By Sr. Maria Veronica Dingi, CPS
POPE BENEDICT BLESS OUR LAND
The arrival of Pope Benedict XVI in Angola was received with a lot of enthusiasm by the people, both young and old.
A lot of regalia was prepared, including t-shirts, caps, cloths with the Pope’s picture and the words PAPA BENTO XVI ABENÇOA A NOSSA TERRA which means POPE BENEDICT XVI BLESS OUR LAND. The posters of the Pope were found on public and private buses, cars and also on the windows of some houses in the city. There was a lot of cheer and celebration.
People lined up the streets the Pope were to use to go to wherever he had an appointment just to have a glimpse of him. People cheered as the Pope passed blessing them. The Police and the boys and girls Scouts had to restrain people from running into the streets as the Papal Mobile passed by.
The public media in Angola covered this visit extensively. There was literally suspension of other programmes. The public media only stopped screening the stories related to the Pope’s visit, some two hours after his departure.
When the Pope touched down on the Angolan soil, he started by greeting the people of Angola, the political and religious leaders in the country. He also extended his greetings to those who were watching his arrival on television and those who were listening to the radios.
As was indicated on his timetable the Pope had to meet different kinds of groups and people. His messages were therefore directed to these groups. His first message was to the civic and political leaders.
TO THE CIVIC AND POLITICAL LEADERS
He told those who had come to welcome him that he was keenly aware of the importance of “dialogue as a way of overcoming every form of conflict and tension and making every nation, Angola included, into a house of peace and fraternity. With this in view, you must take from your spiritual and cultural heritage the best values that Angola possesses and go out to meet one another fearlessly, agreeing to share personal resources, both spiritual and material, for the good of all.
The Pope expressed his solidarity with the people of Kunene Province who were affected by the floods. He also encouraged the people of Angola to use the abundant resources when he said, “Your land is abundant and your nation is mighty. Make use of these advantages to build peace and understanding between peoples, based upon loyalty and equality that can promote for Africa the peaceful future in solidarity that everyone longs for and to which everyone is entitled. To this end, I ask you: do not yield to the law of the strongest! God has enabled human beings to fly, over and above their natural tendencies, on the wings of reason and faith. If you let these wings bear you aloft, you will easily recognize your neighbour as a brother or sister, born with the same fundamental human rights. Unfortunately, within the borders of Angola, there are still many poor people demanding that their rights be respected. The multitude of Angolans who live below the threshold of absolute poverty must not be forgotten. Do not disappoint their expectations!
Pope Benedict XVI called on what he called modern Angola to follow the example of Dom Alphonsus Mbemba-a-Nzinga whose efforts five hundred years ago, gave birth to a Christian Kingdom in Mbanza-Congo which has continued to grow from the eighteenth century until today. He concluded by saying the main aim of his visit to Angola was to “be together with one of the oldest Catholic communities in sub-equatorial Africa, to strengthen it in its faith in the risen Jesus and to join its sons and daughters in praying that this time of peace in Angola, in justice and fraternity, may prove lasting, allowing the community to carry out the mission that God has entrusted to it for the good of its people within the family of Nations” His last words were a blessing for Angola.
TO THE YOUTH
Thousands of young people met Pope Benedict XVI the stadium Dos Coqueiros. He urged the youth to have the courage to make definitive decisions, to take on lifelong commitments. He told them that they should grow in their friendship with Jesus Christ.” He went on to say “Seek his will for you by listening to his word daily, and by allowing his law to shape your lives and your relationships. In this way you will become wise and generous prophets of God’s saving love. Become evangelizers of your own peers, leading them by your own example to an appreciation of the beauty and truth of the Gospel, and the hope of a future shaped by the values of God’s Kingdom. The Church needs your witness! Do not be afraid to respond generously to God’s call, whether it be to serve him as a priest or a religious, as a Christian parent, or in the many forms of service to others which the Church sets before you.”
This joyful occasion was however disturbed by the death of two young people and a number of others who got injured in a stampede at the entrance to the stadium.
TO THE WOMEN
“We Feel the Need for This Feminine Complementarity”
The Pope met the women at the Church of Santo António Parish of Luanda. Thousands of women where already gathered at the Church more than three hours before the Pope’s arrival. When he finally arrived, he was greeted with a lot of ululating clapping of hands and singing. Poems and hymns which were especially composed in honour of the Angolan woman in particular and the African woman in general were recited. Two women gave speeches to the Holy in Father in which they drew attention to the aspirations and hopes of so many of the silent heroines among the women of Angola. After their presentations they gave the Pope some gifts and one of them was a model of the Parish of Santo Antonio. After the presentation of the gifts the Pope then addressed the women and all those who were in attendance. He started by appreciating the role of all those who work for the promotion of women.
