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Hope lies in balanced relationships

HONG KONG (SE): During the first days of a three-nation swing through Africa from November 26 to 30, Pope Francis spoke on three basic themes into which he wove his favourite topics of care for the earth, human rights and interreligious harmony.

In Kenya, he expressed the hope that his time with the people would be a sign of the Church’s esteem for all religions.

“To be honest, this relationship is challenging. It makes demands of us,” he said. “Yet ecumenical and interreligious dialogue is not a luxury. It is not something extra or optional, but essential, something which our world, wounded by conflict and division, increasingly needs.”

He added that religious belief is at the heart of the way that we look at and interpret the world. “In democratic and pluralistic countries like Kenya,” he said, “cooperation among religious leaders and communities becomes an important service to the common good.”

Referring to past terrorist attacks in Nairobi, he lamented that religion is used to radicalise young people to hate. “They tear the very fabric out of society,” Pope Francis pointed out.

He added that this stresses the importance of religious people being seen as the prophets of peace.

Speaking at the African headquarters of the United Nations in Nairobi, he focussed on the climate meetings that were set to begin in Paris on November 30. 

He explained that his prayer for the conference is that discussions will be based on the principles of solidarity, justice, equality and participation.

He added that he is hoping to see a result that will lessen the rate of climate change and address the impact that it has on the fight against poverty and the struggle to ensure respect for the human dignity of every person.

For this, he pointed out that a true spirit of sincere and open dialogue is necessary, which truly embraces the cooperation and participation of all stakeholders, including the least in civic society.

“People are capable of the worst,” Pope Francis said, “but also capable of rising above themselves, choosing again and again what is good and making a new start.”

He then pointed out that the meeting in Paris is integrally connected with economics and repeated his appeal that all economic activity be placed at the service of people.

He called for a harmony with nature that will place the entire system of economic production and distribution at the service of fulfilling the needs of every individual, so they may find a suitable expression in their social lives.

The pope stressed that this is not some kind of an idealistic utopia, but a realistic prospect which makes every human person, as well as human dignity the point of departure and the goal of everything.

He made a call for an end to what he termed a throwaway culture, in which people discard themselves, other people and the environment.

“We need to be alert to one sad sign of the globalisation of indifference, the fact that we are gradually growing indifferent to the suffering of others, as if it were normal, or even worse, becoming resigned to such extreme standards of using and discarding, and social exclusion,” he said.

The pope called this a new form of human trafficking and slavery.

The highlight of his visit to Uganda was the commemoration of the Martyrs of Uganda, who were beatified in 1920 by Pope Benedict XV and canonised by Pope Paul VI during a visit to Kampala in 1969.

“The martyrs, both Catholic and Anglican, are true heroes,” Pope Francis said. “They bear witness to the guiding principles of Uganda’s motto, For God and My Country. They remind us of the important role faith, moral rectitude and commitment to the common good has played and continues to play in the cultural, economic and political life of this country.”

The 23 Anglicans and 22 Catholics were executed between November 1885 and January 1887, martyrs to a three-way political struggle for power.

Speaking to catechists, the pope stressed the important role the laity plays in witness to the faith, as well as in passing it onto others, saying that through their teaching they instruct the whole body of the Church in faith, hope and love.

The visit of Pope Francis to Africa was shrouded in security, with security personnel saying that both the safety of the pontiff himself and those who came to see and celebrate with him was at risk.

The capital city of the Central African Republic, Bangui, was bristling with armaments prior to the pope’s arrival, as heavily armed men, tanks and machine guns became a more visible decoration than the banners put up to welcome the nation’s illustrious visitor.


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