Benedict XVI visit to Benin, Africa, November 2011

 

On Africa: Protagonist of a New Season of Hope
"The Continent Contains Reserves of Life and Vitality for the Future"

VATICAN CITY, NOV. 23, 2011 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the Italian-language catechesis Benedict XVI gave today during the general audience held in Paul VI Hall. The Pope reflected upon his apostolic journey to Benin.

* * *

Dear brothers and sisters,

Still alive within me are the impressions made during my recent Apostolic Journey to Benin, which I desire to reflect upon today. Thanksgiving to the Lord flows spontaneously from my soul: in His providence, He willed that I return to Africa a second time as Successor of Peter -- on the occasion of the 150th anniversary of the beginning of the evangelization of Benin, and in order to sign and officially consign to the African ecclesial communities the Postsynodal Apostolic Exhortation Africae Munus. In this important document -- after having reflected on the analysis and proposals put forth in the Second Special Assembly for Africa of the Synod of Bishops, held in the Vatican in October 2009 -- I wanted to offer several guidelines for pastoral activities in the great African continent. At the same time, I wanted to pay homage and pray at the tomb of a noble son of Benin and of Africa and a great man of the Church -- the unforgettable Cardinal Bernardin Gantin -- whose venerable memory is more alive than ever in his country, where he is looked upon as a Father of his homeland and of the entire continent.

Today I wish to renew my heartfelt thanks to all those who contributed to the realization of my pilgrimage. First and foremost, I am very grateful to the President of the Republic, who with great kindness offered me his cordial greetings on behalf of the entire country; I am grateful also to the Archbishop of Cotonou and to the other venerable brother bishops who welcomed me with affection. I also wish to thank the priests, men and women religious, deacons, catechists and the innumerable brothers and sisters who accompanied me with great faith and warmth during those grace-filled days. Together we lived a moving experience of faith and of renewed encounter with the living Jesus Christ, in the context of the 150th anniversary of the evangelization of Benin.

I laid the fruits of the Second Special Assembly for Africa of the Synod of Bishops at the feet of the Holy Virgin, who in Benin is especially venerated in the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception of Ouidah. Modeled on Mary, the Church in Africa welcomed the Good News of the Gospel and gave birth to many peoples of faith. Now the Christian communities of Africa -- as underlined both in the Synod’s theme, as well as in the motto of my Apostolic Journey -- are called to renew themselves in faith, in order increasingly to be at the service of reconciliation, of justice and of peace. They are invited to inner reconciliation, so that they might become joyful instruments of divine mercy -- each contributing its own spiritual and material wealth to their common commitment.

Naturally, this spirit of reconciliation is indispensible also in civil life and it requires an openness to the hope that must animate the socio-political and economic life of the continent as well, as I had occasion to point out in the meeting with the political Institutions, the Diplomatic Corps and representatives of the major religions. On this occasion, I wished to underscore the hope that must inspire the development of the continent, by pointing out the ardent desire for freedom and justice that has animated the hearts of so many African peoples, especially in recent months. I then emphasized the need to build a society in which relations between different ethnic backgrounds and religions are characterized by dialogue and harmony. I invited everyone to be true sowers of hope in every circumstance and in every area of life.

Christians are of their very nature people of hope who cannot be uninterested in their own brothers and sisters: I recalled this truth before the immense crowd gathered for the Sunday Celebration of the Eucharist in Cotonou’s Stadium of Friendship. The Sunday Mass was an extraordinary moment of prayer and celebration in which thousands of the faithful from Benin and from other African nations took part, from the oldest to the youngest: It was a marvelous testimony to how the faith unites generations and responds to the challenges of every stage of life.

During this touching and solemn celebration, I presented to the President of Africa’s Conference of Bishops the Postsynodal Apostolic Exhortation Africae Munus, which I had signed the day before at Ouidah -- addressed to the bishops, to priests, men and women religious, catechists and to the laity from the whole continent of Africa. Entrusting to them the fruits of the Second Special Assembly for Africa of the Synod of Bishops, I asked them to meditate on them attentively and to live them fully, so as to respond effectively to the pilgrim Church of Africa’s demanding mission of evangelization in the third millennium. In this important text, every member of the faithful will find the fundamental guidelines that will guide and encourage the Church’s journey in Africa, which increasingly is called to be “salt of the earth” and the “light of the world” (Matthew 5:13-14).

I addressed to all the appeal to be untiring builders of communion, peace and solidarity, in order thereby to cooperate in the realization of God’s plan of salvation for humanity. Africans responded with their enthusiasm to the Pope’s invitation -- and in their faces, in their ardent faith, in their resolute adherence to the Gospel of life -- I recognized once more consoling signs of hope for the great African continent.

I experienced these signs firsthand also in my meeting with children, and in my encounter with the world of suffering. In the parish church of St. Rita, I truly experienced the joy of life, the delight and enthusiasm of the new generations who represent the future of Africa. To the joyful throng of children -- one of the great resources and riches of the Continent -- I held up the figure of St. Kizito, an Ugandan boy who was killed because he wanted to live according to the Gospel, and I exhorted each child to be a witness to Jesus among his own peers.

My encounter with abandoned and sick children at the Home of Peace and Happiness run by Mother Teresa's Missionaries of Charity was an extremely moving experience, which permitted me to see concretely how love and solidarity are able to make the strength and affection of the Risen Christ present in weakness.

The joy and apostolic ardor that I encountered among priests, men and women religious, seminarians and lay faithful, who gathered in great numbers, is a sign of sure hope for the future of the Church in Benin. I exhorted all to an authentic and living faith and to a Christian life characterized by the practice of the virtues, and I encouraged everyone to live their respective mission in the Church with fidelity to the teachings of the Magisterium, in communion among themselves and with their Pastors. I pointed out the way of holiness especially to priests, recalling that ministry is not a mere social function but a means of bringing God to man and man to God.

The meeting with the Bishops of Benin was an intense moment of communion, during which we reflected particularly upon the origins of the announcement of the Gospel in their country by missionaries who generously gave their lives -- at times in a heroic manner -- so that the love of God might be proclaimed to all. To the bishops I addressed an invitation to implement appropriate pastoral initiatives in order to enkindle in families, parishes, communities and ecclesial movements a constant rediscovery of Sacred Scripture as a source of spiritual renewal and an opportunity to deepen their faith. In this renewed approach to the Word of God and in the rediscovery of their own baptism, the lay faithful will find the strength to witness their faith in Christ and in His Gospel in their daily lives.

In this crucial phase for the entire continent, the Church in Africa -- with its commitment to the service of the Gospel and with the courageous witness of effective solidarity -- will be able to be a protagonist of a new season of hope. In Africa, I saw a freshness in the “yes” to life, a freshness in religious sensibilities and a freshness of hope, as well as a sense of reality in its totality, with God -- and not reduced to a positivism that, in the end, extinguishes hope. This tells us that the continent contains reserves of life and vitality for the future upon which we can rely, upon which the Church can rely.

My journey was a great appeal to Africa to direct every effort to announcing the Gospel to those who as yet do not know it. This involves a renewed commitment to evangelization -- to which each of the baptized is called -- by promoting reconciliation, justice and peace.

To Mary, Mother of the Church and Our Lady of Africa, I entrust all those whom I had occasion to meet during my unforgettable Apostolic Journey. To her I commend the Church in Africa. May the maternal intercession of Mary “whose heart is always inclined to God’s will, sustain every effort at conversion; may she consolidate every initiative of reconciliation and strengthen every endeavour for peace in a world which hungers and thirsts for justice” (Africae munus, 175). Thank you.

[Translation by Diane Montagna]

[The Holy Father then greeted pilgrims in several languages. In English, he said:]

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

My Apostolic Journey to Benin this past week celebrated the hundred and fiftieth anniversary of its evangelization and enabled me to honour the memory of Cardinal Bernardin Gantin, a great churchman and a noble son of that country. During Sunday Mass at the stadium of Cotonou I signed the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Africae Munus and presented it to the entire Church in Africa. The Exhortation gathers the fruits of the Second Special Assembly for Africa of the Synod of Bishops, held in Rome two years ago, and it offers guidelines for the Church’s future mission on the continent. In the light of the Synod, the Church in Africa is called to deepened faith and commitment in the service to reconciliation, justice and peace. I ask you to join me in commending all Christ’s followers in Africa to the maternal intercession of Our Lady of Africa, so that by their witness of fidelity to God’s word, their commitment to the spread of the Gospel and their efforts to build communion, peace and solidarity they can become protagonists of a new season of hope for that great Continent.


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Pastoral Visit to Benin November 2011

Transcript from Papal Plane
by John L Allen Jr on Nov. 18, 2011


COTONOU, BENIN -- Popes rarely hold press conferences, which makes each papal encounter with the media remarkable for something – either for what’s said, or what’s not. Benedict XVI’s session with the press en route to Benin this morning, on day one of his Nov. 18-20 voyage to the West African nation of eight million, offered a taste of each.

Perhaps the biggest news flash is what wasn’t said – indeed, what wasn’t even allowed to surface. Unlike his last outing to Africa in 2009, this time Benedict did not wade into the debate over condoms and AIDS.

As usual, the Vatican spokesperson, Jesuit Fr. Federico Lombardi, had asked reporters to submit questions in advance, and then he put them to the pope in a 15-minute Q&A shortly after the papal plane took off from Rome’s Fiumicino airport. Subjects ranged from Evangelical and Pentecostal Christianity to peace and reconciliation commissions, but nothing on HIV/AIDS or condoms.

In terms of what was actually said this morning, the pontiff offered a balanced view of Evangelical/Pentecostal growth around the world. He suggested there are things the Catholic church can learn from these groups, but also clearly indicated other features to avoid – such as “sentimentality” in worship, or an overly tight embrace of the local culture that leaves the universal dimension of the church out of focus.

Benedict also praised the “fresh humanism of the young soul” of Africa, arguing that a “metaphysical” view of the world is still alive on the continent, as opposed to a “rigid positivism” that excludes God. On a personal note, the pope offered a warm personal memory of the late Cardinal Bernardin Gantin of Benin, a close friend from the John Paul years. Benedict is scheduled to pray at Gantin’s tomb.

The following is a rush NCR translation of Benedict’s comments today, aside from an initial question about the reasons why he chose Benin. The pope took one question in French, the national language of Benin, and the rest in Italian.

Lombardi

Holy Father, here on board the plane there are forty journalists representing various agencies and broadcast outlets. In Cotonou, there are a thousand journalists waiting who will follow the visit on-site. As usual, I’ll ask you a few questions collected in these days from our colleagues.

While Africans suffer from a weakening of their traditional institutions, the Catholic church is confronted by the growing success of Evangelical and Pentecostal churches, which are sometimes created in Africa. They propose an attractive faith, with a great simplification of the Christian message. They emphasize healing and mix their cult with traditional religious practices. How should the Catholic church react to these communities, which are often aggressive towards the church? How can the Catholic church seem attractive, when these communities present themselves as warm and inculturated?

Benedict XVI

These communities are a global phenomenon, on all the continents. Naturally, they’re present above all, in different ways, in Latin America and in Africa. I would say their characteristic elements are very little ‘institutionality’ and few institutions, giving little weight to institutions; a message that’s simple, easy, and understandable, and apparently concrete; and, as you said, a participative liturgy expressing the sentiments of the local culture, with a somewhat syncretistic approach to the religions. All this guarantees them, on the one hand, some success, but it also implies a lack of stability. We know that some [followers of these groups] return to the Catholic church, or they move from one of these communities to the other.

Thus, we don’t need to imitate these communities, but we should ask ourselves what we can do to give new life to the Catholic faith. I would suggest, as a first point, a message that’s simple and understandable, but also profound. It’s important that Christianity doesn’t come as a difficult European system, one which someone else can’t understand or realize, but as a universal message that God exists, God matters, God knows us and loves us, and that in concrete, religion provokes collaboration and fraternity. Thus a simple, concrete message is very important.

Second, it’s important that our institutions not be too heavy. What must be prevalent is the initiative of the community and the person. Finally, I would say that a participative liturgy is important, but one that’s not sentimental. Worship must not be simply an expression of sentiments, but raise up the presence and the mystery of God into which he enter and by which we allow ourselves to be formed.

Finally, I would say with regard to inculturation that it’s important we not lose universality. I would prefer to speak of “inter-culturation,” not so much inculturation. It’s a matter of a meeting between cultures in the common truth of our being as humans, in our time. Thus we grow in a universal fraternity. We mustn’t lose this grand thing that is Catholicity, that in all parts of the world we are brothers and sisters, we are one family, where we know each other and collaborate in a spirit of fraternity.

