VATICAN CITY – Pope Benedict XVI said his trip to Africa would be a missionary journey highlighting the continent’s challenges, its enormous potential and its “profound religious soul.”
The pope, speaking two days before his departure for Cameroon and Angola, said he was not bringing a political or social program to Africa, but simply the Gospel message of love that is “capable of transforming the world.”
“This is the grace that can also renew Africa, because it generates an irresistible power of peace and a deep and radical reconciliation,” the pope told pilgrims at his noon blessing March 15.
“With this visit, I intend to embrace the entire African continent: its thousands of differences and its profound religious soul; its ancient cultures and its difficult path of development and reconciliation; its serious problems, its painful wounds and its enormous potential and hopes,” he said.
The pope dedicated the trip to St. Joseph, whose feast is March 19, and entrusted to the saint the challenges and hopes of all segments of the African population.
“In particular, I am thinking of the victims of hunger, of disease, of injustice, of fratricidal conflicts and every form of violence that unfortunately continues to strike adults and children, as well as missionaries, priests, men and women religious, and volunteers,” he said.
The pope said that among the main purposes of his weeklong visit was to confirm the faith of Catholics and encourage all Christians in ecumenical cooperation. He said the trip, his first to the African continent, was inspired in part by the evangelizing efforts of St. Paul.
“I depart for Africa with the awareness that I have nothing to propose and to give to those I will meet except Christ and the good news of his cross, a mystery of supreme love, of divine love that overcomes every human resistance and makes possible even forgiveness and love for one’s enemies,” he said.
The pope was to spend March 17-20 in Cameroon, where he was scheduled to meet with African bishops and hand-deliver the working document for the Synod of Bishops for Africa, to be held in Rome next October.
The pope was to visit Angola March 20-23, celebrating Masses, meeting with civil and religious leaders and meeting with young people in a soccer stadium.
It is his 11th foreign trip since his election as pope in 2005.