Pope Benedict XVI reminded the delegates attending the Pan-African Congress of the Laity that Africa is a continent of hope, and he underlined the important spiritual resources of the African people: “there is love of life and family, a sense of joy and sharing and enthusiasm in living faith in the Lord”. He presented St. Josephine Bakhita from Sudan as a witness of hope. This was in the message read by Msgr. Piero Pioppo, Apostolic Nuncio in Cameroon.
Earlier, a colourful and African melody filled Eucharistic celebration presided by Cardinal Stanislaw Rylko, President of the Pontifical Council for the Laity, marked the opening of the congress. The Eucharistic celebration brought together clergy and laity to invoke God’s guidance from the beginning of the congress organised by the Pontifical Council for the Laity in collaboration with the National Episcopal Conference of Cameroon to underline the important role played by the laity in the Catholic Church.
In his homily, Cardinal Rylko reminded the delegates and those participating in the Eucharistic celebration the great missionary mandate of Jesus Christ. “You have come here from all over the immense African continent to listen again to Christ’s message with renewed zeal and commitment. We are the Church and the Church is missionary by nature and in all the members. Evangelisation is not a secondary activity. It is the deepest reason for the Church’s existence”, Cardinal Rylko stressed in his homily.
He also highlighted the important role of the lay faithful in the evangelisation mission of the Church acknowledging that because of the ‘secular nature’ of their vocation, they are the ‘leavening’ of the Gospel, the ‘salt of the earth’ and ‘light of the world’.
Later in the Congress Hall, Cardinal Rylko addressed the delegates from the many countries in Africa, and emphasised that the congress wanted to listen to what the Spirit is saying to the Church in Africa nowadays. He also expressed the desire to understand the great scenario: social, cultural, and also economic and political in which the Church in Africa is called to fulfil her Evangelisation mission. Cardinal Rylko also noted that despite the poverty, HIV/AIDS, fundamentalism and other negative experiences resulting from the crisis of modernity, Africa is a continent of great spiritual resources, which current congress wanted to rediscover and re-value. He recalled the words of Pope Benedict XVI that Africa represents an immense ‘spiritual lung’ for the humanity which appears in crisis of faith and hope. He also highlighted the vitality of the Church in Africa pointing out its youthfulness and the creativity of the Catholic minority on the continent. “The world needs Africa, and it can learn a lot from Africa”, stated Cardinal Rylko.
A Minister representing the President of the Republic of Cameroon brought his personal message of welcome to the delegates to the congress, and the Mayor of Yaounde, recalling some of important ecclesial events which took place in the city, saying that for the Cameroonian Government Yaounde has become the African capital of the Roman Catholic Church.
The Pontifical Council for the Laity
Congress Venue Contacts:
Universitè Catholique de L’Africa Centrale (UCAC)
Campus de Nkolbisson - Yaounde
Media Contact Persons:
Fr. Moses Hamungole - Tel. 00237 79438093 email@example.com
Dr. Vittorio Scelzo – Tel. 00237 71499208 firstname.lastname@example.org
Abbé George Mballaowono – Tel. 00237 94636795