Lombardi

Holiness, in recent decades there have been many operations of ‘peacekeeping’ on African soil, conferences for national reconstruction, commissions of truth and reconciliation, with results which are sometimes good and sometimes disappointing. During the Synod for Africa, the bishops had strong words on the responsibility of political leaders on the continent. What message do you plan to address to the political leaders of Africa? What’s the specific contribution the church can give to the construction of a durable peace on the continent?

Benedict XVI

The message is contained in the text I’ll present to the church in Africa, and I can’t repeat it right now in just a few words. However, it’s true there have been many international conferences, many for Africa, for universal fraternity. They say nice things, and sometimes they really do good things. We have to recognize that. Yet certainly the words, the desires and good intentions, are greater than what’s been accomplished. We have to ask ourselves why the reality doesn’t match these words and good intentions.

A fundamental factor, it seems to me, is that a renewal in the direction of universal fraternity demands renunciation. It demands going beyond egoism, to be for the other. That’s easy to say but hard to accomplish. The human person, after original sin, wants to possess himself – to have life, not to give life. I want to keep whatever I have. Naturally with this mentality, that I don’t want to give but to have, things don’t work. It’s only with love, and the awareness of a God who loves us and gives to us, that we can arrive at a capacity to give ourselves away. We know, of course, that it’s precisely in giving away that we actually gain anything.

Thus beyond the details contained in the document from the synod, I would just say that this is a fundamental position – that loving God and being in friendship with this God who gives himself to us, we too can dare and learn to give and not simply to have, to renounce ourselves for the other, and to give up our lives in their certainty that this is precisely how we’ll gain it.

Lombardi

Holiness, at the opening of the African synod in Rome, you spoke of Africa as a ‘great spiritual lung for a humanity experiencing a crisis of faith and hope.’ Thinking about the great problems of Africa, this expression can appear almost disturbing. In what sense do you think faith and hope for the world can truly come from Africa? Are you thinking about the role of Africa in the evangelization of the rest of the world?

Benedict XVI

Naturally, Africa has great problems and difficulties, like all humanity has great problems. If I think about my youth, it was a completely different world than that of today, so much so that I sometimes think I’m living on a different planet from when I was a young man! Humanity finds itself in an ever more rapid process of transformation, and for Africa this process over the last 50-60 years, moving from independence after colonialism up to today, has been very demanding. Naturally, it’s a very difficult process with great problems that haven’t yet been entirely resolved.

Nevertheless, there’s a freshness, a ‘yes’ to life, in Africa, a youthfulness that’s full of enthusiasm and hope. There’s a sense of humor, a joy. It shows a freshness, too, in the religious sense. There’s still a metaphysical perception of reality, meaning reality in its totality with God. There’s not a rigid positivism, that restricts our life and makes it a little arid, and also turns off hope. I would say there’s a fresh humanism in the young soul of Africa, despite all the problems that exist. There’s a reserve of life and vitality for the future that we can count upon.

Lombardi

A final question, Holiness. Let’s return a moment to something you’ve identified as one of the motives for this trip to Benin. We know that the memory of Cardinal Gantin has an important place on this trip. You knew him very well. He was your predecessor as dean of the College of Cardinals. The universal esteem that surrounds him is very great. Can you give us a brief personal comment on him?

Benedict XVI

I saw Cardinal Gantin for the first time at my ordination as Archbishop of Munich in 1976. He had come become one of his former students was a disciple of mine. That had been the beginning of a friendship between us, without our having met. On that important day of my episcopal ordination, it was beautiful for me to meet this young African bishop full of faith, full of joy and courage. Then, we worked together a great deal, above all when he was the prefect of the Congregation for Bishops and then in the College of Cardinals. I always marveled at his deep and practical intelligence, his sense of discernment, to not trip over beautiful ideological phrases but to grasp what’s essential and what doesn’t make sense. He also had a true sense of humor which was very beautiful. Above all, he was a man of deep faith and prayer. All this made Cardinal Gantin not just a friend, but an example. He was a great African Catholic bishop, and I’m truly happy now that I’m able to pray at his tomb and to feel his closeness, his great faith, which will always make him an example for me and a friend.

Lombardi

Holiness, permit me to add that your disciple who invited Cardinal Gantin is also present here with us on the trip, Monsignor [Barthelemy] Adoukonou [Secretary of the Pontifical Council for Culture], so he’s also present for this beautiful experience. We thank you for this time you’ve given us. We wish you a good trip, and, as usual, we’ll try to ensure a good distribution of your messages for Africa in these days. Thanks again, and see you soon!

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2011-11-18 Vatican Radio

Pope Benedict has arrived in Benin at the start of his 48-hour apostolic visit to the West African nation. Here is the full transcript of his arrival address, translated in English, delivered at the international airport of the capital, Cotonou:

"Mr President,
Your Eminence,Dear President of the Episcopal Conference of Benin,
Civil, Ecclesiastical and Religious Authorities,Dear Friends,

I thank you, Mr President, for the warm words of welcome. You know well the affection which I have for your continent and for your country. I was eager to return to Africa, and a threefold motivation has provided the occasion for this Apostolic Journey. First and foremost, Mr President, is your kind invitation to visit your country. Your initiative was received along with that of the Episcopal Conference of Benin. These are auspicious, since they come during the year in which Benin celebrates the fortieth anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations with the Holy See, as well the one hundred and fiftieth anniversary of her evangelization. While among you, I will have the occasion to meet many people, and I look forward to it. Each of these experiences will be different, and will culminate in the Eucharist which I will celebrate before I leave.

This Apostolic Journey also fulfils my desire to bring back to African soil the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Africae Munus. Its reflections will guide the pastoral activities of numerous Christian communities in the coming years. May this document fall into the ground and take root, grow and bear much fruit “in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty”, as Christ himself said (Mt 13:23). Additionally, there exists a third reason which is more personal and more emotive. I have long held in high esteem a son of this country, His Eminence Cardinal Bernardin Gantin. For many years, we both worked, each according to his proper competence, labouring in the same vineyard. We both happily assisted my predecessor, Blessed John Paul II, in the exercise of his Petrine ministry. We had many occasions to meet, to engage in profound discussions and to pray together. Cardinal Gantin won the respect and the affection of many. So it seemed right that I should come to his country of origin, to pray before his tomb, and to thank Benin for having given the Church such a distinguished son.

Benin is a country of ancient and noble traditions. Her history is significant. I am pleased to take this opportunity to greet the traditional Chiefs. Their contribution is important in the construction of the country’s future. I would like to encourage them to contribute, with their wisdom and understanding of local customs, in the delicate transition currently under way from tradition to modernity. Modernity need not provoke fear, but neither can it be constructed by neglecting the past. It needs to be accompanied by prudence for the good of all in order to avoid the pitfalls which exist on the African continent and elsewhere, such as unconditional surrender to the law of the market or that of finance, nationalism or exaggerated and sterile tribalism which can become destructive, a politicization of interreligious tensions to the detriment of the common good, or finally the erosion of human, cultural, ethical and religious values. The transition to modernity must be guided by sure criteria based on recognized virtues, which are listed in your national motto, but equally which are firmly rooted in the dignity of the person, the importance of the family and respect for life. All of these values exist in view of the common good which must take first place, and which must constitute the primary concern of all in positions of responsibility. God trusts in man and desires his good. It is our task to respond, in honesty and justice, to his high expectations.

The Church, for her part, offers her own specific contribution. By her presence, her prayer and her various works of mercy, especially in education and health care, she wishes to give her best to everyone. She wants to be close to those who are in need, near to those who search for God. She wants to make it understood that God is neither absent nor irrelevant as some would have us believe but that he is the friend of man. It is in this spirit of friendship and of fraternity that I come to your country, Mr President." [May God bless Benin!]

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Pope's Press Conference en Route to Benin
"There's a Fresh Humanism in the Young Soul of Africa"

ON BOARD THE PAPAL PLANE, NOV. 18, 2011 (Zenit.org).- Here is a transcription and translation of the press conference Benedict XVI gave today en route to Benin, with the introduction and questions posed by Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, director of the Vatican press office.

The text is provided by Vatican Radio.

* * *

Holy Father, here on board the plane there are forty journalists representing various agencies and broadcast agencies. In Cotonou, there are a thousand journalists waiting who will follow the visit on the ground. As usual, I will ask you a few questions submitted over the past few days by our colleagues.

Q: Holy Father, this journey takes us to Benin, but it is a very important trip for the entire African continent. Why did you choose Benin as the country from which to launch your message for all of Africa, today and tomorrow?

A: There are several reasons. The first is that Benin is a country at peace, external and internal peace. Democratic institutions work, in a spirit of freedom and responsibility and thus justice and the common good are possible and guaranteed by a democratic system and a sense of responsibility in freedom. The second reason is that, as in most African countries, there is the presence of different religions and peaceful coexistence between these religions. There are Christians in their diversity, not always an easy one, there are Muslims, and then there are the traditional religions, and these different religions live together in mutual respect and common responsibility for peace, for inner and outer reconciliation. It seems to me that this coexistence of religions and interreligious dialogue as a factor of peace and freedom is an important aspect, just as it is an important part of the Apostolic Exhortation. Finally, the third reason is that this is the country of origin of my dear friend, Cardinal Bernardin Gantin: I have always wanted to one day be able to pray at his tomb. He really was a great friend of mine -- we'll talk about that at the end, perhaps -- and so a visit to the country of Cardinal Gantin, a great representative of Catholic Africa, civilized and human Africa is one of the personal reasons why I wanted to go to this country.

Q: While Africans suffer from a weakening of their traditional institutions, the Catholic church is confronted by the growing success of Evangelical and Pentecostal churches, which are sometimes created in Africa. They propose an attractive faith, with a great simplification of the Christian message. They emphasize healing and mix their cult with traditional religious practices. How should the Catholic church react to these communities, which are often aggressive towards the church? How can the Catholic church seem attractive, when these communities present themselves as warm and inculturated?

A : These communities are a global phenomenon, on all the continents. Naturally, they are present above all, in different ways, in Latin America and in Africa. I would say their characteristic elements are very little 'institutionality' and few institutions, giving little weight to institutions; a message that's simple, easy, and understandable, and apparently concrete; and, as you said, a participative liturgy expressing the sentiments of the local culture, with a somewhat syncretistic approach to the religions. All this guarantees them, on the one hand, some success, but it also implies a lack of stability. We know that some return to the Catholic Church, or they move from one of these communities to the other. Thus, we don't need to imitate these communities, but we should ask ourselves what we can do to give new life to the Catholic faith. I would suggest, as a first point, a message that's simple and understandable, but also profound. It's important that Christianity doesn't come as a difficult European system, one which someone else can't understand or realize, but as a universal message that God exists, God matters, God knows us and loves us, and that in concrete, religion provokes collaboration and fraternity. Thus a simple, concrete message is very important. Then it is also important that our institutions not be too heavy. What must be prevalent is the initiative of the community and the person. Finally, I would say that a participative liturgy is important, but one that's not sentimental. Worship must not be simply an expression of sentiments, but raise up the presence and the mystery of God into which we enter and by which we allow ourselves to be formed. Finally, I would say with regard to inculturation that it's important we not lose universality. I would prefer to speak of "inter-culturation," not so much inculturation. It's a matter of a meeting between cultures in the common truth of our being as humans, in our time. Thus we grow in a universal fraternity. We mustn't lose this grand thing that is Catholicity, that in all parts of the world we are brothers and sisters, we are one family, where we know each other and collaborate in a spirit of fraternity.

Q: Holiness, in recent decades there have been many operations of 'peacekeeping' on African soil, conferences for national reconstruction, commissions of truth and reconciliation, with results which are sometimes good and sometimes disappointing. During the Synod for Africa, the bishops had strong words on the responsibility of political leaders on the continent. What message do you plan to address to the political leaders of Africa? What’s the specific contribution the church can give to the construction of a durable peace on the continent?

