6-September-2012 -- ZENIT.org News Agency |

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Benedict XVI Calls on African Catholics to Be 'Ambassadors of Christ'

Pontiff Sends Message to Pan African Congress for Catholic Laity

By Junno Arocho

ROME, SEPT. 5, 2012 (Zenit.org).- In a statement sent to the Pan African Congress for Catholic Laity, Pope Benedict XVI called on the lay faithful of Africa to be witnesses to the gospel. The message was addressed to Cardinal Stanis?aw Ry?ko, President of the Pontifical Council for the Laity, which hosted the conference.

Recalling his previous visits, the Holy Father referred to Africa as the "Continent of Hope". "They were not circumstantial words, but indicated the luminous horizon that opens to the look of faith," the pope said.

The Holy Father stressed that although at first glance the problems in the continent seem too great to solve, the people of Africa have consistently shown strength through their faith. "If, however, with a more profound look we see the heart of African peoples, we discover a great wealth of spiritual resources, precious for our time," he said.

"The love of life and of the family, the sense of joy and of sharing, the enthusiasm of living the faith in the Lord, which I was able to observe in my African trips, are still imprinted in my heart. Never let the dismal relativist and nihilist mentality, which strikes various parts of our world, open a breach in your reality! Receive and spread with renewed force the message of joy and hope that Christ brings a message able to purify and reinforce the great values of your cultures."

As an example, Pope Benedict XVI presented Saint Josephine Bakhita as model of how "the encounter with the God of Jesus Christ is able to transform profoundly every human being, even in the poorest conditions." The Sudanese born saint was a former slave who later converted and joined the Canossian Sisters in Italy. She was canonized in October 2000 by Pope John Paul II.

"The encounter with Christ gives the impetus to overcome even the difficulties that seem to be most insurmountable. It was the experience of Saint Bakhita, but it is also the experience of so many young Africans - thank God, the great majority of the population - who are called to live today in the faithful following of the Lord. To render Africa the "Continent of Hope" is a commitment that must guide the mission of the African lay faithful today, as also the Congress itself that you are holding," the pope said.

The pope concluded his statement, calling on the lay faithful of Africa to be ambassadors of Christ. The Holy Father reiterated that the people of Africa, both young and old are awaiting to hear the Good News from the laity, particularly from the new communities and ecclesial movements within the Catholic Church.

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