Pope Benedict XVI says Africa needs to focus on reconciliation, justice and peace in resolving the crisis that has engulfed many nations on the continent.
The Pope said this on Sunday in Cotonou at a
mass to mark the Feast of Christ the King and to end his three-day visit to the Republic of Benin.
He said Africa must embrace everything that would restore hope to its people, especially in times of violence, oppression and injustice.
The Pontiff said the continent needs to embrace peace in its entire ramification so as to overcome many of its challenges which do not require external solutions.
``Today, I call on all the people of Africa to stand on one voice, for reconciliation, for justice and for peace.
``The continent has witnessed many crises that are continuing to threaten the unity of its people and its progress. So, I call on you today to emulate Christ who is the symbol of peace and the King of kings.
``So I call on Africa to unite for the sake of the weak and to forge ahead,’’ he said.
The Pope urged the governments and peoples of Africa to eschew oppression and excessive show of power.
He noted that these were part of the reasons why many countries were still experiencing violence.
The mass was attended by many faithful from across the world, including a Nigerian government delegation.
In an interview, leader of the Nigerian delegation, Minister of State I for Foreign Affairs, Prof. Viola Onwuliri, said the country would continue to encourage peaceful co-existence amongst its people.
She said that the Pope’s message was in tandem with what the Jonathan administration was already doing.
The minister said the administration was doing this to ensure that peace returns to parts of the country where violence had been the order of the day.
Onwuliri said Nigeria’s participation in the church service was an affirmation of President Jonathan’s stand on religion.
``President Jonathan will continue to support every initiative that is geared towards promoting peace in the country,’’ she said.
On his part, Executive Secretary of the Nigerian Christian Pilgrims Commission (NCPC), Mr John Kennedy-Opara, said the Pope’s message was very apt.
``It is indeed necessary now, especially at a time when Africa is experiencing many crises,’’ he said.
The NCPC Executive Secretary said the Church in Nigeria would continue to uphold the views of the Pope, irrespective of the diversities in religion in the country.
He assured that the Nigerian delegation would pass on the Pope’s message to the appropriate authorities for necessary action.
Also commenting on the Pope’s message, the Catholic Bishop of Umuahia, Lucius Ugorji, said the Pope’s visit was beyond the proclamation of reconciliation and peace.
``The Pope’s visit has united the church in Africa and his message will challenge Africa to take a bold step towards the path of justice and development,’’ he said.
The bishop however advised Africans to put to practice what the Pope said about reconciliation, peace and justice.
The church service was attended by President Boni Yayi of the Republic of Benin, representatives of his counterparts from other countries, and many Bishops from across the continent and beyond.