A: The message is contained in the text I'll present to the church in Africa, and I can't repeat it right now in just a few words. However, it's true there have been many international conferences, many for Africa, for universal fraternity. They say nice things, and sometimes they really do good things. We have to recognize that. Yet certainly the words, the desires and good intentions, are greater than what's been accomplished. We have to ask ourselves why the reality doesn't match these words and good intentions. A fundamental factor, it seems to me, is that a renewal in the direction of universal fraternity demands renunciation. It demands going beyond egoism, to be for the other. That's easy to say but hard to accomplish. The human person, after original sin, wants to possess himself -- to have life, not to give life. I want to keep whatever I have. Naturally with this mentality, that I don't want to give but to have, things don't work. It's only with love, and the awareness of a God who loves us and gives to us, that we can arrive at a capacity to give ourselves away. We know, of course, that it's precisely in giving away that we actually gain anything. Thus beyond the details contained in the document from the synod, I would just say that this is a fundamental position -- that loving God and being in friendship with this God who gives himself to us, we too can dare and learn to give and not simply to have, to renounce ourselves for the other, and to give up our lives in the certainty that this is precisely how we'll gain them.

Q: Holiness, at the opening of the African synod in Rome, you spoke of Africa as a 'great spiritual lung for a humanity experiencing a crisis of faith and hope.' Thinking about the great problems of Africa, this expression can appear almost disturbing. In what sense do you think faith and hope for the world can truly come from Africa? Are you thinking about the role of Africa in the evangelization of the rest of the world?

A: Naturally, Africa has great problems and difficulties, like all humanity has great problems. If I think about my youth, it was a completely different world than that of today, so much so that I sometimes think I'm living on a different planet from when I was a young man! Humanity finds itself in an ever more rapid process of transformation, and for Africa this process over the last 50-60 years, moving from independence after colonialism up to today, has been very demanding. Naturally, it's a very difficult process with great problems that haven't yet been entirely resolved. Nevertheless, there's a freshness, a 'yes' to life, in Africa, a youthfulness that's full of enthusiasm and hope. There's a sense of humor, a joy. It shows a freshness, too, in the religious sense. There's still a metaphysical perception of reality, meaning reality in its totality with God. There's not a rigid positivism, that restricts our life and makes it a little arid, and also turns off hope. I would say there's a fresh humanism in the young soul of Africa, despite all the problems that exist. There's a reserve of life and vitality for the future that we can count upon.

Q: A final question, Holiness. Let’s return a moment to something you’ve identified as one of the motives for this trip to Benin. We know that the memory of Cardinal Gantin has an important place on this trip. You knew him very well. He was your predecessor as dean of the College of Cardinals. The universal esteem that surrounds him is very great. Can you give us a brief personal comment on him?

A: I saw Cardinal Gantin for the first time at my ordination as Archbishop of Munich in 1976. He had come because one of his former students was a disciple of mine. That had been the beginning of a friendship between us, without our having met. [Then,] on that important day of my episcopal ordination, it was beautiful for me to meet this young African bishop full of faith, full of joy and courage. Then, we worked together a great deal, above all when he was the prefect of the Congregation for Bishops and then in the College of Cardinals. I always marveled at his deep and practical intelligence, his sense of discernment, to not trip over beautiful ideological phrases but to grasp what's essential and what doesn't make sense. He also had a true sense of humor which was very beautiful. Above all, he was a man of deep faith and prayer. All this made Cardinal Gantin not just a friend, but an example. He was a great African Catholic bishop, and I'm truly happy now that I'm able to pray at his tomb and to feel his closeness, his great faith, which will always make him an example for me and a friend.

Fr. Lombardi :Holiness, permit me to add that your disciple who invited Cardinal Gantin is also present here with us on the trip, Monsignor [Barthelemy] Adoukonou [Secretary of the Pontifical Council for Culture], so he is also present for this beautiful experience. We thank you for this time you've given us. We wish you a good trip, and, as usual, we'll try to ensure a good distribution of your messages for Africa in these days. Thanks again, and see you soon!

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Pope's Arrival Address in Benin
"God Trusts in Man and Desires His Good"

COTONOU, Benin, NOV. 18, 2011 - Here is a Vatican translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered today upon his arrival in Cotonou, the capital of Benin. The Pope is making his second trip to Africa and will be there through Sunday.

* * *

Mr President,

Your Eminence,

Dear President of the Episcopal Conference of Benin,

Civil, Ecclesiastical and Religious Authorities,

Dear Friends,

I thank you, Mr President, for the warm words of welcome. You know well the affection which I have for your continent and for your country. I was eager to return to Africa, and a threefold motivation has provided the occasion for this Apostolic Journey. First and foremost, Mr President, is your kind invitation to visit your country. Your initiative was received along with that of the Episcopal Conference of Benin. These are auspicious, since they come during the year in which Benin celebrates the fortieth anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations with the Holy See, as well the one hundred and fiftieth anniversary of her evangelization. While among you, I will have the occasion to meet many people, and I look forward to it. Each of these experiences will be different, and will culminate in the Eucharist which I will celebrate before I leave.

This Apostolic Journey also fulfils my desire to bring back to African soil the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Africae Munus. Its reflections will guide the pastoral activities of numerous Christian communities in the coming years. May this document fall into the ground and take root, grow and bear much fruit "in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty", as Christ himself said (Mt 13:23).

Additionally, there exists a third reason which is more personal and more emotive. I have long held in high esteem a son of this country, His Eminence Cardinal Bernardin Gantin. For many years, we both worked, each according to his proper competence, labouring in the same vineyard. We both happily assisted my predecessor, Blessed John Paul II, in the exercise of his Petrine ministry. We had many occasions to meet, to engage in profound discussions and to pray together. Cardinal Gantin won the respect and the affection of many. So it seemed right that I should come to his country of origin, to pray before his tomb, and to thank Benin for having given the Church such a distinguished son.

Benin is a country of ancient and noble traditions. Her history is significant. I am pleased to take this opportunity to greet the traditional Chiefs. Their contribution is important in the construction of the country’s future. I would like to encourage them to contribute, with their wisdom and understanding of local customs, in the delicate transition currently under way from tradition to modernity.

Modernity need not provoke fear, but neither can it be constructed by neglecting the past. It needs to be accompanied by prudence for the good of all in order to avoid the pitfalls which exist on the African continent and elsewhere, such as unconditional surrender to the law of the market or that of finance, nationalism or exaggerated and sterile tribalism which can become destructive, a politicization of interreligious tensions to the detriment of the common good, or finally the erosion of human, cultural, ethical and religious values. The transition to modernity must be guided by sure criteria based on recognized virtues, which are listed in your national motto, but equally which are firmly rooted in the dignity of the person, the importance of the family and respect for life. All of these values exist in view of the common good which must take first place, and which must constitute the primary concern of all in positions of responsibility. God trusts in man and desires his good. It is our task to respond, in honesty and justice, to his high expectations.

The Church, for her part, offers her own specific contribution. By her presence, her prayer and her various works of mercy, especially in education and health care, she wishes to give her best to everyone. She wants to be close to those who are in need, near to those who search for God. She wants to make it understood that God is neither absent nor irrelevant as some would have us believe but that he is the friend of man. It is in this spirit of friendship and of fraternity that I come to your country, Mr President.

(In Fon) May God bless Benin!

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Papal Address at Cotonou Cathedral
"God, Our Father, Redirects Us ... for He Does Not Wish Us to Be Lost"

COTONOU, Benin, NOV. 18, 2011 - Here is a Vatican translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered today at the cathedral of Cotonou. The Pope is making his second trip to Africa and will be there through Sunday.

* * *

Your Eminences,

Most Reverend Archbishop and Dear Brother Bishops,

Reverend Father Rector of the Cathedral,

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

The ancient hymn, the Te Deum, which we have just sung, expresses our praise to the thrice-holy God who gathers us in this beautiful Cathedral of Our Lady of Mercy. We pay homage as well to the former Archbishops who are buried here: Archbishop Christoph Adimou and Archbishop Isidore de Sousa. They were heroic workers in the vineyard of the Lord, and their memory lives on in the hearts of Catholics and innumerable other citizens of Benin. These two Bishops were, each in his own way, pastors full of zeal and charity. They spent themselves, without counting the cost, in the service of the Gospel and of the people of God, especially the most vulnerable. You know well that Archbishop de Sousa was a friend of the truth and that he played a decisive role in your country’s transition to democracy.

As we praise God for the marvels which he never ceases to bestow upon humanity, I invite you to meditate for a moment on his infinite mercy. The history of salvation, which culminates in the incarnation of Jesus and finds its fulfilment in the Paschal Mystery, is a radiant revelation of the mercy of God. In the Son, the "Father of mercies" (2 Cor 1:3) is made visible; ever faithful to his fatherhood, he "leans down to each prodigal child, to each human misery, and above all to their moral misery, to their sins" (John Paul II, Dives in Misericordia, 6). Divine mercy consists not only in the remission of our sins; it also consists in the fact that God, our Father, redirects us, sometimes not without pain, affliction or fear on our part, to the path of truth and light, for he does not wish us to be lost (cf. Mt 18:14; Jn 3:16). This double expression of divine mercy shows how faithful God is to the covenant sealed with each Christian in his or her baptism. Looking back upon the personal history of each individual and of the evangelization of our countries, we can say together with the Psalmist, "I will sing of thy steadfast love, O Lord, for ever" (Ps 88:1).

The Virgin Mary experienced to the highest degree the mystery of divine love: "His mercy is on those who fear him from generation to generation" (Lk 1:50), she exclaimed in her Magnificat. By her yes to the call of God, she contributed to the manifestation of divine love in the midst of humanity. In this sense, she is the Mother of Mercy by her participation in the mission of her Son: she has received the privilege of being our helper always and everywhere. "By her manifold intercession, she continues to procure the gifts which assure our eternal salvation. By her motherly love, she cares for her Son’s sisters and brothers who still journey on earth surrounded by dangers and difficulties, until they are led into their blessed home" (Lumen Gentium, 62). Under the shelter of her mercy, deadened hearts are healed, the snares of the devil are thwarted and enemies are reconciled. In Mary, we have not only a model of perfection, but also one who helps us to realize communion with God and with our brothers and sisters. As Mother of Mercy, she is a sure guide to the disciples of her son who wish to be of service to justice, to reconciliation and to peace. She shows us, with simplicity and with a mother’s heart, the one Light and Truth: her Son, Jesus Christ who leads humanity to its full realization in the Father. Let us not be afraid to invoke, with confidence, her who ceaselessly dispenses to her children abundant divine graces:

O Mother of Mercy,

We salute you, Mother of the Redeemer;

We salute you, Glorious Virgin;

We salute you, our Queen!

O Queen of Hope,

Show us the face of your divine Son;

Guide us along the way of holiness;

Give us the joy of those who say Yes to God!

O Queen of Peace,

Fulfil the most noble aspirations of the young people of Africa;

Fill the hearts of those who thirst for justice, for peace and for

reconciliation;

Fulfil the hopes of children, victims of hunger and of war!

O Queen of Peace,

Obtain for us a filial and fraternal love;

Grant that we may be friends of the poor and the little ones;

Obtain for the peoples of the earth a spirit of brotherhood!

Our Lady of Africa,

Obtain from your divine Son healing for the sick, consolation for the afflicted, pardon for sinners;

Intercede for Africa before your divine Son,

And obtain for all of humanity salvation and peace!

Amen.

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Pope's Message at Signing of 'Africae Munus'
"We Must Never Give Up the Search for New Paths of Peace!"

COTONOU, Benin, NOV. 19, 2011 - Here is a Vatican translation of the multilingual address Benedict XVI delivered today in Benin as he signed the postsynodal apostolic exhortation, "Africae Munus."

* * *

(in English)

Your Eminences,
Dear Brother Bishops and Priests,
Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I cordially thank the Secretary General of the Synod of Bishops, Archbishop Nikola Eterovic', for his words of welcome and presentation, as well as all the members of the Special Council for Africa who helped to collate the results of the Synodal Assembly in preparation for the publication of the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation.

Today, the celebration of the Synod concludes with the signing of the Exhortation Africae Munus. The Synod gave an impetus to the Catholic Church in Africa, which prayed, reflected on and discussed the theme of reconciliation, justice and peace. This process was marked by a special closeness uniting the Successor of Peter and the Particular Churches in Africa. Bishops, but also experts, auditors, special guests and fraternal delegates, all came to Rome to celebrate this important ecclesial event. I myself went to Yaoundé to present the Instrumentum Laboris of the Synod to the Presidents of the Bishops’ Conferences, as a sign of my interest and concern for all the peoples of the African continent and the neighbouring islands. I now have the joy of returning to Africa, and particularly to Benin, to consign this final document, which takes up the reflections of the Synod Fathers and presents them synthetically as part of a broad pastoral vision.

