POPE JOHN PAUL II TO SOUTH AFRICA FOR THE CELEBRATION PHASE OF THE AFRICAN SYNOD
1. From the depths of my heart I thank Almighty God for bringing me once more to Africa, a continent which holds a central place in my affections and concerns me as Bishop of Rome and Successor of the Apostle Peter. I come to South Africa with profound esteem for its peoples and their cultures. I am fully confident that the bonds of friendship between the Republic of South Africa and the Holy See, which last year led to the establishment of diplomatic relations between us, will continue to grow and intensify. I also hope some day soon to come back on a Pastoral Visit to the Catholic communities in those places which I will not now be able to visit.
Everywhere we look, Africa is being transformed. We do not yet know where change will lead. We do know that the hopes and expectations of millions of human beings cannot be ignored. They constitute a moral challenge for us all. That is why my present journey hold particular significance, first for myself and the members of the Catholic Church, but also, I would hope for all those who have Africa's well-being at heart. The purpose of my visit in fact is to present the results of the Special Session for Africa of the Synod of Bishops, held last year in Rome. The Synod recommits the Church to working with all the means at her disposal for the spiritual and full human advancement of Africa's peoples. The Catholic community throughout Africa will seek to be inwardly renewed in order to reach out in love to everyone, in the firm belief that by his Incarnation the Son of God has united himself in some fashion with every human being (cf. GS 22).
2. Today my journey brings me to South Africa, to the new South Africa, a nation firmly set on the course of reconciliation and harmony among all its citizens. At the beginning of my visit, I wish to pay tribute to you, Mr. President, who, after being a silent and suffering "witness" of your peoples' yearning for true liberation, now shoulder the burden of inspiring and challenging everyone to succeed in the task of national reconciliation and reconstruction. I remember our meeting at the Vatican in June 1990, shortly after your release from prison. In your kind words of welcome today I recognise the same spirit which sustained you then in the ideal of achieving a better life for the peoples of this Nation. To you and to former President Frederick W. de Klerk, joint recipients of the 1993 Nobel Peace Prize, we must all be grateful that you acted with wisdom and courage. And let us commend to God in our prayers all those who have worked and suffered and continue to strive for that day when everyone's dignity will be fully acknowledged, respected and safeguarded throughout this land and all over this continent.
3. South Africa refers to itself as a "Rainbow Nation", indicating the diversity of races, ethnic groups, languages, culture and religions which characterise it. And you have the extremely rich concept of Ubundu to guide you, according to the saying that "People are made people through other people". Certainly, the Government of National Unity's commitment to bring all the citizens of this land together in a united, fair and more prosperous society is shared by South Africa's Religious leaders, Christian, Jewish, Islamic, Hindu and Traditional, all of whom I greet with cordial esteem. By insisting on the things which unite, all believers can "build together" using their spiritual resources to keep alive the flame of hope on the horizon of humanity's march towards a brighter future.
4. With particular joy I greet my Brother Bishops and the faithful of the Catholic Church of the whole southern part of this continent. It has been my hope and prayer to celebrate our faith together here in the Republic of South Africa, and to encourage you in the task of helping to heal the wounds of past injustices and educate the moral conscience of individuals and peoples concerning the demands of their human dignity and of Christian service.
5. I gladly extend the hand of friendship to the representatives of the other Christian Churches and communities in Southern Africa. We must do all we can to ensure that the intense ecumenical contacts and co-operation already existing between us will continue to be a source of deep and abiding harmony and, at the deeper level of our common faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, will make us ever more convincing signs and instruments of the unity of the whole human family and of its intimate communion with God (cf. LG 1). Wherever I go I appeal to religious leaders and all men and women of goodwill to foster that understanding and dialogue which alone make it possible for us to know each other, to break down prejudices, and successfully to meet the serious challenges of our times.
6. The epochal change for which South Africa is striving will require the best that each one can give in the service of the common good. It will demand much hard work and many sacrifices. Eventual success will ultimately be a gift from the almighty, the Lord of life and of human history. May he sustain you, President Mandela, with the Vice-Presidents and the members of your Government and all your fellow-citizens, in the great task before you! I make my own the prayer of the Psalm: "May the Lord give strength to his people! May the Lord bless his people with peace!" (Ps. 29,11). God bless you all!
