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

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Vatican Hosts Meeting to Focus on Plight of Africans Living, Working on Street

Benedict XVI Sends Greetings to Attendees in Tanzania

DAR-ES-SALAAM, Tanzania, SEPT. 11, 2012 (Zenit.org).- The first Integrated Meeting for the Pastoral Care of the Road for the Continent of Africa and Madagascar began today in the Tanzanian capital of Dar-Es-Salaam. The four-day conference is promoted by the Pontifical Council for Migrants and Travelers.

Under the theme of "Jesus himself came up and walked by their side", the initiative will look at several issues facing the poor in Africa. According to a communique released by the pontifical council, the objective of the meeting "is to promote initiatives and pastoral programs of the local churches for the sake of those who live in and on the road; namely: women and street children, homeless people, [and] experts in the road transport and road safety."

One of the critical issues that will be examined is the position of women and girls who engage in voluntary or forced prostitution in Africa and Madagascar. "Unfortunately", the communique noted, "insufficient recognition of the dignity and rights of women means they have fewer opportunities for formation, work and respect."

Among the other issues to be examined is the plight of women, children and adolescents who live on the streets. The meeting will also look into the causes that force them into the streets, such as poverty, violence, tribal conflicts, and exploitation.

Benedict XVI's secretary of state sent a message to those attending the meeting. Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone conveyed the Holy Father's "greetings and prayerful good wishes".

The message, which was addressed to Cardinal Polycarp Pengo, archbishop of Dar-Es-Salaam, expressed the Holy Father's hope that the initiative would lead to a greater cooperation among the Churches "for the sake of safeguarding every life at risk on African streets and roads."

"[The Holy Father] asks that special attention be paid to the pastoral needs of those women and children who find themselves on the streets, whether as a result of concrete social, economic and political factors, or as victims of organized national and international exploiters. He is likewise confident that the Meeting will address situations affecting the lives of those who travel in their work and, not least, the road insecurity which threatens the lives of millions on African soil," the statement read.

The meeting is being attended by more than 85 people from 31 African nations including bishops, priests, religious and lay people, delegates of various episcopal commissions for migrants and itinerant peoples. Also in attendance are representatives of Caritas Internationalis as well as members of religious institutes who dedicate their efforts to the pastoral care of people who live on the streets of Africa.

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On ZENIT's Web page:

Full text of Cardinal Bertone's message: ...

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