Saturday, October 10, 2009

Ethiopian Patriarch Addresses African Synod - Thanksgiving Weekend

Earlier this week, Patriarch Abuna Paulos of the Ethiopian Tewahedo Orthodox Church said that Christians, and in particular religious leaders, have a very real role to play in bringing about justice, peace and reconciliation when addressing the Second Special Assembly for Africa of the Synod of Bishops, in the presence of Benedict XVI.

The assembly is considering the theme, "The Church in Africa, at the Service of Reconciliation, Justice and Peace" and the patriarch was invited by the Holy Father as a special guest to speak and help address the situation of the Church in Africa.

"In Christ we know that reconciliation is possible, justice can prevail, peace can endure," the Pope said after Patriarch Abuna Paulos had completed his intervention.

"This is the message of hope which we are called to proclaim. This is the promise which the people of Africa long to see fulfilled in our day."

In his address, Patriarch Abuna Paulus spoke of the long tradition of faith in Ethiopia, beginning with the first man, which historians believe lived in Ethiopia. "For the Ethiopians," he noted, "the beginning of mankind, our present and our future, is marked today and forever by God and His salvation. Africa remains a religious continent whose people have believed in the Almighty God for centuries."

The Patriarch also noted the place of Ethiopia in Christianity: "Ethiopia became the second nation after Israel to believe in Christ; and the Ethiopian Church became the first Church in Africa," mentioning the "celebrated scholars and religious fathers," as well as the monks, martyrs and saints who lived on the continent, as well as the current sufferings of Africa.

"Africa is a potentially wealthy continent, with fertile soil, natural resources, and a variety of plants and animal species," he explained. "Africa has a suitable climate and possesses several precious minerals. For it has been a continent with many untapped natural resources, many have still their eyes on it. It is also undeniable that the civilization gains in other parts of the world is the result of labor and resource from Africa. Africans have done such blessed works for the world. What has the world done for them?"

He affirmed that the continent's resources have been exploited by rich nations but noted that Africa hasn't been supported in its efforts in development. Some of the challenges he said were facing the continent included education, the HIV/AIDS pandemic, religious extremism, debt to foreign nations, civil war, the use of child soldiers, displacement of persons, and the lack of basic necessities such as food, potable water and shelter. "I believe that we, religious leaders and heads of Churches, have a very unique task and responsibility," Patriarch Abuna Paulus said, "to acknowledge and sustain, when we deem it necessary, the suggestions that come from the people, as, on the contrary, to reject them when they contradict the respect and love for man, that has its roots in the Gospel."

"Christians are expected to be messengers of change in bringing justice, peace, reconciliation and development …. Fruits of peace and healing are possible, and they undermine all forms of violence, with the strength and the Christian intelligence of love. African religious leaders not only have to worry about the social works but also answer to the great spiritual needs of the women and men of Africa.

"I am really very happy to participate to this Synod of the Catholic Church on Africa," the patriarch concluded. "I am an African. My Church is the oldest of Africa: a Church of Martyrs, Saints and monks. I carry my support as a friend and a brother to this endeavor of the Catholic Church for Africa."


"O Lord our God, the giver of all good gifts, we give you thanks and praise for all your great and many blessings to us, but most especially do we thank you this day for the gift of life and all that you have given us to sustain us in life, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen."

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