During the customary General Audience held on Wednesday in St. Peter’s Square, the Pope has recalled his apostolic journey to Africa. “Africa’s beautiful, huh? – he began – I thank the Lord for his great gift, which has allowed me to visit three countries: first Kenya, then Uganda and, finally, the Central African Republic”. In regard to Kenya, he has spoken of the scandal of luxury enjoyed by a few people in the midst of so much poverty. “Kenya – he said – is a country that represents well the global challenge of our time: to protect the created by reforming the development model so as to make it fairer, more inclusive and sustainable. It’s all reflected in Nairobi, the largest city in eastern Africa, where wealth and poverty live side by side: but that’s a scandal! Not only in Africa: here as well, huh? Everywhere. The coexistence of wealth and poverty is a disgrace and a shame for humanity”. In Kenya, the Holy Father has found also another type of wealth, spiritual wealth of the many young people who were present – “I met young people, many young people”. – Recalling those from the University of Garissa, killed on 2 April, because they were Christians: “Their blood is the seed of peace and brotherhood for Kenya, for Africa and for the whole world”.
In Uganda, one could not but remember the great testimony of the martyrs: “In Uganda my visit took place under the sign of the Martyrs of that country, 50 years after their historical canonization at the hand of the blessed Paul VI”. For this reason, the motto of my journey to this country was “you’ll be my witnesses” (Acts 1.8 ). The Pope mentions the priests, catechists, religious men and women who work hard for the population every day.
The Central African Republic, the third stage of the journey to the heart of Africa, was a strongly desired destination. “Actually, this visit was the first one in my intention – Bergoglio has explained – because this country is trying to get out of a very difficult period of violent conflicts and suffering of its population’. For the reasons above, the Holy Father chose the cathedral of its capital, Bangui, to open the first Holy Door of the Jubilee of the Mercy one week earlier than everywhere else. ”Jesus’ invitation to his disciples: “Let’s get to the other side of the river” – Francis has continued – was the motto for the Central African Republic. “Get to the other shore”, in a civil sense, means leaving war, divisions, and poverty behind, and choose peace, reconciliation, and development. But this presupposes a “passage” that occurs in people’s minds, attitudes and intentions. And, on this level, the contribution of the religious communities is decisive. Therefore, I’ve met the evangelical and Muslim communities, sharing prayer and commitment for peace”.
Still as an impromptu speech, the Successor of Peter has addressed young people in the square: ”I’d like to say a word to the young people”. But there are not many of them, because natality is luxury in Europe: birth-rate 0, birth-rate 1%… but I address young people… it’s time to think and ask the Lord to make you feel His will. But, please, don’t exclude the possibility to become a missionary, to bring love, humanity, and faith in other countries. Not to make proselytes, no. This is what do people who are looking for other things. Faith is preached first with one’s testimony and only later with the word. Slowly”. “Testimony”: this is the great heroic mission of the Church according to Bergoglio: “Proclaim Jesus Christ with one’s own life!”