A meeting of Catholic bishops from around Africa is being held in Tanzania this week to discuss the need to protect the treasures of African cultures while also proclaiming the Gospel. In a brief message, Pope Benedict encouraged the bishops to look for “new and effective ways” to continue to uphold the values of joy in life, respect for unborn, the family and a profound sense of communion that exists in their cultures.
The congress, which is meeting this week in Bagamoyo, Tanzania is examining the "Pastoral Prospects for the New Evangelization in the Context of Globalization and its impact on African cultures.
In his message to the gathering, Pope Benedict reminded the prelates that evangelizing the culture and inculturating the Gospel "is an old yet ever new mission." This mission, he said, requires that they find "new and effective ways to present the immutable truth of the Gospel and, especially, the values of the joy of life and of respect for the unborn child, the important role of the family, and a profound sense of communion and solidarity which are present in African cultures."
The meeting, which is scheduled to last four days, began Tuesday with a Mass presided by Cardinal Polycarp Pengo, archbishop of Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania. After the reading aloud of the Pope's message, a speech entitled "Cultural Challenges of Secularism, Propagated through Globalisation" - due to have been delivered by Gianfranco Ravasi, president of the Pontifical Council for Culture, who was unable to be present - was read our by Fr. Bernard Ardura, secretary of the pontifical council.
Among the challenges Archbishop Ravasi mentions are "oblivion to the common good, social behavior guided by the logic of the market, the destruction of models of life transmitted by family, school and parish, and the exaltation of individualism."
The poorest countries, observes the president of the pontifical council, are those most exposed to the dangers of a poorly-understood globalization which leads to "the destruction of the values handed down by ancestral cultural traditions, the undermining of consciences, and the cultural uprooting of entire generations which are drawn into a spiral that leads to poverty and misery."
Nevertheless, the archbishop continues, in a context of globalized secularization the Church has the chance to make "Christian humanism" flower, "re-proposing the great moral values" and proclaiming "the Word of God, which is capable of making deserts of indifference and superficiality bear fruit."