or underground or other means of transport) the people enjoyed it, moving from one place to another enthusiastically accompanying the Pope,” Father Rodriguez wrote.
“The Church,” he added, “will carry out a serious evaluation of the preparations, the events and the results and will take note of the points it needs to insist on: the Church is the universal sacrament of salvation, since it offers to the world the person of Jesus Christ. The Pope was a missionary of the Gospel and wanted to be nothing else. This ought to be the first thing to think about.”
Father Rodriguez went on to note that there was some criticism in the media “of the absence of the President from some of the large gatherings. There has been talk of looking more at and understanding better the great needs of the poor people. In the end things go well, because the people are good and know how to put up with things. Those on the inside considered some of the organization chaotic at times.
“For some of us,” he continued, “it would have been better if a large part of the international press had not come. They are only looking for things to sensationalize. They want to sell their own papers and they are not interested in the ordinary people (whom they manipulate considering them museum pieces or market fodder), nor the purpose of the Pope’s journey.”
“Many journalists tell you: ‘we want to report the other visit’. My dear friends the journalists: the Pope’s meeting with the People that is the visit! Come and see and report the other things during the year (you forget us most of the time).”
“In fact no government, no organization has ever in the course of history been so close to the poor and to those who are suffering as has and is the Church and its Institutions,” he stressed.
Concluding his reflections, Fr. Rodríguez rebuked some of the criticisms leveled against the Pope’s remarks. He reserved his harshest words for the Pope’s European critics.
“Is it the Spanish policies of sexual incitement and disorders that will set the world to rights? What about teenage pregnancies in Spain? Is it by having abortions that the consciences of young Spaniards are liberated? Is it by sending a container of condoms that you educate and control HIV in Africa?” he asked.