Pope Benedict XVI's General Audience on Wednesday November 23, 2011

“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”, this was Pope Benedict XVI’s appeal Wednesday during his weekly general audience.

As per tradition the Holy Father dedicated his first major public appointment since his return from Benin, West Africa, on Sunday to the major themes of this three day Apostolic Voyage, during which he handed his guidelines for the future of the Church there, the post-Synodal Exhortation - Africae Munus - to the people of the continent.

Reflecting on that moment, Sunday morning during Mass in Cotonou stadium, Pope Benedict said: “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”.

Earlier in comments in Italian the Holy Father told the pilgrims to the Paul VI audience hall: “In Africa I saw a freshness in their yes to life, a freshness of religious awareness and of hope, a perception of reality in its totality with God and not reduced to a positivism which eventually extinguishes hope. All of this speaks of the presence on that continent of a reservoir of life and vitality for the future, on which we can count, on which the Church can rely. "

One of the indelible images of the apostolic visit was the prayer at the tomb of a great churchman and illustrious son of Benin in Africa: “The unforgettable Cardinal Bernardin Gantin, whose revered memory is alive more than ever in his country, which regards him as a Father of the Nation, and the whole continent."

Pope Benedict spoke of the need for a spirit of reconciliation on the civil level, which he said “requires an openness to the hope that is animating sociopolitical and economic life of the continent, as I was able underline in the meeting with the political institutions, the Diplomatic Corps and Representatives of Religions. "

On that occasion the Holy Father stressed "the hope that should animate the path of the continent, noting that burning desire for freedom and justice, especially in recent months, which animates the hearts of many African peoples" :

"I also stressed the need to build a society in which relations between ethnic groups and religions are characterized by dialogue and harmony. I invited all to be true sowers of hope in every situation and environment. "

The Pope recalled his moving meeting with children: “In the parish church of Santa Rita, I really tasted the joy of living, the joy and enthusiasm of the younger generation who are the future of Africa. Speaking to the ranks of festive children, one of the many resources and wealth of the continent, I pointed to the figure of St. Kizito, a Ugandan boy, who was killed because he wanted to live the gospel, and I urged everyone to bear witness to Jesus with their peers. "

And his visit to the Foyer “Peace and Joy” hospice, of Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity, a moment of “great emotion, encountering sick and abandoned children, which allowed me to concretely see how love and solidarity know how to make the strength and love of the Risen Christ present in the midst of weakness”.

Finally he greeted pilgrims in various languages, including English: “I offer a cordial greeting to the Sisters of Jesus and Mary taking part in a course of spiritual renewal. I also greet the international group of Marist and Marianist Brothers. My warm welcome likewise goes to the pilgrims from Indonesia. Upon all the English-speaking visitors present at today’s Audience, including the groups from Nigeria, South Korea and the United States of America, I invoke God’s blessings of joy and peace”.


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