"Peace I bequeath to you, my own peace I give you", says the Lord (John 14,27)
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
1. Every time we celebrate the Eucharist we hear these words before giving each other the sign of peace and receiving Holy Communion. These are the words of Jesus at the Last Supper, when he bade farewell to his disciples before going to his Passion and Death. He knew that his Passion would be a great trial for them too, and so he said: "Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid" (ibid.). It was as if he were anticipating the moment of Easter Sunday when he would come back to them through the closed doors of the Cenacle and would say to them: "Peace be with you. As the Father sent me, so am I sending you? Receive the Holy Spirit" (Jn. 20,21-22).
Today I invoke this peace upon all the people of South Africa. I warmly greed Bishop Orsmond the Pastor of this local Church of Johannesburg, and all the members of the Southern African Catholic Bishops' Conference, as well as those of the Inter-Regional Meeting of Bishops of Southern Africa. I greet the clergy, Religious and lay faithful; our brothers and sisters of the other Christian denominations and religious traditions; the civil authorities of city, province and nation. I express a special word of greeting and gratitude to His Excellency, President Mandela, for his gracious presence as well as the vice presidents and other authorities.
The peace of Christ is not just any peace. It is none other than the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, "the Lord, the giver of life". On Holy Thursday Jesus called the Holy Spirit with the name of Advocate. He said: "I shall ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate to be with you for ever, that Spirit of truth whom the world can never receive, since it neither sees nor knows him" (Jn. 14, 16-17). The Advocate, the Spirit of truth, is the real source of peace: that peace which comes from God, and is stronger than anything that gives rise to anguish and concern in people's lives.
2. Meditating on today's Gospel we learn the truth about peace. We hear the Gospel of peace which, ever anew, the Church proclaims to humanity and to the world. Each year on 1 January the Church celebrates the World Day of Peace in order to draw attention to this immense good, and in order to implore it wherever it is lacking: as in Europe in the Balkans; and in Africa especially in Rwanda and Burundi, the Sudan, Algeria, and until recently in the Republic of South Africa because of apartheid. The whole Church is comforted and people everywhere rejoice in the change that has come about in South Africa during the last few years. Seeing what is happening here, men and women of goodwill hope that in other parts of this continent too, and throughout the world, violence will give way to dialogue and agreement, and the lives of innocent men, women and children will no longer be in danger for reasons which, more often than not, they neither share nor understand.
The Church believes that peace is a gift from God, but that it is at the same time a task entrusted to us all. To all of you: to my Brother Bishops, to the Catholic community of Johannesburg and of all the other dioceses of South Africa and the neighbouring countries, to our brothers and sisters of the other Christian denominations, to the followers of other religious traditions, to all men and women whatever your origin, race or culture, I would repeat the words of today's reading from the Prophet Isaiah: "Open up, open up, clear the way, remove all obstacles from the way of my people ?. Peace, peace to far and near" (Is. 57, 14.19).
3. The invitation to work strenuously for true peace is the guiding thought of today's liturgical celebration here at Gosforth Park, where we are gathered to present solemnly the results of the Special Assembly for Africa of the Synod of Bishops - the Apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia in Africa. In fact, one of the themes to which the Synod gave special attention is the connection between the Gospel of our salvation through faith in Jesus Christ and the advancement of justice and peace at every level of human relations.
This connection - always a part of the Church's thought and action - and the consequent duty of Christians to build a society worthy of their human dignity, was given new impetus by the Second Vatican Council, especially in the Pastoral Constitution Gaudium et Spes, promulgated exactly thirty years ago. An immediate result of that renewed awareness of the link between evangelisation and human liberation was the setting up of the Pontifical Council "Justice and Peace", which has its corresponding councils in each Episcopal Conference, and indeed in most dioceses around the world.
Many excellent initiatives have come from the Pontifical Council over the years. Not least deserving of mention was the Meeting at Assisi in 1986, of Christians of all denominations and representatives of the world's religions, who gathered to pray for peace, which was gravely threatened at that particular moment in history. Can we not say that subsequent events have shown that that prayer in the City of St. Francis has been heard, insofar as the changes in the world situation since then open new possibilities not only for the continents of Europe and America, but for peoples everywhere?
