23-March-2009 -- ZENIT.org News Agency |

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Spokesman Says Benedict XVI Gives Africa Hope

LUANDA, Angola, MARCH 22, 2009 (Zenit.org).- The Pope gives Africa hope, the Vatican spokesman explained as he made an initial assessment of Benedict XVI's visit to Cameroon and Angola in an interview with Vatican Radio.

Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, director of the Vatican press office, commented on the Mass celebrated by the Pope today in Cimangola, on the outskirts of Luanda, in which more than one million people participated.

He reported: "It was a powerful homily. This homily was addressed to the Angolan people and also to all of southern Africa, because all of the bishops of IMBISA [the Inter-Regional Meeting of Bishops of Southern Africa] were present."

The spokesman noted that the Pope "returned with strong emphasis to the gloom, the problems, especially war, but the [he] also opened a great deal to hope."

The Holy Father, the priest continued, "spoke of the values of African culture, of the values that Christianity can bring to Africa to build a Christian life, a Church with specific characteristics: this value of love of life, the sensibility of the family."

"These are all aspects on which the Church too can work in depth to be truly African," he said.

Mourning

The Pontiff also appeared deeply moved by the deaths yesterday of two young girls, who were trampled in the rush to enter Coqueiros Stadium in Luanda, Father Lombardi observed.

He said: "It is true. It is a terribly sad thing that casts a shadow of sadness over yesterday's great celebration. The event, as far as we understand, happened before the meeting, in the rush through the entrances to the stadium."

The priest reported: "In fact, the Pope and his entourage were only informed of this event late in the evening. So, the Pope went through the whole gathering without knowing that this had happened. Then they were told in the evening. The information was a little confused."

He continued: "This morning then it was definitively confirmed and the Pope wanted to show his deep pain at the beginning of Mass with some touching words about the eternal life of the two young girls, but also about his participation in the sorrow of the families, the friends, which was strongly felt because the girls had come precisely to see the Holy Father."

"In the afternoon Cardinal Bertone, in the Holy Father's name, went to the hospital where the two girls' bodies and other wounded people are, to show the Pope's nearness," the spokesman said.

The Holy Father's message was especially directed to the youth, he observed, because "in a few years they will be the ones who will have responsibility for the country and the continent and so the duty is theirs; if they have had adequate formation, if they have chosen the right ideals, the common good instead of personal interests and so on [...] then there will truly be great hope for Africa."

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