Potpourri of Popery, Swoon In Cameroon Edition


The world's press corps needed smelling salts after Benedict's in-flight press conference, at which he suggested condoms wouldn't cure AIDS. Haven't seen any major coverage since, so reporters must all be knocked out still.

Himself has been outdoing himself in Cameroon & Angola nonetheless. And drawing big excited crowds. So excited that two people were killed and 18 injured by trampling at a youth rally in Lwanda. (How awful!)

Here's the March 15 Angelus, at which B16 told us what he hoped to accomplish on this apostolic voyage. All the addresses are being compiled here, but here are my favorites, interspersed with photos. (Great slide show here, but start at the back and move forward to see them chronologically.)

Here are the President & First Lady of Cameroon, Paul & Chantal Biya, greeting His Holiness at the airport when he landed. He told them he came to bring a word of comfort and hope to suffering Africa and praised Cameroon for defending the unborn and setting an example of working for peace. I love the First Lady's hat.

I love the talk he gave to his bishops in Cameroon, where 25% of the population is Catholic. We can guess at the kinds of temptations they might be facing by what he says (there's a big emphasis on fraternal solidarity and correspondence between words and deeds), but it's a beautiful portrait of the episcopacy on its own. I liked this graf on a bishop's care for his priests:
The quality of the bond uniting you with the priests, your principal and irreplaceable co-workers, is of the greatest importance. If they see in their Bishop a father and a brother who loves them, listens to them and offers them comfort in their trials, who devotes particular attention to their human and material needs, they are encouraged to carry out their ministry whole-heartedly, worthily and fruitfully. The words and example of their Bishop have a key role in inspiring them to give their spiritual and sacramental life a central place in their ministry, spurring them on to discover and to live ever more deeply the particular role of the shepherd as, first and foremost, a man of prayer. The spiritual and sacramental life is an extraordinary treasure, given to us for ourselves and for the good of the people entrusted to us. I urge you, then, to be especially vigilant regarding the faithfulness of priests and consecrated persons to the commitments made at their ordination or entry into religious life, so that they persevere in their vocation, for the greater holiness of the Church and the glory of God. The authenticity of their witness requires that there be no dichotomy between what they teach and the way they live each day.
He likewise did a lovely reflection for priests and religious on the site of Mother of Apostles Church, the first church in Cameroon.
What is important is not to be a useless servant, but rather a “faithful and wise servant”. The pairing of the two adjectives is not by chance. It suggests that understanding without fidelity, and fidelity without wisdom, are insufficient. One quality alone, without the other, would not enable us to assume fully the responsibility which God entrusts to us.
One of his main goals on this journey was to advance understanding with Muslims. Here he is at his meeting with Muslim leaders, where he delivered this address.
REUTERS/Osservatore Romano/ Pool

Naturally he returned once more to the theme he always insists on, and especially with Muslims: the necessity of Reason. He seems here to add another element I've not seen in his addresses to Muslims before --perhaps to appeal to their heightened sense of the "otherness" of God? It's the appeal to beauty (which is also a typical Ratzingerian theme, it's just new in this context I think).

My friends, I believe a particularly urgent task of religion today is to unveil the vast potential of human reason, which is itself God’s gift and which is elevated by revelation and faith. Belief in the one God, far from stunting our capacity to understand ourselves and the world, broadens it. Far from setting us against the world, it commits us to it. We are called to help others see the subtle traces and mysterious presence of God in the world which he has marvellously created and continually sustains with his ineffable and all-embracing love. Although his infinite glory can never be directly grasped by our finite minds in this life, we nonetheless catch glimpses of it in the beauty that surrounds us. When men and women allow the magnificent order of the world and the splendour of human dignity to illumine their minds, they discover that what is “reasonable” extends far beyond what mathematics can calculate, logic can deduce and scientific experimentation can demonstrate; it includes the goodness and innate attractiveness of upright and ethical living made known to us in the very language of creation.


