VATICAN CITY, 4 OCT 2009 (VIS) - At 9.30 a.m. today in the Vatican Basilica, Benedict XVI presided at a Eucharistic concelebration with 239 Synod Fathers and 55 collaborators, for the opening of the Second Special Assembly for Africa of the Synod of Bishops, which will be held in the Vatican's Synod Hall until 25 October.
In his homily, the Holy Father commented on three aspects of today's liturgy of the Word that are, he said, "particularly apt in accompanying the opening of a synodal assembly dedicated to Africa": the primacy of God, Creator and Lord; marriage; and children.
"As to the first aspect,Africa is the repository of an inestimable treasure for the whole world: its deep sense of God. ... When we speak of the treasures of Africa, our thoughts immediately turn to the resources its land is rich in and that, unfortunately, have become and often continue to be a reason for exploitation, conflict and corruption. The Word of God, instead, makes us look at another inheritance: the spiritual and cultural inheritance, of which humanity has even greater need than it does of raw materials".
Africa, the Pope went on, "represents an enormous spiritual 'lung' for a humanity that appears to be in a crisis of faith and hope. But this 'lung' can take ill as well. And, at the moment, at least two dangerous pathologies are attacking it: firstly, an illness that is already widespread in the West, that is, practical materialism, combined with relativist and nihilist thinking".
"There is", he went on, "absolutely no doubt that the so-called First World has exported and continues to export its spiritual toxic waste that contaminates the peoples of other continents, in particular those of Africa. In this sense, colonialism which is over at a political level, has never really entirely come to an end".
The "second 'virus' that could hit Africa", he said, "is religious fundamentalism, mixed with political and economic interests. Groups who follow various religious creeds are spreading throughout the continent of Africa: they do so in God's name, but following a logic that is opposed to divine logic, that is, teaching and practicing not love and respect for freedom, but intolerance and violence".
Matrimony, the Holy Father went on, "as it is presented to us in the Bible, does not exist outside of the relationship with God. Married life between a man and a woman, and therefore of the family that springs from that, is inscribed into the communion with God and, in the light of the New Testament, becomes the symbol of Trinitarian love and the Sacrament of the union of Christ with the Church. In as much as it protects and develops its faith, Africa will discover immense resources to support the family built on matrimony".
In the episode in which Jesus welcomes the children, the Pope explained, "we see the image of the Church that, in Africa, and in every other part of the planet, demonstrates her maternal concern especially for the smallest, even before they are born".
"Naturally, the primary task of evangelisation remains valid and relevant, or rather of new evangelisation that takes account of the rapid social changes of our era and the phenomenon of globalisation".
The present Synod - which has as its theme "The Church in Africa, at the Service of Reconciliation, Justice and Peace. 'You are the salt of the earth, ... you are the light of the world'" - is, said the Holy Father, "the propitious moment to rethink pastoral activity and renew the impulse of evangelisation. To become the light of the world and the salt of the earth one must always aim at the 'high measure' of Christian life, that is to say holiness".
"May the Church in Africa always be a family of true disciples of Christ, where the difference between the different ethnic groups becomes a reason and a stimulus for mutual human and spiritual enrichment", he said.
The Holy Father also highlighted how reconciliation "is the stable foundation upon which peace is built, the necessary condition for the true progress of mankind and society, according to the project of justice ordained by God".
Before concluding his homily, the Pope called upon everyone to pray for the fruits of the Second Special Assembly for Africa, which begins its work tomorrow.
HML/OPENING AFRICA SYNOD/... VIS 20091005 (730)