On his final day in Benin, Benedict XVI celebrated Mass at the local stadium in the city of Cotonou.
VATICAN CITY, 20 NOV 2011 (VIS) – Today, Solemnity of Christ the King, the Holy Father concelebrated the Eucharist with more than 200 African bishops and around a thousand Beninese priests at the “Stade de l’amitie” in
Cotonou. Among those present were Thomas Yayi Boni, president of Benin, as well as many other institutional figures and some 30,000 pilgrims, not just from Benin but also from Nigeria, Togo, Ghana and Burkina Faso. The ceremony was held in Latin, French, Mina, Yoruba, Dendi, Portuguese and English.
Extracts from Benedict XVI’s homily are given below.
“It is a great joy for me to visit for the second time this dear continent
of Africa, coming among you, in Benin, to address to you a message of hope
and of peace. … Our Eucharistic celebration on the Solemnity of Christ the
King is an occasion to give thanks to God for the 150 years that have passed
since the beginnings of the evangelisation of Benin; it is also an occasion
to express our gratitude to Him for the Second Special Assembly of the Synod of African Bishops”.
“The Gospel which we have just heard tells us that Jesus, the Son of Man,
the ultimate judge of our lives, wished to appear as one who hungers and
thirsts, as a stranger, as one of those who are naked, sick or imprisoned,
ultimately, of those who suffer or are outcast; how we treat them will be
taken as the way we treat Jesus Himself. We do not see here a simple
literary device, or a simple metaphor. Jesus’ entire existence is an example
of it. … He who had nowhere to lay His head, was condemned to death on a
cross. This is the King we celebrate!
“Without a doubt this can appear a little disconcerting to us. Today, like
2000 years ago, accustomed to seeing the signs of royalty in success, power,
money and ability, we find it hard to accept such a king, a king who makes
himself the servant of the little ones, of the most humble, a king whose
throne is a cross. And yet, the Scriptures tell us, in this is the glory of
Christ revealed; it is in the humility of His earthly existence that He
finds His power to judge the world. For Him, to reign is to serve! And what
He asks of us is to follow Him along the way, to serve, to be attentive to
the cry of the poor, the weak, the outcast.
“The baptised know that the decision to follow Christ can entail great
sacrifices, at times even the sacrifice of one’s life. However, as St. Paul
reminds us, Christ has overcome death and He brings us with Him in His
resurrection. He introduces us to a new world, a world of freedom and joy.
Today, so much still binds us to the world of the past, so many fears hold
us prisoners and prevent us from living in freedom and happiness. Let us
allow Christ to free us from the world of the past!”
“The words of the Gospel are truly words of hope, because the King of the
universe has drawn near to us, the servant of the least and lowliest. Here I
would like to greet with affection all those persons who are suffering,
those who are sick, those affected by AIDS or by other illnesses, to all
those forgotten by society. Have courage! The Pope is close to you in his
thoughts and prayers. Have courage! Jesus wanted to identify Himself with
the poor, with the sick; He wanted to share your suffering and to see you as
His brothers and sisters, to free you from every affliction, from all
suffering. Every sick person, every poor person deserves our respect and our
love because, through them, God shows us the way to heaven”.
Christians, builders of peace
“This morning, I invite you once again to rejoice with me. One hundred and
fifty years ago the cross of Christ was raised in your country, and the
Gospel was proclaimed for the first time. … Everyone who has received this
marvellous gift of faith, this gift of an encounter with the risen Lord,
feels in turn the need to proclaim it to others. … And this duty is always
urgent! After 150 years, many are those who have not heard the message of
salvation in Christ! Many, too, are those who are hesitant to open their
hearts to the Xord of God! Many are those whose faith is weak”.
“The Church in Benin has received much from her missionaries: she must in
turn carry this message of hope to people who do not know or who no longer
know the Lord Jesus. … The Christian is a tireless builder of communion,
peace and solidarity, gifts which Jesus Himself has given us. By being
faithful to Him, we will cooperate in the realisation of God’s plan of
salvation for humanity”.
“I urge you, therefore, to strengthen your faith in Jesus Christ, to be
authentically converted to Him. He alone gives us the true life and can
liberate us for all our fears and sluggishness, from all our anguish. …
May Jesus Christ give you strength to live as Christians and to find ways to
transmit generously to new generations what you have received from your
fathers in faith!”
The Holy Father then addressed some words in English to pilgrims from
Ghana, Nigeria and neighbouring countries. “Christ reigns from the Cross
and, with His arms open wide, He embraces all the peoples of the world and
draws them into unity. Through the Cross, He breaks down the walls of
division, He reconciles us with each other and with the Father. We pray
today for the people of Africa, that all may be able to live in justice,
peace and the joy of the Kingdom of God”.
Finally, the Pope had words for Portuguese-speaking pilgrims, whom he
invited “to renew your decision to belong to Christ and to serve His Kingdom
of reconciliation, justice and peace”.
CHURCH IN AFRICA: AMID HER TRIBULATION, LIGHT OF THE WORLD
VATICAN CITY, 20 NOV 2011 (VIS) – Following this morning’s Mass, the Holy
Father consigned the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation “Africae munus” to
presidents of national and regional episcopal conferences in Africa, and to
presidents of the synods of Eastern Catholic Churches.
“Upon the reception of this Exhortation, the phase of assimilation and
application of its theological, ecclesiological, spiritual and pastoral data
begins at the local level. This text seeks to promote, encourage and
consolidate the various local initiatives already in place. It seeks as well
to inspire other initiatives for the upbuilding of the Catholic Church in
Africa”, the Holy Father explained.
“One of the first missions of the Church is the proclamation of Jesus
Christ and His Gospel ‘ad gentes’. … I hope that this Exhortation will
guide you in the proclamation of the Good News of Jesus in Africa. It is not
just a message or a word. It is above all openness and adhesion to a person:
Jesus Christ the incarnate Word. He alone possesses the words of life
eternal! Following the example of Christ, all Christians are called to
reflect the mercy of the Father and the light of the Holy Spirit.
Evangelisation presupposes and brings with it reconciliation and it promotes
peace and justice.
“Dear Church in Africa”, the Holy Father added in conclusion, “become ever
more fully the salt of the earth, this earth which Jesus Christ blessed with
His presence when He took refuge here! Be the salt of the African earth,
blessed by the blood of so many matters, men, women and children, witnesses
of the Christian faith even to the supreme gift of their lives! Become the
light of the world, the light in Africa which seeks, amid tribulations, the
path of peace and justice for all its citizens. Your light is Jesus, the
Christ, ‘the Light of the World’. May God bless you, dear Africa!”
The Holy Father then prayed the Angelus, entrusting to the Virgin Mary,
Our Lady of Africa, “the new chapter now opening for the Church on this
continent, asking her to accompany the future evangelisation of Africa as a
“Dear brothers and sisters of Africa, this land which sheltered the Holy
Family, may you continue to cultivate Christian family values. At a time
when so many families are separated, in exile, grief-stricken as a result of
unending conflicts, may you be artisans of reconciliation and hope. With
Mary, Our Lady of the Magnificat, may you always abide in joy. May this joy
remain deep within hearts of your families and your countries!”