Posted by: maboulette | November 20, 2011


The Coat of Arms of the Vatican City This is a...

OUIDAHBenin — On Saturday in Benin Africa at a basilica built in the birthplace of the Voodoo religion, Pope Benedict XVI revealed a treatise that outlined the Catholic Church’s role on the continent as well as described the way that Catholicism may help to address the continuing wars and interact with local practices in Africa.

Upmost in the messages the Pope is bringing to Africa is that Catholicism has progressed from a religion practiced by missionaries who brought the church to this coastal region, to a religion that lives alongside Voodoo, the state religion as well as alongside Islam

The Pope further stated in the document that Catholics need to develop a respect both for Islam and for traditional practices.  But, he also told the bishops they must be careful to detect which traditional practices might clash with church doctrine so that they can “separate the good seed from the weeds.”

“The church is open to cooperation with all the components of society, particularly with the representatives of the churches and ecclesial communities not yet in full communion with the Catholic church,” the Pope said to the packed pews of the basilica.   “As well as with the representatives of the non-Christian religions, and those of traditional religions.”

Several dozen practitioners of Voodoo sat in chairs in the Temple of the Pythons located at the opposite end of the basilica’s square as the Pope signed the 87-page papal treatise less than 100 yards from where these practitioners  perform their ancient  religion.  The high priest, with his foot on a bottle of gin which is a traditional Voodoo spirit offering, stated that they had gathered to hear the papal message that was being projected outside thru  enormous speakers mounted on the basilica.

“This is a positive message which will bring peace to Africa,” said Houkpon II Houawamenod. “I am a baptized Catholic, but I can’t turn my back on where I come from. When I was a child if I attended a Voodoo ceremony, I used to get flogged at school the next day,” he said.

Houawamenod is like many in Benin who practice a combination of Catholicism and Voodoo and he said: “We are simply taking a different road to get to the same place.”

This is the Pope’s second trip to Africa which is the most rapidly growing region for the Roman Catholic Church.  While the congregations in Europe are declining and religious orders are having a hard time gaining recruits to be future priests, there are not enough spots in Africa seminaries to house all those wanting to follow a religious life.

The papal treatise entitled “Africae Munus” Latin for “Africa’s Commitment” is the pontiff’s effort to adapt the faith to the needs of this continent which has been traumatized by wars as well as crippled by exploitation.  Pope Benedict is preaching a reconciliation which is built on the church’s doctrine of forgiveness in order to stem the sequence of retribution which is at the core of many of Africa’s most recent conflicts.

For example among the ideas he suggests is a thorough study of local ceremonies used to resolve conflicts in Africa, though he makes it clear that these cannot take the place of the church’s sacrament of penance.

The Pope on Saturday morning addressed the priests at Africa’s largest seminary located only a few miles from the basilica.  He explained how they can become instruments for changing Africa.

“Dear priests, the responsibility for promoting peace, justice and reconciliation falls in a special way to you,” he said. “As crystal does not retain the light but rather reflects it and passes it on, in the same manner the priest must make transparent what he celebrates.”

Rev. Gabriel Dobade, a priest from Chad spoke of the Biblical principle of turning the other cheek being a perfect instrument for resolving Africa’s cycle of violence.  “Africa needs to stop fighting. We need to assume responsibility for peace,” he said. “The Pope’s message is a strong one. And it should be heard throughout Africa.”

In “Africa’s Commitment,” Benedict says there is potential for Africa to become a resource for the rest of the world, acting as “a spiritual lung for humanity.” Among the traits he praised in Africans is their love of family, and their deeply felt faith, whether it is in the context of Christianity or not.

“However, if it is to stand erect with dignity, Africa needs to hear the voice of Christ who today proclaims love of neighbor, love even of one’s enemies,” the Pope writes in the document, “to the point of laying down one’s life.”

The Pope did not mince words when it came to Africa’s leaders.  During a meeting with Benin’s government in the presidential palace on Saturday, Benedict made an emotional plea to the continent’s ruling class: “From this place, I launch an appeal to all political and economic leaders of African countries,” Benedict said, “do not deprive your people of hope. Do not cut them off from their future by mutilating their present. Adopt a courageous, ethical approach to your responsibilities.”

The Pope’s visit will last another two days.

(Source: Associated Press)


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