22-March-2009 -- Vatican Information Service |

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Primary Agents, Not Just Recipients, of Development

VATICAN CITY, 20 MAR 2009 (VIS) - At 5 p.m. today, the Holy Father travelled to Luanda's "Palacio do Povo" where he was received by President Jose Eduardo dos Santos. Following a private meeting with the head of State, the Pope pronounced an address before the country's civil and political authorities, and the diplomatic corps accredited to Angola.

"You are the protagonists and witnesses of an Angola which is on the road to recovery", the Pope told them. "In the wake of the twenty-seven-year civil war that ravaged this country, peace has begun to take root, bringing with it the fruits of stability and freedom. The government's tangible efforts to establish an infrastructure and to rebuild the institutions fundamental to development and the well-being of society have begun to foster hope among the nation's citizens. Multilateral agencies too have made their contribution, determined to overcome particular interests in order to work for the common good. There is also the example of those honest teachers, medical workers, and civil servants who, on meagre wages, serve their communities with integrity and compassion, and there are countless others who selflessly undertake voluntary work at the service of the most needy. May God bless them abundantly! May their charity multiply!

"Angola knows that the time has come for Africa to be the Continent of Hope", he added. "All upright human conduct is hope in action. Our actions are never indifferent before God. Nor are they indifferent for the unfolding of history. Friends, armed with integrity, magnanimity and compassion, you can transform this continent, freeing your people from the scourges of greed, violence and unrest and leading them along the path marked with the principles indispensable to every modern civic democracy: respect and promotion of human rights, transparent governance, an independent judiciary, a free press, a civil service of integrity, a properly functioning network of schools and hospitals, and - most pressing - a determination born from the conversion of hearts to excise corruption once and for all.

"In my Message for the World Day of Peace this year", Pope Benedict went on, "I drew particular attention to the need for an ethical approach to development. In fact, the peoples of this continent are rightly calling out, not simply for more programmes and protocols, but for a deep-seated, lasting conversion of hearts to sincere solidarity. Their plea to those serving in politics, public service, international agencies, and multinational companies is simply this: stand alongside us in a profoundly human way; accompany us, and our families and our communities.

"Social and economic development in Africa bring into partnership national leadership together with regional initiatives and international resolve. Such partnerships require that African nations be seen not simply as the receivers of others' plans and solutions. African men and women themselves, working together for the good of their communities, should be the primary agents of their own development. In this regard, there are a growing number of effective initiatives which merit support. Among them are: the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD), the Pact on Security, Stability, and Development in the Great Lakes Region, together with the 'Kimberley Process', the 'Publish What You Pay Coalition' and the 'Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative'. Their common goal is to promote transparency, honest business practice and good governance.

"In regard to the international community as a whole, of pressing importance are co-ordinated efforts to address the issue of climate change, the full and fair implementation of the development commitments of the Doha round and likewise the implementation of the oft-repeated promise by developed countries to commit 0.7 percent of their Gross National Product for official development assistance. This undertaking is all the more necessary in view of the world's current financial turmoil, and must not become one of its casualties".

The Holy Father then spoke of his delight "at being among families" during his apostolic trip to Cameroon and Angola. "Indeed", he observed, "I think that those who come from other continents can learn afresh from Africa that 'the family is the foundation on which the social edifice is built'.

"Yet", he added, "the strains upon families, as we all know, are many indeed: anxiety and ignominy caused by poverty, unemployment, disease and displacement. ... Particularly disturbing is the crushing yoke of discrimination that women and girls so often endure, not to mention the unspeakable practice of sexual violence and exploitation which causes such humiliation and trauma. I must also mention a further area of grave concern: the policies of those who, claiming to improve the 'social edifice', threaten its very foundations. How bitter the irony of those who promote abortion as a form of 'maternal' healthcare! How disconcerting the claim that the termination of life is a matter of reproductive health.

"You will always find the Church, in accordance with the will of her divine Founder, standing alongside the poorest of this continent. I wish to assure each of you that" through her many initiatives she "will continue to do all she can to support families - including those suffering the harrowing effects of HIV/AIDS - and to uphold the equal dignity of women and men, realised in harmonious complementarity. The Christian spiritual journey is one of daily conversion. To this the Church invites all leaders so that the path opened for all humanity will be one of truth, integrity, respect and compassion".

Having completed his address, the Pope travelled to the apostolic nunciature, where he met with bishops of Angola and Sao Tome.

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