Yaounde (Fides Service) - In the afternoon of Thursday 14 September 1995 Pope John Paul II arrived in Yaounde, capital of Cameroon, which he had already visited in 1985. During the morning of 15 September the Pope presided a concelebration of Mass at the military airport and in the afternoon he presided a session of the Special Synod for Africa at the Catholic of Our Lady of Victories.
“I wish to say to all the peoples of Africa - the Pope said when he arrived in Yaounde - that I consider their presence in the world and their role in the international community irreplaceable. I have their future at heart and I assure them that the Catholic Church respects them and will not cease to urge the nations of the world to show them concrete solidarity”.
In his homily during the Session of the Synod, the Pope voiced praise and thanksgiving: “We thank God for the Church rooted in this land of Africa … We thank God for the special Synod of Bishops, a marvellous fruit of the maturity of this continent. With hope we celebrate the closing of this assembly...”. The Pope also thanked those who had prepared the Synod Assembly enabling it to “reflect the faith, hope and love of the Church in Africa”.
The Pope then launched an appeal considering the mosaic of different ethnic groups, the divisions and the challenges on the continent of Africa: “Do not let differences and distances become walls of separation, instead make them become opportunities to discover and share the extraordinary riches of the heart of Christ”.
The Synod had given serious attention to the question of inculturation of the Gospel and naturally Pope John Paul II did not fail to mention this topic in his homily: “Every individual is called to welcome Christ in the depths of his or her nature. Every people is called to welcome Him with all the riches of its heritage … This is an encounter which transforms, because love changes those who welcome the Lord”. Referring to the parable of the vine and the branches, proclaimed earlier during the Mass, John Paul II said “authentic inculturation is achieved when the living branches let themselves be grafted on to the vine, that is Christ, and pruned by the owner of the vineyard, who is God the Father”, and he recalled “from the very beginning of Christianity, there was an inculturation of peoples among whom the Gospel was welcomed and the Church was planted”. This process has continued through the centuries, from one epoch to the other, as the Church continued to announce the message of Christ to other peoples and nations.
Ecumenical and inter-religious dialogue are also important for the mission of the Church in Africa. “Inter-religious dialogue is not only an exchange of ideas on the part of religious leaders and theologians; very often it is part of daily life” the Pope said in his homily reminding those present that “dialogue of life must lead to dialogue of spirit”. With regard to ecumenical efforts on the threshold of the third millennium John Paul II launched an appeal to continue “the journey towards unity of all the baptised”, despite obstacles and delays, “confident that this is the desire of the Lord”.
The Pope ended his homily with a call for reconciliation and forgiveness and he rallied the Church in Africa “carry on your mission of evangelisation with courage”. “Beloved Africa, despite poverty and suffering, walk your path with confidence!”. (S.L.) (Agenzia Fides 11/4/2005)