The changed world situation has had a profound effect on Africa. The time of ideological contrasts is over; the real problems of the people of Africa have to be tackled, with all available resources. The Apostolic Exhortation which we are here to celebrate does not offer a blueprint for material and political development, which is the competence of responsible citizens and leaders in each country. It offers a vision of the moral duty which belongs to everyone, and it indicates the path which the Church intends to follow to serve the integral well-being of the African peoples. The Church knows the immensity of the challenges involved. She therefore turns to her Lord and to the strength and inspiration that come from the transforming power of his word and sacramental presence.
4. "Christ is our peace" (cf. Eph. 2,14), says the reading from the Letter to the Ephesians. And St. Paul adds this magnificent commentary: "Now in Christ Jesus, you that used to be so far apart from us have been brought very close, by the blood of Jesus Christ (Eph. 2,13). By giving his life to the Father, on the Cross, Christ became the fountainhead of a new relationship between individuals and peoples. St. Paul explains it this way: "Christ has made the two parts of the human race into one and broken down the barrier which used to keep them apart, actually destroying in his own person the hostility" (cf. Eph. 2,14). He is referring to the way of thinking of Israel which separated the members of the Chosen People from the rest of peoples, who did not enter into God's preference. If Jesus Christ has broken down the wall of separation, this means that in Christ all men and women, and all peoples are chosen by God: "there are no more distinctions between Jew and Greek, but all of you are one in Christ Jesus", as St. Paul writes in the Letter to the Galatians (3,28). Every discrimination of origin, race and language is overcome!
The challenge before the peoples of Africa now is that of a conversion to solidarity, with magnanimity, forgiveness and reconciliation. For some, these words will sound too far removed from their experience and intentions. But it is the only path forward, out of the complete moral bankruptcy of racial prejudice and ethnic animosity. True solidarity is possible because we all belong to the one human family. Our creation in the image of God is the foundation and source of our human dignity, and therefore of every right, as well as of the rights of nations. The Death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ give a new and superior motivation to our work in the cause of peace and solidarity.
5. The Prophet Isaiah exclaims: "Open up, clear the way, remove all obstacles from the way of my people" (Is. 57,14). The Synod for Africa addresses this call and this encouragement to all the peoples of this continent. In a special way this call and encouragement goes out to the women of Africa. The Synod gave ample space to the special burdens which lie on you, to the specific injustices which you undergo, to the violence and crimes committed against you. The Church in Africa deplores whatever deprives you of your rights and the respect due to you (cf. EA 121).
The Church knows that you, the women of Africa, have an irreplaceable part to play in humanising society. You are more sensitive to the implications of justice and the demands of peace because you are closer to the mystery of life and the wonder of its transmission. The Church therefore appeals to you in a special way to respect, protect, love and serve life, every human life from conception to natural death! As mothers, you bring your children into life; you educate them for life. Every shedding of blood is a wound to your unique genius. With all your strength you tend to defend the life that was conceived in you, the life that is the object of your great love. History shows that wars are made above all by men. It has always been so, and it is still so today.
What can you do to change this situation? No one can teach as you can the reality of respect for every human being. By educating in respect and love, you teach peace and serve peace, in your families, in your countries and in the world. This was the theme of my World Day of Peace Message this year: Women - Teachers of Peace. And I have recently written a Letter to the Women of the World calling for the dignity of women to be universally recognised and urging an effective and intelligent campaign for the promotion of women (cf. N.6).
6. Faced with the huge task of educating consciences to justice and peace, the Church turns to a woman for inspiration and help: to Mary the Mother of Christ, the Queen of Peace. Christians have always invoked Mary in times of danger and difficulty. Let us entrust to her the advancement of justice and peace in Africa. I do so with all the more confidence, certain that if the teaching of the Synod is widely spread and practised, the Church on this continent will accompany its peoples to a life that is ever more worthy of their God given dignity.
With Mary, the whole Church in Africa proclaims the greatness of the Lord, because he looks upon his needy people in order to rout the proud of heart and exalt the lowly; he fills the hungry with good things and come to the help of his servants (cf. Lk. 1,46-52).
May God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ accomplish this in us. Amen.