(in French)

The Second Special Assembly for Africa of the Synod of Bishops benefited from the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia in Africa of Blessed John Paul II, which emphasized the urgent need to evangelize this continent, an activity which cannot be separated from the work of human promotion. The Exhortation also developed the concept of the Church as God’s Family. This concept has borne many spiritual fruits for the Catholic Church and for the activity of evangelization and human promotion which she has carried out in African society as a whole. The Church is called to see herself increasingly as a family. For Christians, this means being a community of believers which praises the triune God, celebrates the great mysteries of our faith and enlivens with charity relationships between individuals, groups and nations, above and beyond ethnic, cultural and religious differences. In offering this service to everyone, the Church is open to cooperation with all the components of society, particularly with the representatives of the Churches and Ecclesial Communities not yet in full communion with the Catholic Church, as well as with the representatives of the non-Christian religions, above all those of traditional religions and of Islam.

Within this ecclesial horizon, the Second Special Assembly for Africa concentrated on the theme of reconciliation, justice and peace. These are important issues for the world in general, but they take on a particular urgency in Africa. We need but recall the tensions, the acts of violence, the wars, the injustices and abuses of all sorts, new and old, which have marked this year. The principal theme was that of reconciliation with God and with one’s neighbour. But a Church reconciled within herself and among all her members can become a prophetic sign of reconciliation in society within each country and the continent as a whole. Saint Paul writes: "All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation" (2 Cor 5:18). The basis of this reconciliation is found in the very nature of the Church, which "in Christ, is a sacrament – a sign and instrument that is, of communion with God and of the unity of the entire human race" (Lumen Gentium, 1). Following on this assembly, the Church in Africa is called to promote peace and justice. The Gate of No Return, as well as that of Pardon, remind us of this duty and impel us to combat every form of slavery.

(in Portuguese)

We must never give up the search for new paths of peace! Peace is one of our greatest treasures! To attain peace, we need to have courage and the reconciliation born of forgiveness, the will once more to live as one, to share a vision of the future and to persevere in overcoming difficulties. Men and women reconciled and at peace with God and neighbour can work for greater justice in society. Let us not forget that the Gospel teaches that justice means above all doing God’s will. This fundamental resolve spawns countless initiatives aimed at promoting justice in Africa and the welfare of all its peoples, especially the most disadvantaged and those in need of employment, schools and hospitals.

Africa, land of a New Pentecost, put your trust in God! Impelled by the Spirit of the Risen Christ, become God’s great family, generous with all your sons and daughters, agents of reconciliation, peace and justice! Africa, Good News for the Church, become Good News for the entire world! Thank you!

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Benedict XVI's Greeting on the Christian Vocations
To Priests, Seminarians, Religious and Laity: "Have an Authentic and Living Faith"

COTONOU, Benin, NOV. 19, 2011 - Here is a Vatican translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered today in Benin at a meeting with priests, seminarians, religious and lay faithful.

* * *

Your Eminence,

Bishop N’Koué, responsible for priestly formation,

Dear Brother Bishops and Priests,

Dear men and women religious,

Dear seminarians and lay faithful,

Thank you, Bishop N’Koué, for your kind words, and thank you dear seminarian, for your own welcoming and respectful ones. It is a great joy for me to be among you, in Ouidah, and in particular in this seminary placed under the protection of Saint Joan of Arc and dedicated to Saint Gall, a man of outstanding virtue, a monk who desired perfection, and a pastor full of meekness and humility. What could be more noble than to have him as your model, as well as the figure of Monsignor Louis Parisot, indefatigable apostle of the poor and promoter of the local clergy, and that of Father Thomas Moulero, the first priest of the then Dahomey, as well as Cardinal Bernardin Gantin, eminent son of your land and humble servant of the Church?

Our encounter this morning offers me the opportunity to express directly to you my gratitude for your pastoral commitment. I give thanks to God for your zeal, in spite of the occasionally difficult conditions in which you are called to give witness to his love. I thank him for the many men and women who have proclaimed the Gospel in this land, and indeed throughout Africa.

Shortly, I will sign the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Africae Munus. It will treat the question of peace, justice and reconciliation. These three values stand out as an evangelical ideal fundamental to baptismal life, and they demand sound acceptance of your identity as priests, as consecrated persons and as lay faithful.

Dear priests, the responsibility for promoting peace, justice and reconciliation falls in a special way to you. Owing to your reception of Holy Orders and your celebration of the Sacraments, you are called in effect to be men of communion. As crystal does not retain the light but rather reflects it and passes it on, in the same manner the priest must make transparent what he celebrates and what he has received. I thus encourage you to let Christ shine through your life, by being in full communion with your Bishop, by a genuine goodwill towards your brother priests, by a profound solicitude for each of the baptized and by great attention to each person. In letting yourself be modelled on Christ, you will never substitute the beauty of your priestly being with ephemeral and at times unhealthy realities which the contemporary mentality tends to impose on every culture. I urge you, dear priests, never to underestimate the unfathomable riches of the divine grace placed in you and which you have been called to live at the service of peace, of justice and of reconciliation.

Dear men and women religious, either active or contemplative, the consecrated life is a radical following of Jesus. May your unconditional choice for Christ lead you to an unlimited love for your neighbour. Poverty and chastity make you truly free to obey unconditionally the one Love which, when it takes hold of you, impels you to proclaim it everywhere. May poverty, obedience and chastity increase your thirst for God and your hunger for his Word, who, by increasing, transforms hunger and thirst into service of those who are deprived of justice, peace and reconciliation. Faithfully lived, the evangelical counsels transform you into a universal brother or sister of all, and they will help you to walk resolutely on the way of holiness. You will arrive there, if you are convinced that, for you, to live is Christ (cf. Phil 1:21), you will make of your communities reflections of the glory of God and places where you have no debts to anyone, except that of mutual love (cf. Rom 13:8). By means of your proper charisms lived with a spirit of openness to the catholicity of the Church, you can contribute to a harmonious expression of the immensity of the divine gifts at the service of all humanity!

Turning now to you, dear seminarians, I encourage you to place yourselves in the school of Christ in order to acquire those virtues which will help you to live the ministerial priesthood as the locus of your sanctification. Without the logic of holiness, the ministry is merely a social function. The quality of your future life depends on the quality of your personal relationship with God in Jesus Christ, on your sacrifices, on the right integration of the requirements of your current formation. Faced with the challenges of human existence, the priest of today and tomorrow – if he wants to be a credible witness to the service of peace, justice and reconciliation – must be a humble and balanced man, one who is wise and magnanimous. After 60 years in priestly life, I can tell you, dear seminarians, that you will not regret accumulating intellectual, spiritual and pastoral treasures during your formation.

Dear lay faithful here present, you who are at the heart of the daily realities of life, you are called to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world, I urge you to renew yourselves and your work for justice, peace and reconciliation. This mission requires first of all a faith in your family built according to the design of God and in fidelity to his plan for Christian marriage. He also demands of you to be true domestic churches. Thanks to the power of prayer, "personal and family life is transformed, gradually improved and enriched with dialogue, faith is transmitted to the children, the pleasure of being together grows and the home is further united and consolidated" without ceasing (Message for the Sixth World Day of Families, Mexico,17 January 2009, 3). By having love and forgiveness reign in your families, you will contribute to the upbuilding of a Church which is beautiful and strong, and to the advent of greater justice and peace in the whole of society. In this way, I encourage you, dear parents, to have a profound respect for life and to bear witness to human and spiritual values before your children. And I am pleased to recall that, ten years ago, Pope John Paul II founded at Cotonou a section for French-speaking Africa of the Institute which bears his name, to contribute to theological and pastoral reflection on marriage and the family. Lastly, I exhort especially the catechists, those valiant missionaries at the heart of the most humble realities, to offer them always, with an unshakable hope and determination, an outstanding and absolutely necessary contribution to the spread of the faith through fidelity to the teaching of the Church (cf. Ad Gentes, 17).

To conclude this conversation with you, I would like to encourage you all to have an authentic and living faith, which is the unshakeable foundation of a holy Christian life and which is at the service of the building of a new world. The love for the God who reveals himself and for his word, the love for the sacraments and for the Church, are an efficacious antidote against a syncretism which deceives. This love favours the correct integration of the authentic values of cultures into the Christian faith. It liberates from occultism and vanquishes evil spirits, for it is moved by the power of the Holy Trinity itself. Lived deeply, this love is also a ferment of communion which breaks down every barrier, promoting the building of a Church in which there is no segregation among the baptized, for all are made one in Christ Jesus (cf. Gal 3:28). With great confidence, I count on each one of you, priests, men and women religious, seminarians and lay faithful, to bring such a Church to life. As a token of my spiritual and paternal closeness, and entrusting you to the Virgin Mary, I invoke upon all of you, your families, the young and the sick, an abundance of divine blessings.

(In fon) May the Lord fill you with his blessings!


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Papal Address to Benin Authorities
"I Have Often Joined the Word Hope to the Word Africa"

COTONOU, Benin, NOV. 19, 2011 - Here is a Vatican translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered today at the presidential palace of Cotonou. The Pope is making his second trip to Africa and will be there through Sunday. This was the first of five addresses he will give today.

* * *

Mr President,

Distinguished civil, political and religious authorities,

Distinguished heads of the diplomatic missions,

Dear Brother Bishops,

Ladies and Gentlemen, Dear Friends,

DOO NUMI ! (Solemn greeting in Fon)
Mr President, you have given me the opportunity of this encounter with this distinguished gathering of personalities. I appreciate this privilege, and I offer you my heartfelt thanks for the kind words which you have just expressed to me in the name of all the people of Benin. I also thank the representative of the institutions present for her words of welcome. Allow me to express my best wishes for all of you who are among the foremost protagonists, in various ways, of Benin’s national life.

Speaking on other occasions, I have often joined the word hope to the word Africa. I did so in Luanda two years ago as well as in reference to the Synod. The word hope is also found several times in the post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Africae Munus which I am shortly going to sign. When I say that Africa is a continent of hope, I am not indulging in mere rhetoric, but simply expressing a personal conviction which is also that of the Church. Too often, our mind is blocked by prejudices or by images which give a negative impression of the realities of Africa, the fruit of a bleak analysis. It is tempting to point to what does not work; it is easy to assume the judgemental tone of the moralizer or of the expert who imposes his conclusions and proposes, at the end of the day, few useful solutions. It is also tempting to analyze the realities of Africa like a curious ethnologist or like someone who sees the vast resources only in terms of energy, minerals, agriculture and humanity easily exploited for often dubious ends. These are reductionist and disrespectful points of view which lead to the unhelpful "objectification" of Africa and her inhabitants.

I am aware that words do not always mean the same thing everywhere; but the meaning of hope differs little from culture to culture. A few years have now passed since I dedicated an encyclical letter to Christian hope. To talk of hope is to talk of the future and hence of God! The future has its roots in the past and in the present. The past we know well, regretting its failures and acknowledging its successes. The present we live as well as we can, I hope, for the best with God’s help! It is upon this mixture of many contradictory and complementary elements that we must build with the help of God.

Dear friends, in the light of this experience which ought to encourage us, I would like to mention two current African realities. The first relates in a general way to the socio-political and economic life of the continent, the second to interreligious dialogue. These realities concern all of us, because this century seems to be coming into being painfully and to struggle to make hope grow in these two particular domains.

During recent months, many peoples have manifested their desire for liberty, their need for material security, and their wish to live in harmony according to their different ethnic groups and religions. Indeed, a new state has been born on your continent. Many conflicts have originated in man's blindness, in his will to power and in political and economic interests which mock the dignity of people and of nature. Human beings aspire to liberty; then to live in dignity; they want good schools and food for their children, dignified hospitals to take care of the sick; they want to be respected; they demand transparent governance which does not confuse private and public interests; and above all they desire peace and justice. At this time, there are too many scandals and injustices, too much corruption and greed, too many errors and lies, too much violence which leads to misery and to death. These ills certainly afflict your continent, but they also afflict the rest of the world. Every people wishes to understand the political and economic choices which are made in its name. They perceive manipulation and their revenge is sometimes violent. They wish to participate in good governance. We know that no political regime is ideal and that no economic choice is neutral. But these must always serve the common good. Hence we are faced with legitimate demands, present in all countries, for greater dignity and above all for greater humanity. Man demands that his humanity be respected and promoted. Political and economic leaders of countries find themselves placed before important decisions and choices which they can no longer avoid.