He then told that, “God has entrusted the wellsprings of life to you; I invite you to live and to put your trust in life, because the living God has put his trust in you. He called everyone to “an effective awareness of the adverse conditions to which many women have been and continue to be subjected to”.
Quoting from Genesis Chapter 2, the Pope said God noticed that man needed a helper and he fashioned one for him in whom he (God) incorporated the order of love, which had seemed under-represented in creation. He went on to say, “my dear friends, this order of love belongs to the intimate life of God himself, the Trinitarian life, the Holy Spirit being the personal hypostasis of love. As my predecessor Pope John Paul II once wrote, “in God’s eternal plan, woman is the one in whom the order of love in the created world of persons takes first root” (Mulieris Dignitatem, 29).
The Pope also said that man and woman are both called to live in profound communion through a reciprocal recognition of one another and the mutual gift of themselves, working together for the common good through the complementary aspects of masculinity and femininity.
Pope Benedict XVI also noted that, “It is almost always women who manage to preserve human dignity, to defend the family and to protect cultural and religious values. He also noted that “history records almost exclusively the accomplishments of men, when in fact much of it is due to the determined, unrelenting and charitable action of women.
The pope concluded by paying tribute to two extra ordinary women of Angola; Teresa Gomes who in 1975 – 1976 protected the parish of Our Lady of Grace of Porto Amboim from closure and also its structures, when it was invaded by fierce ideological ad political propaganda. She tried every possible means to restore the celebration of the mass in the Church. She died in 2004 in Sumbe.
He also paid tribute to Maria Bonino who was an Italian pediatrician who offered her expertise as a volunteer in several missions throughout the continent of African. She became the head of the pediatric ward in the provincial hospital at Uíje, caring for the daily needs of thousands of children who were patients there, Maria paid the ultimate price for her service by sacrificing her life during the terrible epidemic of Marburg Hemorrhagic Fever, to which she herself succumbed in March 2005.
The holy Father concluded saying that “since the dignity of women is equal to that of men, no one today should doubt that women have “a full right to become actively involved in all areas of public life, and this right must be affirmed and guaranteed, also, where necessary, through appropriate legislation”. He also noted that the presence of a mother in the family brings stability and growth of the same family.
Pope’s Mass with the Bishops of IMBISA in CIMANGOLA
The Sunday Mass which was called Mass with the Bishops of IMBISA, was attended by more than one million people. Crowds were seen carrying stools, plastic chairs, food and water walking towards Cimangola for the Holy Father’s second and final mass in Angola. The mass was celebrated at an open space and television/video screens were put up for the crowds who could not see what was happening at the Altar. However these screens were insignificant considering the number of people who were to use them.
During his homily, Pope Benedict XVI said the evils in Africa had “reduced the poor to slavery and deprived future generations of the resources needed to create a more solid and just society.” A just society is what many people in different countries of Africa are crying for.
He called on the Angolans and all the people of African to acknowledge the presence of God within them, and to bring his love and forgiveness to all people around them. He noted the suffering experienced by the Angolan people as a result of war, and the consequent destruction of “families, whole communities, the fruit of men’s labor, the hopes which guide and sustain their lives and work!” He added that “this experience is all too familiar to Africa as a whole. He went on to say that, “When God’s word — a word meant to build up individuals, communities and the whole human family — is neglected,” the apparent results are destruction and injustice. He told the gathering that “God is calling us to acknowledge the power of his presence within us,” to take as our own “the gift of his love and forgiveness, and to become messengers of that merciful love within our families and communities, at school and in the workplace, in every sector of social and political life.”
The comments of the Holy father during this Eucharistic celebration showed that if there is no conversion and change of heart by the people and leaders of Africa, there will always be conflicts and loss of life and properties. Africa needs to return to the Lord, respect each other, respect life and work towards the development of this continent.
Pope Benedict XVI affirmed the Angolans in their efforts to build a future of forgiveness, solidarity and justice, and he also appealed to politicians to care for the most needy in the country.
Addressing the President of the Country, politicians, bishops of Angola and those from the IMBISA region and the other delegates who were at the airport to witness his departure, the Pope commended the Church of Angola for being “able to take up its own cross and that of others, bearing witness before everyone to the saving power of the Gospel message, its commitment to bringing peace and promoting fraternal charity that respects the ideas of each person. He appealed to those who can influence policies asking that the “just realization of the fundamental aspirations of the most needy peoples should be the principal concern of those in public office.”
“Our hearts cannot find peace while there are still brothers and sisters who suffer for lack of food, work, shelter or other fundamental goods,” noted the Holy Father. “If we are to offer a definite response to these fellow human beings, the first challenge to be overcome is that of building solidarity.”
He explained that the solidarity he is talking about should be between generations, between nations and between continents, and “should lead to an ever more equitable sharing of the earth’s resources among all people.”