Message in Johannesburg
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
As our celebration of the Eucharist draws to its close, we turn with love to the Blessed Virgin Mary and implore her protection upon this beloved nation and upon all of Africa.
Mary, Mother of the Incarnate Word! In your womb the Son of God became member of our human family. Look upon the marvellous diversity of peoples who make up this nation. Through your prayers, may South Africans look upon every man and woman as a fellow child of God and a beloved brother or sister!
Mary, Queen of Peace! You gave birth to Jesus Christ, the Redeemer of mankind, whose Cross broke down the walls of sin and division and reconciled peoples of every race, nation and tongue. Look upon the nations of Africa as they seek to leave behind the burdens of the past and build a new future for their citizens. Through your prayers, may every trace of hatred, prejudice and fear give way to the healing power of respect, esteem and love!
Mary, Mother of Hope! You trusted in the fulfilment of God's promises, even in the darkest hour of your Son's Passion and Death. Look upon those who waver and fear, or are prey to the temptation of violence. Through your prayers, may the power of Christ's Resurrection bring joy and strength to all who labour for the dawn of a new day of justice, peace and solidarity!
Mary, Queen of Africa! At the side of your Son in glory you now experience in its fullness the peace of his Kingdom. Through your prayers, may all Africans be one in building a future worthy of the children of this continent. Through your prayers, may the heritage of Africa's spiritual traditions inspire the pursuit of new and authentically human models of progress and development. May the African Synod serve as an invitation to all Christians, and an encouragement to work side by side for the spread of the Gospel in joyful witness to Christ the Saviour!
To you, Most
Holy Mother of God, we lift up our prayer.
of Pope John Paul II
1. I lift my heart in praise and thanksgiving to God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, for bringing me to Africa in order to celebrate the providential gift that is the Special Assembly for Africa of the Synod of Bishops. Here in Johannesburg in South Africa, in union with the whole Church in this southern part of the continent, we are meeting to promulgate the Apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia in Africa which contains the proposals made by the Synod Fathers at the end of the working session in Rome in April and May 1994. With the apostolic authority which belongs to the Successor of Peter, I present to the whole Church of God in Africa and Madagascar, the insights, reflections and resolutions of the Synod. I do so with the same spiritual joy and trust in the Lord which inspired the Bishops to call it "the Synod of Resurrection, the Synod of Hope" (Message of the Synod, n.2). they knew in whom they had placed their trust: "Christ our Hope is alive; we shall live!" (ibid.). Yes, Africa shall live!
2. After 2000 years, the proclamation of the Gospel of salvation in our Lord Jesus Christ remains the overriding and all-embracing objective of the Church's life and mission. In the changing circumstances of time and place, the Holy Spirit guides and renews the Ecclesial community to make known and communicate the newness of life in Christ Jesus (cf. Rom. 6,4). The inspiration and renewal which the Spirit brought to the whole Church through the Second Vatican Council, he has now further clarified and enhanced for the special circumstances of Africa through the Synod. The Spirit impels the Church in Africa to be "a Church of mission which itself becomes missionary" (EA 8).
In reflecting on the power of the Gospel to save (cf. Rom 1,16), the Bishops of the Synod for Africa have focused on truly important questions and have worked together to find appropriate responses. In this sense the fruits of the Synod set out in the Apostolic Exhortation constitute a kind of pastoral plan of action for the Church in Africa as she seeks to be faithful to her vocation and mission, and as she serves suffering humanity in this fluid and turbulent period of history.
3. At the Synod, the Bishops testified to the resilient faith and steadfast commitment of their communities. They described in vivid terms the conditions in which they and their helpers daily tend to the pastoral care of their people. Often their personal experience obliged them to speak of the "particularly worrying situations" in which most Africans live: "the widespread deterioration in the standard of living, insufficiency of means for educating the young, the lack of elementary health and social services with the resulting persistence of endemic diseases, the spread of the terrible scourge of AIDS, the heavy and often unbearable burden of international debt, the horror of fratricidal wars fomented by unscrupulous arms trafficking, the shameful and pitiable spectacle of refugees and displaced persons" (EA 114). The Synod's moral judgement on this situation is both compassionate and severe. Like Christ who had compassion on the multitudes, the Synod heard the anguished cry of the powerless and defenceless. like Christ who showed his indignation at the money-changers in the Temple, the Bishops denounced the evil policies and actions which deprive so many of their brother s and sisters of their material and spiritual well-being, of their human dignity and rights, and not infrequently, of life itself.
