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Ioannes Paulus PP. II
Ecclesia in Africa

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An event of grace

6. The Special Assembly for Africa of the Synod of Bishops was an historic moment of grace: the Lord visited his people in Africa. Indeed, this Continent is today experiencing what we can call a sign of the times, an acceptable time, a day of salvation. It seems that the "hour of Africa" has come, a favourable time which urgently invites Christ's messengers to launch out into the deep and to cast their nets for the catch (cf. Lk 5:4). Just as at Christianity's beginning the minister of Candace, Queen of Ethiopia, rejoiced at having received the faith through Baptism and went on his way bearing witness to Christ (cf. Acts 8:27-39), so today the Church in Africa, joyful and grateful for having received the faith, must pursue its evangelizing mission, in order to bring the peoples of the Continent to the Lord, teaching them to observe all that he has commanded (cf. Mt 28:20).

From the opening Solemn Eucharistic Liturgy which on 10 April 1994 I celebrated in Saint Peter's Basilica with thirty-five Cardinals, one Patriarch, thirty-nine Archbishops, one hundred forty-six Bishops and ninety priests, the Church, which is the Family of God 5 and the community of believers, gathered about the Tomb of Peter. Africa was present there, in its various rites, with the entire People of God: it rejoiced, expressing its faith in life to the sound of drums and other African musical instruments. On that occasion Africa felt that it was, in the words of Pope Paul VI, "a new homeland for Christ",6 a land loved by the Eternal Father.7 That is why I myself greeted that moment of grace in the words of the Psalmist: "This is the day which the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it" (Ps 118:24).

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