2009-10-05 15:20:24

Pope inaugurates African Synod with solemn Mass

(October 5, 2009) Pope Benedict XVI on Sunday inaugurated the Second Special Assembly of the Synod of bishops for Africa in the Vatican with a solemn Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica. While praising the African continent as a font of spirituality, the Pontiff lamented that the continent is afflicted by materialism and religious fundamentalism. A Congolese choir with bongo drums, electric guitars and swaying, ululating singers filled St. Peter's Basilica with African hymns as the Pontiff formally opened the three-week gathering of some 300 prelates to discuss the Church's problems in Africa. The synod that will run through Oct. 25, has as its theme: "The Church in Africa at the Service of Reconciliation, Justice and Peace. You are the salt of the earth ... you are the light of the world." The Pope praised Africa's rich cultural and spiritual treasures, saying they were the «spiritual lung» for a world increasingly in a crisis of faith and hope, but he said Africa has also been afflicted by materialism, the «toxic spiritual garbage» exported by developed countries. «In this sense, colonialism, while finished in the political sphere, hasn't really ended,» he said. As a result, he said, Africa is also at risk of another «virus:», namely, religious fundamentalism. Groups claiming to be from religious backgrounds are spreading across the continent. He urged the Catholic Church in Africa to be a voice of reconciliation, justice and peace among the continent's various ethnic and religious groups. The Catholic Church is growing enormously in Africa; between 1978 and 2007, the number of Catholics grew from 55 million to 146 million. Vatican statistics show that more than 17 percent of Africa's population is Catholic. But at the same time, the region's poverty, conflicts and AIDS have posed challenges for the church. During the meeting, several outside experts will be addressing the prelates, including the head of the U.N.-African Union peacekeeping force for Darfur, Sudan, and the head of the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization, FAO.  

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