The Synod Fathers clearly understood that the situation of dehumanisation and oppression affecting their peoples presents the Ecclesial community with a crisis - in the original sense of a "judgement! - and a challenge the crises of conversion, holiness and integrity, in order to be a credible witness; the challenge of developing the full potential of the Gospel message of divine adoption in order to free the men and women of our time from sin and the "structures of sin".
4. It is true that Africa has a long, sad history of exploitation at the hands of others (cf. Opening Homily, 10 April 1994, n.7). Today this situation continues in new forms, including the crushing burden of debts, unjust trading conditions, the dumping of harmful wastes, and the overly demanding conditions imposed by structural adjustment programmes. Not only the Church, but also many international bodies, including the United Nations Summit for Social Development held in Copenhagen in March of this year, have called for aid programmes and economic policies to promote real social progress and development, through efforts to eradicate poverty, stimulate employment and help all sectors of society to take a more active part in the public debate on policies.
There is one other factor affecting Africa which needs serious attention: the international arms trade. I make my own the recommendations of the Synod, appealing to countries that sell arms to Africa to desist, and asking African governments "to move away from huge military expenditures and put the emphasis on the education, health and well-being of their people" (cf. EA 118).
5. Indeed, it is above all to Africans themselves that the Synod addresses itself with the greatest urgency and hope, for they themselves must be the principal architects of their own better future. Among the evils which drew unanimous condemnation from the Synod Fathers, one especially has the most serious consequences for Africans: ethnic divisions and tensions, which sometimes lead to horrendous crimes, as has happened most recently in Rwanda and Burundi. The Church in Africa feels deeply challenged by these divisions, and she feels the pressing responsibility of helping to heal their consequences.
The Synod could not forget the millions of refugees and the even greater number of displaced persons on African soil. Natural disasters, famine, war and human error have created a mass of people who have lost everything in life, and whose suffering seem to know no end. This is not a question of statistics. These are our brothers and sisters. They need help from the international community. They need help from within Africa itself. And the causes of their immense tragedy need to be addressed. Gratitude is due to all those who respond to the needs of refugees. I am thinking above all of so many Religious and so many volunteers who work against all odds to bring relief and healing to these unfortunate peoples.
Likewise, with an acute awareness that "many of the continent's problems are the result of a manner of governing stained by corruption" (ibid. 110), the Synod commits the Church in Africa to do all she can to awaken consciences and to foster a determination to change. In fact the Synod prayed for wise and honest leaders, knowing that "to reconcile profound differences, overcome long-standing ethnic animosities and become integrated into international life demands a high degree of competence in the art of governing" (ibid. 111). The question which all those with responsibility for public life in Africa must ask themselves regarding the policies they pursue is this: what will happen to the people? And especially: what will happen to the poor? A model of economic growth which fails to meet the real and immediate needs of the people directly involved is itself a violence against the respect due to people's dignity.
One aspect of the changing political and social climate in much of Africa is the increasing demand of people for greater respect for the rule of law and more democratic participation in the life of their own countries. Certainly, this is an important step in the right direction. It is a process which must be helped and encouraged by educating public opinion to the responsibilities of democracy and by supporting the necessary, peaceful transformation of institutions. Much of the hope for a better future depends on how far this process will succeed in involving people in working out their national destiny.
6. Africa challenges the Church, for it is her universal mission to enlighten, accompany and encourage peoples everywhere along the path of their complete liberation, to their salvation in Jesus Christ, the Son of God and Redeemer of man. Yes, only when the message of salvation - the "power of the Gospel to save" (cf. Rom. 1,16) - takes root, through catechesis, prayer and worship in the hearts of individuals and in the core of their culture will the Ecclesial community effectively render a truly prophetic service to society. When the Synod Fathers called the Church in Africa to be ever more actively involved in "the struggle for defence of personal dignity, for justice and social peace, for human promotion, liberation and integral human development of all people and of every individual" (ibid. 69), they were giving voice to the unbreakable linked between evangelisation and human advancement (cf. Ibid. 68). There can be no dichotomy between the commandment to love the Lord God with our whole heart and soul, and the commandment to love our neighbour as ourselves, and therefore to engage in actions on behalf of justice and social transformation.