From this place, I launch an appeal to all political and economic leaders of African countries and the rest of the world. Do not deprive your peoples of hope! Do not cut them off from their future by mutilating their present! Adopt a courageous ethical approach to your responsibilities and, if you are believers, ask God to grant you wisdom! This wisdom will help you to understand that, as promoters of your peoples’ future, you must become true servants of hope. It is not easy to live the life of a servant, to remain consistent amid the currents of opinion and powerful interests. Power, such as it is, easily blinds, above all when private, family, ethnic or religious interests are at stake. God alone purifies hearts and intentions.

The Church does not propose any technical solution and does not impose any political solution. She repeats: do not be afraid! Humanity is not alone before the challenges of the world. God is present. There is a message of hope, hope which generates energy, which stimulates the intellect and gives the will all its dynamism. A former Archbishop of Toulouse, Cardinal Saliège, once said: "to hope is never to abandon; it is to redouble one's activity". The Church accompanies the State and its mission; she wishes to be like the soul of our body untiringly pointing to what is essential: God and man. She wishes to accomplish, openly and without fear, the immense task of one who educates and cares, but above all who prays without ceasing (cf. Lk 18:1), who points to God (cf. Mt 6:21) and to where the authentic man is to be found (cf. Mt 20:26, Jn 19:5). Despair is individualistic. Hope is communion. Is not this a wonderful path that is placed before us? I ask all political and economic leaders, as well those of the university and cultural realms to join it. May you also be sowers of hope!

I would now like to touch upon the second point, that of interreligious dialogue. I do not think it is necessary to recall the recent conflicts born in the name of God, or deaths brought about in the name of him who is life. Everyone of good sense understands that a serene and respectful dialogue about cultural and religious differences must be promoted. True interreligious dialogue rejects humanly self-centred truth, because the one and only truth is in God. God is Truth. Hence, no religion, and no culture may justify appeal or recourse to intolerance and violence. Aggression is an outmoded relational form which appeals to superficial and ignoble instincts. To use the revealed word, the Sacred Scriptures or the name of God to justify our interests, our easy and convenient policies or our violence, is a very grave fault.

I can only come to a knowledge of the other if I know myself. I cannot love unless I love myself (cf. Mt 22:39). Knowledge, deeper understanding and practice of one's religion, are therefore essential to true interreligious dialogue. This can only begin by sincere personal prayer on the part of the one who desires to dialogue. Let him go in secret to his private room (cf. Mt 6:6) to ask God for the purification of reason and to seek his blessing upon the desired encounter. This prayer also asks God for the gift to see in the other a brother to be loved and, within his tradition, a reflection of the truth which illumines all people (Nostra Aetate, 2). Everyone ought therefore to place himself in truth before God and before the other. This truth does not exclude and it is not confusion. Interreligious dialogue when badly understood leads to muddled thinking or to syncretism. This is not the dialogue which is sought.

Despite the steps already taken, we know that sometimes interreligious dialogue is not easy or that it is impeded for various reasons. This does not necessarily indicate failure. There are many forms of interreligious dialogue. Cooperation in social or cultural areas can help people to understand each other better and to live together serenely. It is also useful to know that dialogue does not take place through weakness; we enter into dialogue because we believe in God, the Creator and Father of all people. Dialogue is another way of loving God and our neighbour out of love for the truth (cf. Mt 22:37).

Having hope does not mean being ingenuous but making an act of faith in God, the Lord of history, and the Lord of our future. Thus the Catholic Church puts into action one of the intuitions of the Second Vatican Council, that of promoting friendly relations between herself and the members of non-Christian religions. For decades now, the Pontifical Council dedicated to this task has been creating links, holding meetings and publishing documents regularly in order to foster such a dialogue. In this way the Church strives to overcome the confusion of languages and the dispersal of hearts born of the sin of Babel (cf. Gen 11). I greet all religious leaders who have kindly come here to meet me. I would like to assure them, as well as those from other African countries, that the dialogue offered by the Catholic Church comes from the heart. I encourage them to promote, above all among the young people, a pedagogy of dialogue, so that they may discover that our conscience is a sanctuary to be respected and that our spiritual dimension builds fraternity. True faith leads invariably to love. It is in this spirit that I invite all of you to hope.

These general ideas may be applied especially to Africa. In your continent, there are many families whose members profess different beliefs, and yet these families remain united. This is not just a unity wished by culture, but it is a unity cemented by a fraternal affection. Sometimes, of course, there are failures, but there are also many successes. In this area, Africa can offer all of us food for thought and thus become a source of hope.

To finish, I would like to use the image of a hand. There are five fingers on it and each one is quite different. Each one is also essential and their unity makes a hand. A good understanding between cultures, consideration for each other which is not condescending, and the respect of the rights of each one are a vital duty. This must be taught to all the faithful of the various religions. Hatred is a failure, indifference is an impasse, and dialogue is an openness! Is this not good ground in which seeds of hope may be sown? To offer someone your hand means to hope, later, to love, and what could be more beautiful than a proffered hand? It was willed by God to offer and to receive. God did not want it to kill (cf. Gen 4:1ff) or to inflict suffering, but to care and to help live. Together with our heart and our intelligence, our hand too can become an instrument of dialogue. It can make hope flourish, above all when our intelligence stammers and our heart stumbles.

According to Sacred Scripture, three symbols describe the hope of Christians: the helmet, because it protects us from discouragement (cf. 1 Th 5:8), the anchor, sure and solid, which ties us to God (cf. Heb 6:19), and the lamp which permits us to await the dawn of a new day (cf. Lk 12:35-36). To be afraid, to doubt and to fear, to live in the present without God, or to have nothing to hope for, these are all attitudes which are foreign to the Christian faith (St John Chrysostom, Homily XIV on the Letter to the Romans, 6; PG 45, 941 C) and, I am convinced, to all other forms of belief in God. Faith lives in the present, but it awaits future goods. God is in our present, but he is also in the future, a place of hope. The expansion of our hearts is not only hope in God but also an opening to and care for physical and temporal realities in order to glorify God. Following Peter, of whom I am a successor, I hope that your faith and hope will be in God (cf. 1 Pet 1:21). This is my wish for the whole of Africa, which is so dear to me! Africa, be confident and rise up! The Lord is calling you. May God bless you! Thank you.

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Pope's Message at Signing of 'Africae Munus'
"We Must Never Give Up the Search for New Paths of Peace!"

COTONOU, Benin, NOV. 19, 2011 .- Here is a Vatican translation of the multilingual address Benedict XVI delivered today in Benin as he signed the postsynodal apostolic exhortation, "Africae Munus."

* * *

(in English)

Your Eminences,
Dear Brother Bishops and Priests,
Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I cordially thank the Secretary General of the Synod of Bishops, Archbishop Nikola Eterovic', for his words of welcome and presentation, as well as all the members of the Special Council for Africa who helped to collate the results of the Synodal Assembly in preparation for the publication of the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation.

Today, the celebration of the Synod concludes with the signing of the Exhortation Africae Munus. The Synod gave an impetus to the Catholic Church in Africa, which prayed, reflected on and discussed the theme of reconciliation, justice and peace. This process was marked by a special closeness uniting the Successor of Peter and the Particular Churches in Africa. Bishops, but also experts, auditors, special guests and fraternal delegates, all came to Rome to celebrate this important ecclesial event. I myself went to Yaoundé to present the Instrumentum Laboris of the Synod to the Presidents of the Bishops’ Conferences, as a sign of my interest and concern for all the peoples of the African continent and the neighbouring islands. I now have the joy of returning to Africa, and particularly to Benin, to consign this final document, which takes up the reflections of the Synod Fathers and presents them synthetically as part of a broad pastoral vision.

(in French)

The Second Special Assembly for Africa of the Synod of Bishops benefited from the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia in Africa of Blessed John Paul II, which emphasized the urgent need to evangelize this continent, an activity which cannot be separated from the work of human promotion. The Exhortation also developed the concept of the Church as God’s Family. This concept has borne many spiritual fruits for the Catholic Church and for the activity of evangelization and human promotion which she has carried out in African society as a whole. The Church is called to see herself increasingly as a family. For Christians, this means being a community of believers which praises the triune God, celebrates the great mysteries of our faith and enlivens with charity relationships between individuals, groups and nations, above and beyond ethnic, cultural and religious differences. In offering this service to everyone, the Church is open to cooperation with all the components of society, particularly with the representatives of the Churches and Ecclesial Communities not yet in full communion with the Catholic Church, as well as with the representatives of the non-Christian religions, above all those of traditional religions and of Islam.

Within this ecclesial horizon, the Second Special Assembly for Africa concentrated on the theme of reconciliation, justice and peace. These are important issues for the world in general, but they take on a particular urgency in Africa. We need but recall the tensions, the acts of violence, the wars, the injustices and abuses of all sorts, new and old, which have marked this year. The principal theme was that of reconciliation with God and with one’s neighbour. But a Church reconciled within herself and among all her members can become a prophetic sign of reconciliation in society within each country and the continent as a whole. Saint Paul writes: "All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation" (2 Cor 5:18). The basis of this reconciliation is found in the very nature of the Church, which "in Christ, is a sacrament – a sign and instrument that is, of communion with God and of the unity of the entire human race" (Lumen Gentium, 1). Following on this assembly, the Church in Africa is called to promote peace and justice. The Gate of No Return, as well as that of Pardon, remind us of this duty and impel us to combat every form of slavery.

(in Portuguese)

We must never give up the search for new paths of peace! Peace is one of our greatest treasures! To attain peace, we need to have courage and the reconciliation born of forgiveness, the will once more to live as one, to share a vision of the future and to persevere in overcoming difficulties. Men and women reconciled and at peace with God and neighbour can work for greater justice in society. Let us not forget that the Gospel teaches that justice means above all doing God’s will. This fundamental resolve spawns countless initiatives aimed at promoting justice in Africa and the welfare of all its peoples, especially the most disadvantaged and those in need of employment, schools and hospitals.

Africa, land of a New Pentecost, put your trust in God! Impelled by the Spirit of the Risen Christ, become God’s great family, generous with all your sons and daughters, agents of reconciliation, peace and justice! Africa, Good News for the Church, become Good News for the entire world! Thank you!

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Benedict XVI's Greeting on the Christian Vocations
To Priests, Seminarians, Religious and Laity: "Have an Authentic and Living Faith"

COTONOU, Benin, NOV. 19, 2011 (Zenit.org).- Here is a Vatican translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered today in Benin at a meeting with priests, seminarians, religious and lay faithful.

* * *

Your Eminence,

Bishop N’Koué, responsible for priestly formation,

Dear Brother Bishops and Priests,

Dear men and women religious,

Dear seminarians and lay faithful,

Thank you, Bishop N’Koué, for your kind words, and thank you dear seminarian, for your own welcoming and respectful ones. It is a great joy for me to be among you, in Ouidah, and in particular in this seminary placed under the protection of Saint Joan of Arc and dedicated to Saint Gall, a man of outstanding virtue, a monk who desired perfection, and a pastor full of meekness and humility. What could be more noble than to have him as your model, as well as the figure of Monsignor Louis Parisot, indefatigable apostle of the poor and promoter of the local clergy, and that of Father Thomas Moulero, the first priest of the then Dahomey, as well as Cardinal Bernardin Gantin, eminent son of your land and humble servant of the Church?

Our encounter this morning offers me the opportunity to express directly to you my gratitude for your pastoral commitment. I give thanks to God for your zeal, in spite of the occasionally difficult conditions in which you are called to give witness to his love. I thank him for the many men and women who have proclaimed the Gospel in this land, and indeed throughout Africa.

Shortly, I will sign the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Africae Munus. It will treat the question of peace, justice and reconciliation. These three values stand out as an evangelical ideal fundamental to baptismal life, and they demand sound acceptance of your identity as priests, as consecrated persons and as lay faithful.

Dear priests, the responsibility for promoting peace, justice and reconciliation falls in a special way to you. Owing to your reception of Holy Orders and your celebration of the Sacraments, you are called in effect to be men of communion. As crystal does not retain the light but rather reflects it and passes it on, in the same manner the priest must make transparent what he celebrates and what he has received. I thus encourage you to let Christ shine through your life, by being in full communion with your Bishop, by a genuine goodwill towards your brother priests, by a profound solicitude for each of the baptized and by great attention to each person. In letting yourself be modelled on Christ, you will never substitute the beauty of your priestly being with ephemeral and at times unhealthy realities which the contemporary mentality tends to impose on every culture. I urge you, dear priests, never to underestimate the unfathomable riches of the divine grace placed in you and which you have been called to live at the service of peace, of justice and of reconciliation.

