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 CNS Story:

CAMEROON-SYNOD Mar-19-2009 (450 words) With photos. xxxi

Pope outlines his view of African synod's main themes

By John Thavis
Catholic News Service

YAOUNDE, Cameroon (CNS) -- Pope Benedict XVI offered a sneak preview of the Synod of Bishops for Africa, identifying several issues he believes will be crucial.

Above all, he said, the church in Africa is called to be a healing community on a continent torn by "savage conflicts" and other tragedies.

The pope spoke in Cameroon March 19 to a council of bishops preparing the October synod. Earlier in the day, he delivered the synod's working document to African bishops at a Mass.

The pope's essential point, one he has stressed during his visit to Africa, was that to carry out its mission in society "the church must be a community of persons reconciled with God and among themselves."

"In this way, she can proclaim the good news of reconciliation to contemporary society, which unfortunately experiences in many places conflicts, acts of violence, war and hatred. Your continent, sadly, has not been spared, and it has been and continues to be a theater of grave tragedies which cry out for true reconciliation between peoples, ethnic groups and individuals," he told the bishops' council.

The church is challenged in a special way by local or regional wars, massacres and genocides perpetrated in Africa, he said. The aim is to show Africans that through Jesus they all belong to the same family, and so reject hatred and injustice, he said.

The church's goal, he said, should be to "enhance African traditions and to correct and perfect their concept of life, humanity and the family." The church must do so by presenting Jesus Christ as the one mediator and redeemer, he said.

"The Christian vocation consists in letting oneself be freed by Jesus Christ," he said.

The pope reminded African bishops of the continent's long history of contributions to the church, especially in the theological development of the early centuries.

With Christianity thriving in Africa again, he suggested it might be time for a theological rebirth, too. He suggested a particular field of study for modern African theologians: the depth of the Trinitarian mystery and its meaning for everyday African life.

The pope paid tribute to the missionary efforts of the last 500 years and singled out catechists for praise. The tens of thousands of catechists in Africa have helped bring about inculturation, served as a link between local communities and their priests and bishops, and inspired many to join the church, he said.

"This was a case of Africans evangelizing other Africans. In evoking their glorious memory, I greet and encourage their worthy successors who work today with the same selflessness, the same apostolic courage and the same faith as their predecessors," he said.


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