By Robin Gomes
Pope Francis on Saturday reminded the Catholic Church and Africa’s homegrown Churches of their “shared commitment to promoting peace processes in the various areas of conflict, as well as to concrete forms of solidarity towards those in need”, especially the most underprivileged and vulnerable.
Coexistence, peace, justice
“A particular task of Christians in African societies is that of fostering the coexistence of differing ethnic groups, traditions, languages and religions, a task that often meets with obstacles due to grave mutual antagonisms,” the Pope told 11 members of the Organization of African Instituted Churches (OAIC). The group founded in 1978, represents about 60 million members of numerous Christian denominations across Sub-Saharan Africa and the African Diaspora.
The Pope noted that the history of their Churches and communities have been marked by the struggle for independence on the African continent, and by subsequent efforts to shape societies of justice and peace, capable of defending the dignity of the great variety of African peoples.
Unfulfilled dreams – Gospel of hope
The Holy Father lamented that the promise of progress and justice held out in that process of liberation was not always fulfilled. Many countries, he said, are still far from peace and from an overall economic, social and political development that can ensure suitable living conditions and opportunities for all their citizens.
Hinting at Africa's colonial past the Pope said the continent “has been compared to the man who went down from Jerusalem to Jericho and fell into the hands of robbers who stripped him, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead.” “As a response to the desperation of the poor, the frustration of young people and the cry of pain of the elderly and the suffering,” the Holy Father said, “the Gospel of Jesus Christ, passed on and lived out, translates into experiences of hope, peace, joy, harmony, love and unity.”
If Christians are truly convinced that Africa’s problems can be more easily resolved by drawing upon the continent’s human, cultural and material resources, the Pope said, “it is clear that our Christian duty is to accompany every effort to favour a wise and ethical use of those resources.”
For this reason, Pope Francis encouraged greater encounter and ecumenical dialogue between the Catholic and other Churches. He also hoped the Holy Spirit will lead them to discover the best way to promote cooperation among Christians, with followers of traditional religions and Islam for the sake of a better future for Africa.