It's been hot. There are lots of pix of the pope mopping his brow and I saw a story today saying he looked tired and moved slowly in the humidity. Crowded events have been marred by faintings, in spite of the snacks available.

AP Photo/Andrew Medichini
The photos above are of people waiting for the open air mass with the people of Cameroon on the feast of St. Joseph. The homily is a wonderful tribute to Joseph, and also an exhortation to the people to defend family life and not be swept up in materialistic solutions to the problems of poverty. He's so cute:
I begin by wishing a very happy feast day to all those who, like myself, have received the grace of bearing this beautiful name, and I ask Saint Joseph to grant them his special protection in guiding them towards the Lord Jesus Christ all the days of their life.
The first reading of the day's mass was Nathan telling David that the Lord would raise him up an heir with an everlasting throne. The Pope draws from this a lesson for parents:
We thus come to realize that one of mankind’s most cherished desires – seeing the fruits of one’s labours – is not always granted by God. I think of those among you who are mothers and fathers of families. Parents quite rightly desire to give the best of themselves to their children, and they want to see them achieve success. Yet make no mistake about what this “success” entails: what God asks David to do is to place his trust in him. David himself will not see his heir who will have a throne “firm for ever” (2 Sam 7:16), for this heir, announced under the veil of prophecy, is Jesus. David puts his trust in God. In the same way, Joseph trusts God when he hears his messenger, the Angel, say to him: “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home. For it is through the Holy Spirit that this child has been conceived in her” (Mt 1:20). Throughout all of history, Joseph is the man who gives God the greatest display of trust, even in the face of such astonishing news. Dear fathers and mothers here today, do you have trust in God who has called you to be the fathers and mothers of his adopted children? Do you accept that he is counting on you to pass on to your children the human and spiritual values that you yourselves have received and which will prepare them to live with love and respect for his holy name?
He asks them to resist the tyranny of materialism:
God alone will give you, dear married couples, the strength to raise your family as he wants. Ask it of him! God loves to be asked for what he wishes to give. Ask him for the grace of a true and ever more faithful love patterned after his own. As the Psalm magnificently puts it: his “love is established for ever, his loyalty will stand as long as the heavens” (Ps 88:3).

There's really too much richness in the text to address here, but the close is marvelous, too:
If discouragement overwhelms you, think of the faith of Joseph; if anxiety has its grip on you, think of the hope of Joseph, that descendant of Abraham who hoped against hope; if exasperation or hatred seizes you, think of the love of Joseph, who was the first man to set eyes on the human face of God in the person of the Infant conceived by the Holy Spirit in the womb of the Virgin Mary. Let us praise and thank Christ for having drawn so close to us, and for giving us Joseph as an example and model of love for him. Dear brothers and sisters, I want to say to you once more from the bottom of my heart: like Joseph, do not be afraid to take Mary into your home, that is to say do not be afraid to love the Church.
AP Photo/Andrew Medichini

Here he is outside a clinic where he met with the sick. Of course it's Lent, so he spoke with them of the mystery of suffering and how Mary & the women ministered to Christ. The next part is elegant:
History tells us, then, that an African, a son of your continent, took part, at the price of his own suffering, in the infinite suffering of the one who ransomed all men, including his executioners. Simon of Cyrene could not have known that it was his Saviour who stood there before him. He was “drafted in” to assist him (cf. Mk 15:21); he was constrained, forced to do so. It is hard to accept to carry someone else’s cross. Only after the resurrection could he have understood what he had done. Brothers and sisters, it is the same for each of us: in the depths of our anguish, of our own rebellion, Christ offers us his loving presence even if we find it hard to understand that he is at our side. Only the Lord’s final victory will reveal for us the definitive meaning of our trials.

Can it not be said that every African is in some sense a member of the family of Simon of Cyrene? Every African who suffers, indeed every person who suffers, helps Christ to carry his Cross and climbs with him the path to Golgotha in order one day to rise again with him. When we see the infamy to which Jesus was subjected, when we contemplate his face on the Cross, when we recognize his appalling suffering, we can glimpse, through faith, the radiant face of the Risen Lord who tells us that suffering and sickness will not have the last word in our human lives. I pray, dear brothers and sisters, that you will be able to recognize yourselves in “Simon of Cyrene”. I pray, dear brothers and sisters who are sick, that many of you will encounter a Simon at your bedside.

