Pope Benedict XVI. The Catholic Church in Africa has called for a strong commitment to justice and peace. In the face of civil wars, stark social contrasts and environmental destruction, the church must work for lasting reconciliation in all areas, says a letter from the pope to Africa's bishops.
The continent, like the rest of the world, is currently experiencing a "culture shock" that is shaking the thousand-year-old foundations of social life. This "anthropological crisis" complicates the encounter with modernity.
The document, with the Latin title "Africae munus" (The Commitment of Africa), which Benedict XVI. signed Saturday in Ouidah, Benin, West Africa, lays out guidelines for church action in Africa. The pope's comments include AIDS, discrimination against women and interfaith dialogue. This Sunday in Cotonou, the pope will present the final document of the 2009 Synod of Africa to African bishops.
Benedict XVI. In the letter, calls for an open and honest coming to terms with the past in the continent's countries shattered by civil war and genocide. Those responsible must be held accountable. Victims have a right to truth and justice, writes Benedict XVI., without naming individual countries.
Benedict XVI. Also reaffirms the official position of the Catholic Church on AIDS. In the fight against the immune deficiency disease, marital fidelity, sexual abstinence and a rejection of sexual permissiveness are the most effective means, the paper says.
Benedict XVI. also calls for greater protection of the unborn and the family. Church's opposition to abortions tolerates "no ambiguity". The bishops must point out more clearly the "questionable aspects of certain documents of international institutions" on this subject.
The head of the Catholic Church also expresses concern about continuing discrimination against women in Africa. In the name of outdated traditions, women are often humiliated and degraded, it says. Their dignity and rights "continue to be neither fully recognized nor appreciated". Pope calls on Church to stand up for women's rights.
The pope also encourages the church on the continent to deepen dialogue with Islam and indigenous religions. The church must have a "patient" discussion with Muslims about the legal and practical recognition of religious freedom.