Dear men and women religious, either active or contemplative, the consecrated life is a radical following of Jesus. May your unconditional choice for Christ lead you to an unlimited love for your neighbour. Poverty and chastity make you truly free to obey unconditionally the one Love which, when it takes hold of you, impels you to proclaim it everywhere. May poverty, obedience and chastity increase your thirst for God and your hunger for his Word, who, by increasing, transforms hunger and thirst into service of those who are deprived of justice, peace and reconciliation. Faithfully lived, the evangelical counsels transform you into a universal brother or sister of all, and they will help you to walk resolutely on the way of holiness. You will arrive there, if you are convinced that, for you, to live is Christ (cf. Phil 1:21), you will make of your communities reflections of the glory of God and places where you have no debts to anyone, except that of mutual love (cf. Rom 13:8). By means of your proper charisms lived with a spirit of openness to the catholicity of the Church, you can contribute to a harmonious expression of the immensity of the divine gifts at the service of all humanity!

Turning now to you, dear seminarians, I encourage you to place yourselves in the school of Christ in order to acquire those virtues which will help you to live the ministerial priesthood as the locus of your sanctification. Without the logic of holiness, the ministry is merely a social function. The quality of your future life depends on the quality of your personal relationship with God in Jesus Christ, on your sacrifices, on the right integration of the requirements of your current formation. Faced with the challenges of human existence, the priest of today and tomorrow – if he wants to be a credible witness to the service of peace, justice and reconciliation – must be a humble and balanced man, one who is wise and magnanimous. After 60 years in priestly life, I can tell you, dear seminarians, that you will not regret accumulating intellectual, spiritual and pastoral treasures during your formation.

Dear lay faithful here present, you who are at the heart of the daily realities of life, you are called to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world, I urge you to renew yourselves and your work for justice, peace and reconciliation. This mission requires first of all a faith in your family built according to the design of God and in fidelity to his plan for Christian marriage. He also demands of you to be true domestic churches. Thanks to the power of prayer, "personal and family life is transformed, gradually improved and enriched with dialogue, faith is transmitted to the children, the pleasure of being together grows and the home is further united and consolidated" without ceasing (Message for the Sixth World Day of Families, Mexico,17 January 2009, 3). By having love and forgiveness reign in your families, you will contribute to the upbuilding of a Church which is beautiful and strong, and to the advent of greater justice and peace in the whole of society. In this way, I encourage you, dear parents, to have a profound respect for life and to bear witness to human and spiritual values before your children. And I am pleased to recall that, ten years ago, Pope John Paul II founded at Cotonou a section for French-speaking Africa of the Institute which bears his name, to contribute to theological and pastoral reflection on marriage and the family. Lastly, I exhort especially the catechists, those valiant missionaries at the heart of the most humble realities, to offer them always, with an unshakable hope and determination, an outstanding and absolutely necessary contribution to the spread of the faith through fidelity to the teaching of the Church (cf. Ad Gentes, 17).

To conclude this conversation with you, I would like to encourage you all to have an authentic and living faith, which is the unshakeable foundation of a holy Christian life and which is at the service of the building of a new world. The love for the God who reveals himself and for his word, the love for the sacraments and for the Church, are an efficacious antidote against a syncretism which deceives. This love favours the correct integration of the authentic values of cultures into the Christian faith. It liberates from occultism and vanquishes evil spirits, for it is moved by the power of the Holy Trinity itself. Lived deeply, this love is also a ferment of communion which breaks down every barrier, promoting the building of a Church in which there is no segregation among the baptized, for all are made one in Christ Jesus (cf. Gal 3:28). With great confidence, I count on each one of you, priests, men and women religious, seminarians and lay faithful, to bring such a Church to life. As a token of my spiritual and paternal closeness, and entrusting you to the Virgin Mary, I invoke upon all of you, your families, the young and the sick, an abundance of divine blessings.

(In fon) May the Lord fill you with his blessings!

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Papal Address to Benin Authorities
"I Have Often Joined the Word Hope to the Word Africa"

COTONOU, Benin, NOV. 19, 2011 - Here is a Vatican translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered today at the presidential palace of Cotonou. The Pope is making his second trip to Africa and will be there through Sunday. This was the first of five addresses he will give today.

* * *

Mr President,

Distinguished civil, political and religious authorities,

Distinguished heads of the diplomatic missions,

Dear Brother Bishops,

Ladies and Gentlemen, Dear Friends,

DOO NUMI ! (Solemn greeting in Fon)
Mr President, you have given me the opportunity of this encounter with this distinguished gathering of personalities. I appreciate this privilege, and I offer you my heartfelt thanks for the kind words which you have just expressed to me in the name of all the people of Benin. I also thank the representative of the institutions present for her words of welcome. Allow me to express my best wishes for all of you who are among the foremost protagonists, in various ways, of Benin’s national life.

Speaking on other occasions, I have often joined the word hope to the word Africa. I did so in Luanda two years ago as well as in reference to the Synod. The word hope is also found several times in the post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Africae Munus which I am shortly going to sign. When I say that Africa is a continent of hope, I am not indulging in mere rhetoric, but simply expressing a personal conviction which is also that of the Church. Too often, our mind is blocked by prejudices or by images which give a negative impression of the realities of Africa, the fruit of a bleak analysis. It is tempting to point to what does not work; it is easy to assume the judgemental tone of the moralizer or of the expert who imposes his conclusions and proposes, at the end of the day, few useful solutions. It is also tempting to analyze the realities of Africa like a curious ethnologist or like someone who sees the vast resources only in terms of energy, minerals, agriculture and humanity easily exploited for often dubious ends. These are reductionist and disrespectful points of view which lead to the unhelpful "objectification" of Africa and her inhabitants.

I am aware that words do not always mean the same thing everywhere; but the meaning of hope differs little from culture to culture. A few years have now passed since I dedicated an encyclical letter to Christian hope. To talk of hope is to talk of the future and hence of God! The future has its roots in the past and in the present. The past we know well, regretting its failures and acknowledging its successes. The present we live as well as we can, I hope, for the best with God’s help! It is upon this mixture of many contradictory and complementary elements that we must build with the help of God.

Dear friends, in the light of this experience which ought to encourage us, I would like to mention two current African realities. The first relates in a general way to the socio-political and economic life of the continent, the second to interreligious dialogue. These realities concern all of us, because this century seems to be coming into being painfully and to struggle to make hope grow in these two particular domains.

During recent months, many peoples have manifested their desire for liberty, their need for material security, and their wish to live in harmony according to their different ethnic groups and religions. Indeed, a new state has been born on your continent. Many conflicts have originated in man's blindness, in his will to power and in political and economic interests which mock the dignity of people and of nature. Human beings aspire to liberty; then to live in dignity; they want good schools and food for their children, dignified hospitals to take care of the sick; they want to be respected; they demand transparent governance which does not confuse private and public interests; and above all they desire peace and justice. At this time, there are too many scandals and injustices, too much corruption and greed, too many errors and lies, too much violence which leads to misery and to death. These ills certainly afflict your continent, but they also afflict the rest of the world. Every people wishes to understand the political and economic choices which are made in its name. They perceive manipulation and their revenge is sometimes violent. They wish to participate in good governance. We know that no political regime is ideal and that no economic choice is neutral. But these must always serve the common good. Hence we are faced with legitimate demands, present in all countries, for greater dignity and above all for greater humanity. Man demands that his humanity be respected and promoted. Political and economic leaders of countries find themselves placed before important decisions and choices which they can no longer avoid.

From this place, I launch an appeal to all political and economic leaders of African countries and the rest of the world. Do not deprive your peoples of hope! Do not cut them off from their future by mutilating their present! Adopt a courageous ethical approach to your responsibilities and, if you are believers, ask God to grant you wisdom! This wisdom will help you to understand that, as promoters of your peoples’ future, you must become true servants of hope. It is not easy to live the life of a servant, to remain consistent amid the currents of opinion and powerful interests. Power, such as it is, easily blinds, above all when private, family, ethnic or religious interests are at stake. God alone purifies hearts and intentions.

The Church does not propose any technical solution and does not impose any political solution. She repeats: do not be afraid! Humanity is not alone before the challenges of the world. God is present. There is a message of hope, hope which generates energy, which stimulates the intellect and gives the will all its dynamism. A former Archbishop of Toulouse, Cardinal Saliège, once said: "to hope is never to abandon; it is to redouble one's activity". The Church accompanies the State and its mission; she wishes to be like the soul of our body untiringly pointing to what is essential: God and man. She wishes to accomplish, openly and without fear, the immense task of one who educates and cares, but above all who prays without ceasing (cf. Lk 18:1), who points to God (cf. Mt 6:21) and to where the authentic man is to be found (cf. Mt 20:26, Jn 19:5). Despair is individualistic. Hope is communion. Is not this a wonderful path that is placed before us? I ask all political and economic leaders, as well those of the university and cultural realms to join it. May you also be sowers of hope!

I would now like to touch upon the second point, that of interreligious dialogue. I do not think it is necessary to recall the recent conflicts born in the name of God, or deaths brought about in the name of him who is life. Everyone of good sense understands that a serene and respectful dialogue about cultural and religious differences must be promoted. True interreligious dialogue rejects humanly self-centred truth, because the one and only truth is in God. God is Truth. Hence, no religion, and no culture may justify appeal or recourse to intolerance and violence. Aggression is an outmoded relational form which appeals to superficial and ignoble instincts. To use the revealed word, the Sacred Scriptures or the name of God to justify our interests, our easy and convenient policies or our violence, is a very grave fault.

I can only come to a knowledge of the other if I know myself. I cannot love unless I love myself (cf. Mt 22:39). Knowledge, deeper understanding and practice of one's religion, are therefore essential to true interreligious dialogue. This can only begin by sincere personal prayer on the part of the one who desires to dialogue. Let him go in secret to his private room (cf. Mt 6:6) to ask God for the purification of reason and to seek his blessing upon the desired encounter. This prayer also asks God for the gift to see in the other a brother to be loved and, within his tradition, a reflection of the truth which illumines all people (Nostra Aetate, 2). Everyone ought therefore to place himself in truth before God and before the other. This truth does not exclude and it is not confusion. Interreligious dialogue when badly understood leads to muddled thinking or to syncretism. This is not the dialogue which is sought.

Despite the steps already taken, we know that sometimes interreligious dialogue is not easy or that it is impeded for various reasons. This does not necessarily indicate failure. There are many forms of interreligious dialogue. Cooperation in social or cultural areas can help people to understand each other better and to live together serenely. It is also useful to know that dialogue does not take place through weakness; we enter into dialogue because we believe in God, the Creator and Father of all people. Dialogue is another way of loving God and our neighbour out of love for the truth (cf. Mt 22:37).

Having hope does not mean being ingenuous but making an act of faith in God, the Lord of history, and the Lord of our future. Thus the Catholic Church puts into action one of the intuitions of the Second Vatican Council, that of promoting friendly relations between herself and the members of non-Christian religions. For decades now, the Pontifical Council dedicated to this task has been creating links, holding meetings and publishing documents regularly in order to foster such a dialogue. In this way the Church strives to overcome the confusion of languages and the dispersal of hearts born of the sin of Babel (cf. Gen 11). I greet all religious leaders who have kindly come here to meet me. I would like to assure them, as well as those from other African countries, that the dialogue offered by the Catholic Church comes from the heart. I encourage them to promote, above all among the young people, a pedagogy of dialogue, so that they may discover that our conscience is a sanctuary to be respected and that our spiritual dimension builds fraternity. True faith leads invariably to love. It is in this spirit that I invite all of you to hope.

These general ideas may be applied especially to Africa. In your continent, there are many families whose members profess different beliefs, and yet these families remain united. This is not just a unity wished by culture, but it is a unity cemented by a fraternal affection. Sometimes, of course, there are failures, but there are also many successes. In this area, Africa can offer all of us food for thought and thus become a source of hope.

To finish, I would like to use the image of a hand. There are five fingers on it and each one is quite different. Each one is also essential and their unity makes a hand. A good understanding between cultures, consideration for each other which is not condescending, and the respect of the rights of each one are a vital duty. This must be taught to all the faithful of the various religions. Hatred is a failure, indifference is an impasse, and dialogue is an openness! Is this not good ground in which seeds of hope may be sown? To offer someone your hand means to hope, later, to love, and what could be more beautiful than a proffered hand? It was willed by God to offer and to receive. God did not want it to kill (cf. Gen 4:1ff) or to inflict suffering, but to care and to help live. Together with our heart and our intelligence, our hand too can become an instrument of dialogue. It can make hope flourish, above all when our intelligence stammers and our heart stumbles.

