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Catholic World News News Feature

Pope proclaims Africa the 'continent of hope' March 19, 2009

Pope Benedict XVI said that Africa should become the "continent of hope," as he released the plan for a special African Synod on March 19 during a Mass in Yaounde, Cameroon on the third day of his apostolic journey to Africa.

At the conclusion of the Mass the Pope released the instrumentum laboris, or working document, that will be discussed by the Synod of Bishops in October. The Synod meeting will be devoted to the Church in Africa-- the 2nd Synod gathering on that topic.

The Holy Father greeted the massive congregation in a soccer stadium by noting that March 19 is the feast of St. Joseph and wishing "a very happy feast day to all those who, like myself, have received the grace of bearing this beautiful name." He added: "Joseph is the man who gives God the greatest display of trust."

The Pope went on, in his homily, to urge the faithful to imitate that trust in God, rather than submitting to "the tyranny of materialism" or "selfish illusions and false ideals."

African society has special need for such trust, the Pope continued, at a time when old social conventions are breaking down, family ties are strained, and people are leaving their traditions behind as they flock to the crowded cities in hope of finding a better life. Economic development is certainly necessary, the Pope said, but "it is high time to place greater emphasis on this: every human being, every tiny human person, however weak, is created in the image and likeness of God."

Trust in God is a formula for hope, the Pontiff said. He reminded Christians: "Africa is called to hope through you and in you." By the witness of Christians, he proclaimed: "Africa can become the continent of hope!"

Pope Benedict returned to the day's feast day later in his homily, saying that the people of Africa-- especially the fathers of families-- should imitate the example of St. Joseph, who maintained his full trust in God through all trials and provided a safe and loving home for the Virgin Mary and Jesus.

The Holy Father had begun his homage to St. Joseph the previous evening, leading the first Vespers of the feast day in the basilica of Mary Queen of Apostles. Speaking to the bishops, priests, deacons, and seminarians who took part in the ceremony, he again pointed to St. Joseph as a model of fidelity. Like St. Joseph, the Pontiff said, all priests are given the role of a foster-father for the souls in their care, and "called to live out this fatherhood in the daily tasks of your ministry." A priest must also have "a profound relationship with Christ Who is given to us in the Eucharist," he said. Finally, priests should imitate the humility of St. Joseph who "lived in obedience to God's Word," he said.