Sunday, March 22, 2009

Pope Benedict's African Adventure

His Holiness is creating firestorms everywhere he puts his red loafered feet in Africa and that was before his rant against witchcraft and sorcery in Angola and his plea to get Catholics to help convert those who practiced such nonsense. Memo to Pope Benedict XVI: you are urging people to convert from sorcery to believe in a Man that was born of a Virgin, turned fishes and loaves of bread into enough to feed the masses and rose from the dead to walk the Earth before ascending into Heaven. The condescending approach may not be the best introduction to Catholicism while leaving out the Church's participation in the Crusades and the Inquisition, but it confirms the suspicion that this pope seems zone and tone deaf. I think he was still stunned by President's Biya's wife with her Mount Kilimanjaro of curled hair greeting him at the airport.
On Tuesday, Benedict’s visit began in Cameroon, where, among other issues, he dealt with the church’s competition for souls with Islam. On Friday, he moved to oil-rich Angola, his second and last stop, where he immediately spoke out against corruption and the disregard of the poor by the wealthy.

On Saturday, at St. Paul’s, he addressed the accommodations of faith bysome Africans who mix their Christianity with animism living “in fear of spirits, of malign and threatening powers.”

The pope asked rhetorically: “Why not leave them in peace? They have their truth,
and we have ours.” He then answered that there was no injustice in presenting the ways of Christ to others, granting “them the opportunity of finding their truest and most authentic selves” and offering them “this possibility of attaining eternal life.”

Human rights groups may well appreciate Benedict’s decision to raise the issue of sorcery. In parts of Angola, Congo and the Congo Republic, thousands of children are accused of witchcraft and are cast out of their homes, blinded or killed, according to advocates for the youngsters. (Photo of Baka Pygmies)
Well, the Pope certainly isn't winning every friend and influencing everybody on the continent as he lists what is wrong with Africa at each stop. In many cases, he is being greeted warmly and does have parts of his message that emphasize Christian charity that people are their brother's keepers. Eradicate corruption was the Holy See's message of the day for war weary Angola, formerly colonized by the Portuguese, on Friday. His exhortations to give to the poor while speaking to large enthusiastic crowds of the impoverished living on roughly $2 per day while remaining undereducated is a bit depressing.

Pope Benedict is an ultra conservative celibate guy who told other people not to practice safe sex with condoms in sub-Saharan countries where AIDS is decimating families. That pronouncement to the press, flies directly in the face of common sense and buttresses the worst leaders in Africa who continue to deny the extent of the problems caused by AIDS. The pope's remarks were so intemperate that the Curia back in Rome watched in horror some of the condom pronouncements while wringing their prayer beads about whether this will cripple his four year old papacy. It is kind of odd that the one thing President Bush got right was his approach to Africa and providing the funds to back up AIDS activists among others. Meanwhile, other papal mistakes continue to fester. (Photos courtesy of NYT/JoƤo Silva)
The pope has admitted making mistakes over the lifting of the excommunication of a holocaust-denying bishop, saying the church will make much greater use of the Internet in the future to help avoid such controversies.

In a letter to church leaders, Pope Benedict XVI says the church should have been aware of the views of Bishop Richard Williamson.

"I have been told that consulting the information available on the Internet would have made it possible to perceive the problem early on.
Some sort of edict on using teh Google is in the offing at the Vatican.

Putting Aretha Franklin's Inauguration chapeau to shame, the next morning on his first stop in Cameroon, the president's wife decided to embellish her lady bountiful lacquered red gold curls with a jaunty little pink and white
ode to Christianity top hat atop matching ensemble that put all the other hats in the vicinity to shame. The Pope needed his Mega Pontiff hat he uses for Mass at the Basilica to reign supreme over this confection. The president and the pope are wearing virtually the same official ceremonial outfits as the day before. The pope did get a gift from Baka Pygmies of a turtle that promptly got a seat in first class with the entourage before leaving Cameroon. Unfortunately, moments of humour came to an abrupt halt as the trip moved on to Angola.

Saturday's horror was the stampede that left two people dead right before his Angola address as 30,000 people slammed against the closed gates trying to get into the Luanda stadium in a stifling heatwave. Sunday, a Papal Mass for a half million was prayed for a population that is regarded as almost 60% Catholic. The pope, distressed by the deaths, offered his prayers for the perished and his warm wishes for those recovering. He also mentioned the "clouds of evil" that hung over Africa. Angola, was the final stop in Africa before he and the popemobile head back to Rome where a discussion of how the trip went will be the topic as a trip is set for the Middle East in May. (AFP photo)

Personal testimonies are the means to reach the human heart. Included in this seminal book, 28: Stories of AIDS in Africa from Stephanie Nolen are the origins and pathology of the African AIDS epidemic and who is claimed by the disease that seems without end or mercy.

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