The presenting reason for being in Cameroon was the publication of the working document for the upcoming African Synod, so here's that.

REUTERS/Osservatore Romano/POOL

There was a fun ceremony bidding him farewell, complete with pygmy dancers. Then it was off to Angola.

Where they were all ears.

AP Photo/Themba Hadebe

And wore matching skirts and slings. And were generally excited to see him.

AP Photo/Andrew Medichini

There he addressed civil authorities. He's pretty gentle in the way he puts it, but it's an unmistakable plea for honesty and the purging of corruption --corruption being the true scourge of Africa:
There is also the example of those honest teachers, medical workers, and civil servants who, on meagre wages, serve their communities with integrity and compassion, and there are countless others who selflessly undertake voluntary work at the service of the most needy. May God bless them abundantly! May their charity multiply! Angola knows that the time has come for Africa to be the Continent of Hope! All upright human conduct is hope in action. Our actions are never indifferent before God. Nor are they indifferent for the unfolding of history. Friends, armed with integrity, magnanimity and compassion, you can transform this continent, freeing your people from the scourges of greed, violence and unrest and leading them along the path marked with the principles indispensable to every modern civic democracy: respect and promotion of human rights, transparent governance, an independent judiciary, a free press, a civil service of integrity, a properly functioning network of schools and hospitals, and – most pressing – a determination born from the conversion of hearts to excise corruption once and for all.

Of course he asks them to resist Western imperialism in the form of destruction of the family:
Friends, I wish to say that my visit to Cameroon and to Angola has stirred within me that profound human delight at being among families. Indeed I think that those who come from other continents can learn afresh from Africa that “the family is the foundation on which the social edifice is built” (Ecclesia in Africa, 80). Yet the strains upon families, as we all know, are many indeed: anxiety and ignominy caused by poverty, unemployment, disease and displacement, to mention but a few. Particularly disturbing is the crushing yoke of discrimination that women and girls so often endure, not to mention the unspeakable practice of sexual violence and exploitation which causes such humiliation and trauma. I must also mention a further area of grave concern: the policies of those who, claiming to improve the “social edifice”, threaten its very foundations. How bitter the irony of those who promote abortion as a form of “maternal” healthcare! How disconcerting the claim that the termination of life is a matter of reproductive health (cf. Maputo Protocol, art. 14)!

He addressed Angolan bishops, too, emphasizing the family once more (the family comes up in every African address), but the speech is also notable for its differences with the address to the bishops of Cameroon. Here he talks more about influencing culture.

He had a meeting with new movements (In Angola! Isn't that exciting? Who knew there were any?), and the topic was the promotion of women. It's a lovely address, defending woman on a continent where she's not very respected:
since the dignity of women is equal to that of men, no one today should doubt that women have "a full right to become actively involved in all areas of public life, and this right must be affirmed and guaranteed, also, where necessary, through appropriate legislation.
I thought this was an interesting remark, however:
a woman's personal sense of dignity is not primarily the result of juridically defined rights, but rather the direct consequence of the material and spiritual care she receives in the bosom of the family.
In other words, women are never going to find self-esteem in a culture where the family is in chaos, because our innate sense of our dignity is something bestowed by parents, and there are simply limits to what the law can do for you absent that platform. If the family is dysfunctional, God has to step into the gap, not government.

He celebrated mass for the movements, too. Here's the homily.

Then this wonderful address at a youth rally (this is the one where, horrifyingly, some folks were trampled in the excitement --the pope offered mass for them this morning) It made me cry. Go read it.

Tomorrow he comes home.

Other stuff did happen in the Catholic world this week, but as this is a lengthy post, I'm going to ignore it all for the time being.