Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
October 12, 2009
Beware of Western 'spiritual toxic waste,' Pope warns Africans
'Practical materialism' a threat to African culture, Benedict tells synod
CATHOLIC NEWS SERVICE
VATICAN CITY - Africans must tap into the strengths of their cultural and religious values to resist the "spiritual toxic waste" spread by the West, Pope Benedict said.
Presiding Oct. 4 over the opening Mass for a special Synod of Bishops for Africa, Pope Benedict said Africa's spiritual and cultural values, which recognize God as creator and the value of life over possessions, are resources that can benefit all humanity.
But those values are being attacked, "first of all by an illness that is already widespread in the West, that is, practical materialism" combined with moral relativism, he said.
"Without entering into the merit of the origins of such sicknesses of the spirit, there is absolutely no doubt that the so-called 'First' World has exported . . . and continues to export its spiritual toxic waste," contaminating the people of Africa, Pope Benedict said.
The pope said the "second virus" that threatens Africa is religious fundamentalism, particularly when religion is used to promote political or economic interests.
Some religious groups, he said, are "teaching and practising, not love and respect for freedom, but intolerance and violence."
The vocation of the Catholic Church on the continent is to work for peace and to promote the holiness that will lead to justice, strong families and care for the weakest members of African societies, the pope said.
The theme of the Oct. 4-25 synod is The Church in Africa at the Service of Reconciliation, Justice and Peace.
Pope Benedict noted the "great dynamism" of the Catholic Church in Africa, which according to Vatican statistics has grown from 55 million members in 1978 to almost 165 million by the end of 2007.
The synod, he said, is an occasion to thank the Lord for the Church's growth.
It is also an opportunity to "rethink pastoral activity and renew the impulse of evangelization" so that every Catholic will contribute to reconciliation, justice and solidarity.
On Oct. 5, Pope Benedict opened the meeting with a spiritual reflection, calling the synod members to listen to the Holy Spirit.
The pope also urged them to recognize that every blessing and every challenge is a result of human beings' relationship with God.
Social, political and economic analyses of African realities are necessary, he said. But they are insufficient "if we do not discover that behind all the injustices of corruption and everything else there lies an unjust heart, a closure to God and, therefore, a falsification of the fundamental relationship upon which all other relationships are based."
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