Nicaragua has granted a Hong Kong company the right to build a $40 billion interoceanic canal. Slideshow
Pope announces Africa trip
VATICAN CITY |
VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - Pope Benedict ended a synod of Roman Catholic bishops on Sunday announcing his first trip to Africa as pontiff and urging Chinese bishops whose communist government banned them from attending to persevere amid hardships.
Benedict told the closing Mass of the three-week gathering he would travel in March to Cameroon to deliver the working document of next year's Vatican synod on Africa and to Angola to celebrate 500 years of evangelization there.
It will be Benedict's 11th trip outside Italy since he was elected in 2005. His predecessor, John Paul II, traveled widely throughout Africa during his more than 26-year pontificate.
In his homily at the Mass in St. Peter's Basilica, which he celebrated with more than 300 cardinals, bishops and priests, Benedict also sent a "special thought" to Chinese bishops who were banned from attending by Beijing's communist government.
"I would like to speak on behalf of them and thank God for their love for Christ, their communion with the universal Church and their faithfulness to the successor of the apostle Peter," he said.
Beijing bans its Catholics from recognizing the pope's authority and forces them to join a state-backed Catholic church if they want to worship publicly. China's 8 to 12 million Catholics are split between the officially approved church and an "underground" one loyal to the pope.
"They are present in our prayers ... We ask (God) to give them apostolic joy, strength and zeal to guide, with wisdom and far-sightedness, the Catholic community of China that we love so dearly," Benedict said.
Bishops from Macao and Hong Kong, regions with wide autonomy from Beijing, attended the synod, which discussed the role of Scripture in the modern world.
But the lack of participation by the mainland bishops was surprising because there had been signs of improvement in Beijing-Vatican relations.
A Hong Kong bishop represented the pope at the Olympics opening ceremony in August and in May China's national orchestra played for him at an unprecedented concert in the Vatican.
Benedict has made improving relations with China a main goal of his pontificate and hopes diplomatic ties can be restored.
China says before restoring ties, broken off two years after the 1949 communist takeover, the Vatican must sever relations with Taiwan, which Beijing considers a renegade province.
Next year's Vatican synod, to be held in October, will be the second synod on Africa. The first was held in 1994 under John Paul.
Any Vatican meeting on Africa, where Catholicism is growing faster than any other continent, would likely discuss debt relief, AIDS, corruption, poverty and war.
The number of men preparing for the Roman Catholic priesthood is high in some African countries and some Church leaders have suggested Africa will be called on in the future to ease the acute shortage of priests in Europe by sending clergy over to "re-evangelize the West."
The continent is also seen as a living laboratory of inter-religious relations because Christians and Muslims live side-by-side in many places there and often clash.
- Tweet this
- Share this
- Digg this