According to Sacred Scripture, three symbols describe the hope of Christians: the helmet, because it protects us from discouragement (cf. 1 Th 5:8), the anchor, sure and solid, which ties us to God (cf. Heb 6:19), and the lamp which permits us to await the dawn of a new day (cf. Lk 12:35-36). To be afraid, to doubt and to fear, to live in the present without God, or to have nothing to hope for, these are all attitudes which are foreign to the Christian faith (St John Chrysostom, Homily XIV on the Letter to the Romans, 6; PG 45, 941 C) and, I am convinced, to all other forms of belief in God. Faith lives in the present, but it awaits future goods. God is in our present, but he is also in the future, a place of hope. The expansion of our hearts is not only hope in God but also an opening to and care for physical and temporal realities in order to glorify God. Following Peter, of whom I am a successor, I hope that your faith and hope will be in God (cf. 1 Pet 1:21). This is my wish for the whole of Africa, which is so dear to me! Africa, be confident and rise up! The Lord is calling you. May God bless you! Thank you.

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On a New Chapter in Africa
"May We Never Cease to Be Amazed Before the Gift of Life!"

COTONOU, Benin, NOV. 20, 2011 (Zenit.org).- Here is a Vatican translation of Benedict XVI's message before praying the midday Angelus today in Benin.

* * *

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

At the conclusion of this solemn Eucharistic celebration, having been made one in Christ, let us turn with confidence to his Mother and pray the Angelus. Now that I have consigned the Apostolic Exhortation Africae Munus, I wish to entrust to the Virgin Mary, Our Lady of Africa, the new chapter now opening for the Church on this continent, asking her to accompany the future evangelization of Africa as a whole and, in particular, of this land of Benin.

Mary joyfully accepted the Lord’s invitation to become the Mother of Jesus. May she show us how to respond to the mission which God entrusts to us today! Mary is that earthly woman who received the privilege of becoming the Mother of the Saviour of the world. Who better than she knows the value and beauty of human life? May we never cease to be amazed before the gift of life! Who better than she knows our needs as men and women who are still pilgrims on this earth? At the foot of the Cross, united to her crucified Son, she is the Mother of Hope. This hope enables us to take up our daily lives with the power bestowed by the truth which is made known in Jesus.

Dear Brothers and Sisters of Africa, this land which sheltered the Holy Family, may you continue to cultivate Christian family values. At a time when so many families are separated, in exile, grief-stricken as a result of unending conflicts, may you be artisans of reconciliation and hope. With Mary, Our Lady of the Magnificat, may you always abide in joy. May this joy remain deep within the hearts of your families and your countries!

In the words of the Angelus, let us now turn to our beloved Mother. Before her let us place the intentions of our hearts. Let us now pray to her for Africa and for the whole world.

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DOCUMENTS
Benedict XVI's Farewell to Benin
"Why Should an African Country Not Show the Rest of the World the Path to Be Taken"

COTONOU, Benin, NOV. 20, 2011 - Here is a Vatican translation of Benedict XVI's final message in Benin before his return flight to Rome.

* * *

Mr President,

Your Eminences, Your Excellencies,

Distinguished Authorities and Dear Friends,

My Apostolic Journey to Africa has now come to an end. I thank God for these days spent among you in joy and friendship. I thank you, Mr President, for your gracious words and for the many efforts made to make my stay pleasant. I thank the various civil authorities and all the volunteers who generously contributed to the success of these days. Nor can I fail to thank all the people of Benin for their warm and enthusiastic welcome. I also thank the members of the Catholic Church, the Presidents of the various National and Regional Episcopal Conferences who joined us, and naturally, in a very particular way, the bishops of Benin.

I wanted to visit Africa once more; it is a continent for which I have a special regard and affection, for I am deeply convinced that it is a land of hope. I have already said this many times. Here are found authentic values which have much to teach our world; they need only to spread and blossom with God’s help and the determination of Africans themselves. The Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Africae Munus can greatly assist in this, for it opens up pastoral horizons and will lead to creative initiatives. I entrust it to the faithful of Africa as a whole, to study carefully and to translate into concrete actions in daily life. Cardinal Gantin, that eminent son of Benin whose greatness was so widely acknowledged that this Airport bears his name, took part with me in a number of Synods. He made a vital and much-appreciated contribution to them. May he accompany the implementation of this document!

During my visit I was able to meet various components of Benin’s society and many members of the Church. These numerous meetings, very different in nature, testify to the possibility of a harmonious coexistence within the nation, and between Church and State. Good will and mutual respect not only aid dialogue, but are essential for building unity between individuals, ethnic groups and peoples. The word "Fraternity" is the first of the three words found on your national emblem. Living in unity as brethren, while respecting legitimate differences, is not something utopian. Why should an African country not show the rest of the world the path to be taken towards living an authentic fraternity in justice, based on the greatness of the family and of labour? May Africans be able to experience reconciliation in peace and justice! These are the prayerful good wishes which I express to you, with confidence and hope, before I leave Benin and the African continent.

Mr President,

I express once more my heartfelt gratitude, which I extend to all your fellow citizens, to the bishops of Benin and to all the faithful of your country. Let me also encourage the entire continent to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world. May God bless you all, through the intercession of Our Lady of Africa.

(In fon) God bless Benin!

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Papal Message to Entrust 'Africae Munus' to the Church
"Dear Church in Africa, Become Ever More Fully the Salt of the Earth"

COTONOU, Benin, NOV. 20, 2011 - Here is a Vatican translation of the message with which Benedict XVI entrusted to the Church the new postsynodal apostolic exhortation, "Africae Munus."

* * *

(in French)

Your Eminences,
Dear Brother Bishops and Priests,
Dear Brothers and Sisters,

In the course of this solemn liturgical celebration, we have given thanks to the Lord for the gift of the Second Special Assembly for Africa of the Synod of Bishops, which met in October 2009 to discuss the theme: The Church in Africa in Service to Reconciliation, of Justice and Peace: ‘You are the salt of the earth… you are the light of the world’ (Mt 5:13-14). I thank all of the Synod Fathers for their contribution to this Assembly. My gratitude goes as well to the Secretary General of the Synod of Bishops, Archbishop Nikola Eterovic', for the results achieved and for the greeting which he has just addressed in your name.

Yesterday I signed the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Africae Munus. Today I am happy to offer it to each of the Particular Churches through you, the Presidents of the Episcopal Conferences of Africa – both national and regional - and through the Presidents of the Synods of the Eastern Catholic Churches. Upon the reception of this Exhortation, the phase of assimilation and application of its theological, ecclesiological, spiritual and pastoral data begins at the local level. This text seeks to promote, encourage and consolidate the various local initiatives already in place. It seeks as well to inspire other initiatives for the upbuilding of the Catholic Church in Africa.

(in English)

One of the first missions of the Church is the proclamation of Jesus Christ and his Gospel ad gentes, that is the evangelization of those at a distance from the Church in one way or another. I hope that this Exhortation will guide you in the proclamation of the Good News of Jesus in Africa. It is not just a message or a word. It is above all openness and adhesion to a person: Jesus Christ the incarnate Word. He alone possesses the words of life eternal (cf. Jn 6:68)! Following the example of Christ, all Christians are called to reflect the mercy of the Father and the light of the Holy Spirit. Evangelization presupposes and brings with it reconciliation and it promotes peace and justice.

(in Portuguese)

Dear Church in Africa, become ever more fully the salt of the earth – this earth which Jesus Christ blessed with his presence when he took refuge here! Be the salt of the African earth, blessed by the blood of so many martyrs – men, women and children, witnesses of the Christian faith even to the supreme gift of their lives! Become the light of the world, the light in Africa which seeks, amid tribulations, the path of peace and justice for all its citizens. Your light is Jesus, the Christ, "the Light of the World" (cf. Jn 8:12). May God bless you, dear Africa!

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Pope's Christ the King Homily in Benin
"For Him, to Reign Is to Serve! And What He Asks of Us Is to Follow Him"

COTONOU, Benin, NOV. 20, 2011 - Here is a Vatican translation of the homily Benedict XVI gave this morning at the Mass for the feast of Christ the King, which he celebrated in Benin, on the last day of his three-day trip there.

* * *

(in French)

Dear Brother Bishops and Priests,
Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Following in the footsteps of my blessed predecessor Pope John Paul II, it is a great joy for me to visit for the second time this dear continent of Africa, coming among you, in Benin, to address to you a message of hope and of peace. I would like first of all to express my cordial gratitude to Archbishop Antoine Ganyé Cotonou, for his words of welcome and to greet the Bishops of Benin, as well as the Cardinals and Bishops from various African countries and from other continents. To all of you, dear brothers and sisters, who have come to this Mass celebrated by the Successor of Peter, I offer my warm greetings. I am thinking certainly of the faithful of Benin, but also of those from other French-speaking countries, such as Togo, Burkina Faso, Niger and others. Our Eucharistic celebration on the Solemnity of Christ the King is an occasion to give thank to God for the one hundred and fifty years that have passed since the beginnings of the evangelization of Benin; it is also an occasion to express our gratitude to him for the Second Special Assembly of the Synod of African Bishops which was held in Rome a few months ago.

The Gospel which we have just heard tells us that Jesus, the Son of Man, the ultimate judge of our lives, wished to appear as one who hungers and thirsts, as a stranger, as one of those who are naked, sick or imprisoned, ultimately, of those who suffer or are outcast; how we treat them will be taken as the way we treat Jesus himself. We do not see here a simple literary device, or a simple metaphor. Jesus’s entire existence is an example of it. He, the Son of God, became man, he shared our existence, even down to the smallest details, he became the servant of the least of his brothers and sisters. He who had nowhere to lay his head, was condemned to death on a cross. This is the King we celebrate!

Without a doubt this can appear a little disconcerting to us. Today, like two thousand years ago, accustomed to seeing the signs of royalty in success, power, money and ability, we find it hard to accept such a king, a king who makes himself the servant of the little ones, of the most humble, a king whose throne is a cross. And yet, the Scriptures tell us, in this is the glory of Christ revealed; it is in the humility of his earthly existence that he finds his power to judge the world. For him, to reign is to serve! And what he asks of us is to follow him along the way, to serve, to be attentive to the cry of the poor, the weak, the outcast. The baptized know that the decision to follow Christ can entail great sacrifices, at times even the sacrifice of one’s life. However, as Saint Paul reminds us, Christ has overcome death and he brings us with him in his resurrection. He introduces us to a new world, a world of freedom and joy. Today, so much still binds us to the world of the past, so many fears hold us prisoners and prevent us from living in freedom and happiness. Let us allow Christ to free us from the world of the past! Our faith in him, which frees us from all our fears and miseries, gives us access to a new world, a world where justice and truth are not a byword, a world of interior freedom and of peace with ourselves, with our neighbours and with God. This is the gift God gave us at our baptism!

"Come, O blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world" (Mt 25:34). Let us receive this word of blessing which the Son of Man will, on the Day of Judgement, address to those who have recognized his presence in the lowliest of their brethren, with a heart free and full of the love of the Lord! Brothers and sisters, the words of the Gospel are truly words of hope, because the King of the universe has drawn near to us, the servant of the least and lowliest. Here I would like to greet with affection all those persons who are suffering, those who are sick, those affected by AIDS or by other illnesses, to all those forgotten by society. Have courage! The Pope is close to you in his thoughts and prayers. Have courage! Jesus wanted to identify himself with the poor, with the sick; he wanted to share your suffering and to see you as his brothers and sisters, to free you from every affliction, from all suffering. Every sick person, every poor person deserves our respect and our love because, through them, God shows us the way to heaven.

This morning, I invite you once again to rejoice with me. One hundred and fifty years ago the cross of Christ was raised in your country, and the Gospel was proclaimed for the first time. Today, we give thanks to God for the work accomplished by the missionaries, by the "apostolic workers" who first came from among you or from distant lands, bishops, priests, men and women religious, catechists, all those who, both yesterday and today, enabled the growth of the faith in Jesus Christ on the African continent. I honour here the memory of the venerable Cardinal Bernardin Gantin, an example of faith and of wisdom for Benin and for the entire African continent.