He concluded his speech by calling on all Angolans; “to never tire of promoting peace, making gestures of forgiveness and working for national reconciliation, so that violence may never prevail over dialogue, nor fear and discouragement over trust, nor animosity over fraternal love. “This is all possible if you recognize one another as children of the same Father, the one Father in Heaven.”
The Pope’s visit to Angola was a time of renewal for the church and the young people were very happy to see the Holy Father in their own country. The relationship between the Church and the State was applauded by many delegates from the neighbouring countries.
Migration & Internal Displacement in IMBISA Region
Southern Africa is a region that has been plagued by political and social instability as of recent years. There are no proper wars that will fit the definition but there is no peace and these strive have led to a lot of internally displaced people.
Internal Displacement: The region has also experienced cases of internal displacement in a number of countries. Botswana has its internally displaced people who are the Basarwa who were moved from the Central Kalahari Game Reserve to Xade and Kaudwane. These people are disadvantaged in many ways, they cannot access development projects, they are lowly paid or not paid at all by those who employ them, and they are often used as cheap labour for heading cattle for other ethnic groups. The Basarwa have little or no representation on any national democratic forum.
Due to difference in culture and language from the majority of the Batswana, the Basarwa have difficulties participating in formal education and therefore have extremely low levels of literacy. Their history seems to have been that of dispossession and oppression from the powerful neighbour.
In Lesotho there are people who were displaced to give way for major dam construction, mining and other projects that take place in different places of the country. There is a group of people, who were displaced to give way for dam construction and the company that moved them, built beautiful homes for them but still these people are not happy. They feel life was better in the mountains because they owned fields, they did not need fertilizers and pesticides for their crops and they had animals which later died because of inadequate pastures. In the new resettlement place they have to share fields with other people and share the produce.
In Zimbabwe we have also seen the internal displacement of the people from their areas of origin to others, due to the Land Reform programme, Operation Murambatsvina/Operation Restore Order and the politically motivated conflicts.
In some of our countries there are people also who are being internally displaced to give room for development and tourism projects. The major challenge is that sometimes these people are moved to places where there are no resources needed for their survival. The biggest challenge of the large numbers of internally displaced people is that governments end up failing to provide their needs and this leads to high rates of starvation, preventable diseases and human rights abuses.
The internally displaced people are a group that needs our special attention as Church because in many countries of our region there are displaced people who are not protected by any law because they do not qualify the definitions of different categories of migration and this makes them more vulnerable.
Xenophobia Attacks: While the region was slumbering we were all caught unaware by the xenophobic attacks that took place in South Africa were thousands of people lost their properties and a number their lives and many were injured. This act showed that the Church needs to do more in its teaching about charity, sisterhood and brotherhood. No one can force people to like each other but it is our mandate as Christians to be with the victims of human failures and help them build up their lives, broken relationships and broken homes.
In many cases the Church finds itself overwhelmed by the amount of work that needs to be done, in the face of dwindling financial and well prepared human resources. In order for the church to be able to deal with the consequences of forced migration there is need for well trained people for this ministry. People who will be able to notice early signs of conflicts and put in place early interventions before the situations are out of control. Our times seem to be calling us as Christians to re-think the strategies we are using in our social action.
Collaborative Structures: There is need for collaboration between the Church of origin of the migrants and that of destination; the two sides need to know how to play their roles. There could be an arrangement to have pastoral agents that accompany these people and also pastoral agents that receive them when they get to the foreign country. The presence of pastoral agents who know the language, culture, and background of the displaced people helps them to adjust to their situation with some comfort and also helps the agents from the country of destination to understand the migrants and to be more efficient and effective in their service delivery. In the case of internally displaced people, concerned dioceses could consider working together in the same manner.
There is need for pastoral care of these people on the move, they also need tools for a sustainable quality of life in Christ Jesus. Many of the displaced people are hurting, angry and they do not trust people. They need God to alleviate their suffering. This can only be done through the love and care of those who are in ministry with the uprooted people.
The Church has been known for its hospitality. Christ called Christians to welcome the stranger (Mt. 25: 31–45). Hospitality is a mandate for the Christians. As Christ followers, to welcome a stranger is not only about being prayerful, kind or about being nice, it is a justice issue. The Church therefore has a duty to be an advocator and defender of the migrants’ rights. Jesus did not call the Christians to welcome the stranger who are in their country legally, with passports and valid visas or those who speak our particular languages, but all the strangers.
The Church has a responsibility to inform public opinion on causes of migration and its effects. People in governments and in positions of power are our Church members but the church’s engagement with them is limited. Governments in Southern Africa will not listen to the Church but they manage to sweet talk the church leadership into accepting what they want done. Education and awareness are the tools to engage the government, information between the two institutions should be kept moving to keep the two in a constant and health dialogue.
By Sr. Maria Veronica Dingi, CPS