For the same reason the Special Assembly emphasised the importance of ecumenical dialogue with other Churches and Ecclesial Communities, as well as with African Traditional Religion and Islam (cf. Ibid. 49). In this way the Church effectively contributes to promoting the fraternal co-existence of peoples, over and above ethnic cultural, national or social divisions.
7. Dear Brother Bishops, and members of the Church, the Family of God: I have wished to hold this celebration phase of the Synod on African soil in order to express the solidarity of the universal Church with the particular Churches of this continent in the great challenges before you. My presence is meant to reaffirm the universal Church's commitment to this continent. I repeat what I said on a previous visit: "Christianity in some regions goes back to the very dawn of the Christian era. In other places it has arrived more recently. In every case, the Church has been actively involved in educating the young, in caring for the sick, in promoting the human and spiritual development of Africa's peoples. She has done so, not to seek a position for herself, and much less to impose a foreign way of life on Africans. She continues today in her apostolate and good works in order to bear witness to the fundamental hope which sustains her: the hope that all mankind will grow in unity and reach an ever greater communion with God" (Farewell Address in Khartoum, 10 February, 1993, n.3).
Africa! Giving voice to the Synod, I solemnly assure you that the Church incarnate in the lives of your own sons and daughters, will continue to share the burden of your problems and the difficulties of your march towards a better future. She will not fail to sustain and encourage you in your search for greater justice, for peace and reconciliation, for an economic, social and political development that corresponds to the dignity of the human person. Above all, she will not fail to offer you the inscrutable riches of Christ, the "Light of the Nations". To him be the honour and the glory and the power, for ever and ever. Amen.
1. My brief visit to South Africa is at an end, and I must go on to proclaim the message of the Special Session for Africa of the Synod of Bishops. To the Church in another part of this beloved continent. With gratitude to God I thank all South Africans for the warm hospitality I have received in these days. In my prayers I will remember you all, especially the young, the sick, the needy, and all who still suffer for the sake of justice and freedom.
I extend a special word of thanks to President Mandela and the civil authorities who have made this visit possible and have been present at the various events. I thank the public officials and the many volunteers who have helped in every way. My gratitude also goes to the members of the press, radio and television, who have broadcast the event to other parts of Africa and around the world.
2. To the Catholic Bishops and faithful I extend my heartfelt gratitude and appreciation. We have prayed together and celebrated the mysteries of our faith. We have invoked God's blessings and protection on the Church and on society. I take with me the sights and sounds of your joyful reception of the results of the African Synod. I am encouraged by your generous commitment to implementing its decisions and orientations, as the whole Church prepares to enter the Third Christian Millennium, ever more conformed to her Crucified and Risen Lord.
I assure our fellow-Christians and the followers of other religious traditions that in responding to the aspirations of the peoples of this continent for authentic dignity, freedom and peace, the Catholic community feels the need to intensify ecumenical co-operation and interreligious dialogue. Along the path of mutual esteem and friendship we can work together for the common good. Divided, we can only delay the coming of true justice and peace.
3. The recent history of South Africa shows that peace is the victory of the human spirit which determines to set aside the ways of division and conflict in order to follow the path of forgiveness and brotherhood. A nation making a new beginning, in the midst of difficulties of all kinds, needs everyone's co-operation and solidarity. Peace calls for a courage much greater than the senseless temerity which would go on using the old ways of violence. While it is important that the truth about past wrongs be known and responsibility be laid where it is due, it is most important that the budding plant of a just and harmonious multiracial society be cared for and allowed to grow. The whole of Africa, indeed the whole world, follows each step you take, knowing that every achievement along the path to a society that is more just, more humane, more worthy of its citizens, is a victory for everyone, for it bears the hope and inspiration of similar success elsewhere.
God bless all those who work for justice and harmony, without discrimination, among the peoples and nations of Africa! May the Almighty pour out his peace into the hearts of all South Africans!
Farewell! And God bless you all!