Dear brothers and sisters, everyone who has received this marvellous gift of faith, this gift of an encounter with the risen Lord, feels in turn the need to proclaim it to others. The Church exists to proclaim this Good News! And this duty is always urgent! After 150 years, many are those who have not heard the message of salvation in Christ! Many, too, are those who are hesitant to open their hearts to the word of God! Many are those whose faith is weak, whose way of thinking, habits and lifestyle do not know the reality of the Gospel, and who think that seeking selfish satisfaction, easy gain or power is the ultimate goal of human life. With enthusiasm, be ardent witnesses of the faith which you have received! Make the loving face of the Saviour shine in every place, in particular before the young, who search for reasons to live and hope in a difficult world!

The Church in Benin has received much from her missionaries: she must in turn carry this message of hope to people who do not know or who no longer know the Lord Jesus. Dear brothers and sisters, I ask you to be concerned for evangelization in your country, and among the peoples of your continent and the whole world. The recent Synod of Bishops for Africa stated this in no uncertain terms: the man of hope, the Christian, cannot be uninterested in his brothers and sisters. This would be completely opposed to the example of Jesus. The Christian is a tireless builder of communion, peace and solidarity - gifts which Jesus himself has given us. By being faithful to him, we will cooperate in the realization of God’s plan of salvation for humanity.

Dear brothers and sisters, I urge you, therefore, to strengthen your faith in Jesus Christ, to be authentically converted to him. He alone gives us the true life and can liberate us for all our fears and sluggishness, from all our anguish. Rediscover the roots of your existence in the baptism which you received and which makes you children of God! May Jesus Christ give you strength to live as Christians and to find ways to transmit generously to new generations what you have received from your fathers in faith! (In fon) May the Lord fill you with his graces!

(in English)

On this feast day, we rejoice together in the reign of Christ the King over the whole world. He is the one who removes all that hinders reconciliation, justice and peace. We are reminded that true royalty does not consist in a show of power, but in the humility of service; not in the oppression of the weak, but in the ability to protect them and to lead them to life in abundance (cf. Jn 10:10). Christ reigns from the Cross and, with his arms open wide, he embraces all the peoples of the world and draws them into unity. Through the Cross, he breaks down the walls of division, he reconciles us with each other and with the Father. We pray today for the people of Africa, that all may be able to live in justice, peace and the joy of the Kingdom of God (cf. Rom 14:17). With these sentiments I affectionately greet all the English-speaking faithful who have come from Ghana and Nigeria and neighbouring countries. May God bless all of you!

(in Portugese)

Dear brothers and sisters of the Portuguese-speaking nations of Africa who are listening to me! I greet all of you and I invite you to renew your decision to belong to Christ and to serve his Kingdom of reconciliation, justice and peace. His Kingdom can be threatened in our hearts. There God comes face to face with our freedom. We – and we alone – can prevent him from reigning over us and consequently obstructing his Lordship over our families, society and history. Because of Christ, many men and women successfully opposed the temptations of the world in order to live their faith truly, even to martyrdom. Dear pastors and faithful, following their example, be the salt and light of Christ, in the land of Africa! Amen.

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Pope's Address to Bishops of Benin
"The Scriptures Must Have a Central Place in the Life of the Church and of Each Christian"

COTONOU, Benin, NOV. 20, 2011 - Here is a Vatican translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered Saturday evening to the bishops of Benin.

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Your Eminences,

Dear Archbishop Ganyé, President of the Episcopal Conference of Benin,
Dear Brother Bishops,

It is a great joy for me to meet this evening with you, the pastors of the Catholic Church in Benin. I thank the President of the Episcopal Conference of Benin, Archbishop Antoine Ganyé, for the fraternal words of greeting which he offered in your name. With you, I am happy to give thanks to the Lord for the one hundred and fiftieth anniversary of the beginning of the evangelization of your country. To be exact, it was on the 18thof April 1861 that the first missionaries of the Society of the African Missions disembarked at Ouidah, thus beginning a new page in the proclamation of the Gospel in West Africa. To all the missionaries, bishops, priests, men and women religious, and lay people who have come from their own homeland or whose origins are in this country, who have laboured since that time and up to our own day, the Church is particularly grateful. They have generously given their lives, at times in a heroic manner, so that the love of God may be proclaimed to all.

The celebration of this Jubilee must be for your communities and for each of their members, an occasion of profound spiritual renewal. It falls to you, as Pastors of the People of God, to discern its dimensions in the light of the word of God. The Year of Faith, which I announced to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council, will certainly be a propitious occasion for enabling the faithful to rediscover and to deepen their faith in the Person of the Saviour of Man. It is because they chose to place Christ at the centre of their lives that, in the past one hundred and fifty years, men and women have had the courage to place everything at the service of the Gospel. Today, this same approach must be at the heart of the whole Church. It is the crucified and glorious face of Christ which ought to guide us, so that we may witness to his love for the world. This attitude requires a constant conversion in order to give new strength to the prophetic dimension of our proclamation. To those who have received the mission of leading the people of God, falls the responsibility of quickening this attitude in them and helping them to discern the signs of the presence of God in the heart of persons and events. May all the faithful have this personal and communal encounter with Christ, and become his messengers. This meeting with Christ must be solidly rooted in openness to and meditation on the Word of God. The Scriptures must have a central place in the life of the Church and of each Christian. Hence, I encourage you to help them to rediscover Scripture as a source of constant renewal, so that it may unify the daily lives of the faithful and be ever more at the heart of every ecclesial activity.

The Church can not keep this Word of God to herself; hers is the vocation to announce it to the world. This Jubilee Year should be a privileged occasion for the Church in Benin to give renewed vigour to her missionary consciousness. Apostolic zeal, which should animate all the faithful, is a direct result of their baptism, and they cannot shirk their responsibility to profess their faith in Christ and his Gospel wherever they find themselves, and in their daily lives. Bishops and priests, for their part, are called to revive this awareness within families, in parishes, in communities and in the different ecclesial movements. I would like once more to highlight the admirable and essential role played by catechists in the missionary activities of your dioceses. On the other hand, as I emphasized in the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Verbum Domini, "In no way can the Church restrict her pastoral work to the ‘ordinary maintenance’ of those who already know the Gospel of Christ. Missionary outreach is a clear sign of the maturity of an ecclesial community" (No. 95). The Church, therefore, must reach out to everyone. I encourage you to persevere in your efforts to share missionary personnel with those dioceses experiencing a shortage, whether in your own country, in other African nations or in distant continents. Do not be afraid to call forth missionary vocations among the priests, religious and the laity!

So that the world may believe this Word which the Church proclaims, it is indispensible that Christ’s disciples be united among themselves (cf. Jn 17: 21). As leaders and pastors of your people, you are called to have a lively consciousness of the sacramental fraternity which unites you, and of the unique mission which has been entrusted to you, so that you may be effective signs and promoters of unity within your dioceses. With your priests, an attitude of listening, and of personal and paternal concern must prevail so that, conscious of your affection for them, they may live their priestly vocation with peace and sincerity, spread its joy around them and faithfully exercise their priestly duties. I therefore invite you to help your priests and faithful to rediscover for themselves the beauty of the priesthood and of the priestly ministry. The difficulties which are met along the way and which can at times be serious, must never lead to discouragement, but on the contrary become incentives to the awakening among priests and bishops of a deep spiritual life which fills their hearts with an ever greater love for Christ and with overflowing zeal for the sanctification of the People of God. Likewise, a strengthening of the bonds of fraternity and of friendship between all will be an important support, and will promote advancement in the search for spiritual and human development.

Dear Brother Bishops, the formation of the future priests of your dioceses is a reality to which you must pay particular attention. I strongly encourage you to make it one of your pastoral priorities. It is absolutely necessary that a solid human, intellectual and spiritual formation allow young people to attain a personal, psychological and affective maturity, which prepares them to assume to duties of the priesthood, especially in the area of interpersonal relations. For their part, as I noted in the Letter which I addressed recently to all seminarians, "the most important thing in our path towards the priesthood and during the whole of our priestly lives, is our personal relationship with God in Jesus Christ. The priest … is God’s messenger to his people. He wants to lead them to God and in this way foster an authentic communion between all men and women". It is in this perspective that seminarians must learn to live in constant contact with God. Since the choice of formators is an important responsibility incumbent upon you Bishops, I invite you to exercise this duty with prudence and discernment. Formators, each of whom must possess the necessary human and intellectual qualities, must be concerned with their own advancement along the path to holiness, as well that that of the young to whom they have the mission of helping in the search for the will of God in their lives.

The episcopal ministry to which the Lord has called you has its share of joys and sorrows. To each of you present here this evening, I would like to leave a word of hope. In the course of the last hundred and fifty years, the Lord has done great things in the midst of the people of Benin. Be assured that he will continue to accompany you from day to day in your commitment to the work of evangelization. Always be pastors after the heart of God, authentic servants of the Gospel. It is precisely this that men and women of our times expect from you.

Dear Brother Bishops, at the end of this time together, I wish to express my great joy at having returned to Africa, and in particular to Benin, for this double celebration: the one hundred and fiftieth anniversary of the evangelization of your country and the presentation of the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Africae Munus. I would like to thank you, and through you all the people of Benin, for the warm welcome, I would say simply for the African welcome, which you have given to me. I entrust all of your dioceses, as well as you and your episcopal ministry, to the Virgin Mary, Our lady of Africa. May she watch over the people of Benin! With great affection, I willingly impart my Apostolic Blessing, which I happily extend to the priests, to the men and women religious, to the catechists and to all the lay faithful of your dioceses!

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Benedict XVI's Explanation of Prayer for Children
"The Day of My First Holy Communion Was One of the Most Beautiful Days of My Life"

COTONOU, Benin, NOV. 20, 2011 - Here is a Vatican translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered Saturday evening in Benin when he visited St. Rita's Parish, and spoke to the children there.

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Dear Young Friends,

I thank Bishop René-Marie Ehuzu of Port Novo, Director of Social Ministry of the Benin Bishops’ Conference, for his words of welcome. I also thank the parish priest and Aïcha for their words offered on behalf of all of you. After this beautiful moment of Eucharistic adoration, it is with much joy that I greet you. Thank you for coming out in such great numbers!

God our Father has gathered us around his Son and our brother, Jesus Christ, who is present in the host consecrated during the Mass. This is a great mystery before which we worship and we believe. Jesus, who loves us very much, is truly present in the tabernacles of all the churches around the world, in the tabernacles of the churches in your neighbourhoods and in your parishes. I ask you to visit him often to tell him of your love for him.

Some of you have already made your First Holy Communion, and others are preparing for it. The day of my First Holy Communion was one of the most beautiful days of my life. It is the same for you, isn’t it? And why is that? It’s not only because of our nice clothes or the gifts we receive, nor even because of the parties! It is above all because, that day, we receive Jesus Christ for the first time! When I receive Communion, Jesus comes to live in me. I should welcome him with love and listen closely to him. In the depths of my heart, I can tell him, for example: "Jesus, I know that you love me. Give me your love so that I can love you in return and love others with your love. I give you all my joys, my troubles and my future." Do not hesitate, dear children, to speak of Jesus to others. He is a treasure whom you should share generously. Throughout the history of the Church, the love of Jesus has filled countless Christians, and even young people like yourselves, with courage and strength. In this way, Saint Kizito, a Ugandan boy, was put to death because he wanted to live according to the baptism which he had just received. Kizito prayed. He realized that God is not only important, but that he is everything.

What, then, is prayer? It is a cry of love directed to God our Father, with the will to imitate Jesus our brother. Jesus often went off by himself to pray. Like Jesus, I too can find a calm place to pray where I can quietly stand before a Cross or a holy picture in order to speak to Jesus and to listen to him. I can also use the Gospels. That way, I keep within my heart a passage which has touched me and which will guide me throughout the day. To stay with Jesus like this for a little while lets him fill me with his love, light and life! This love, which I receive in prayer, calls me in turn to give it to my parents, to my friends, to everyone with whom I live, even with those who do not like me, and those whom I do not appreciate enough. Dear young people, Jesus loves you. Ask your parents to pray with you! Sometimes you may even have to push them a little. But do not hesitate to do so. God is that important!

May the Virgin Mary, his Mother, teach you to love more and more through prayer, forgiveness and charity. I entrust you to her, together with your families and teachers. Look! I have this rosary in my pocket. The rosary is like a tool that we can use to pray. It is easy to pray the rosary. Maybe you know how already; if not, ask your parents to help you to learn how. At the end of this meeting, each one of you will receive a rosary. When you hold it in your hand, I would ask you to pray for the Pope, for the Church and for every important intention. And now, before I bless you all with great affection, let us pray together a Hail Mary for children throughout the world, especially for those who are sick, who are hungry and in places of war. Let us pray together: Hail Mary,...


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