Dear brothers and sisters,
1. The simple but demanding principles of the Church's social doctrine some of which I called to mind yesterday at the meeting with workers on the feast of St. Joseph, have a particular and immense application with regard to the Church's commitment in Africa. This will be reflected upon at the next Assembly of the Synod of Bishops.
The mission that Christ entrusted to the Church is not "a mission in the political, economic or social order". But a religious one (cf. GS 42). However this in no way diminishes its consequences for temporal affairs. In deed, the Gospel proclaims an integral redemption which encompasses all aspects of the human person. Jesus Christ came to save all men and the whole of man. The Church is walking in the footsteps of her Master when she is concerned about humanity's eternal destiny, without forgetting its concrete life in the world.
In Africa, the need to apply the Gospel to concrete life is felt strongly. How could one proclaim Christ on that immense continent while forgetting that it is one of the world's poorest regions? How could one fail to take into account the suffering-filled history of a land where many nations are still in the grip of famine, war, racial and tribal tensions, political instability and the violation of human rights? This is all a challenge to evangelisation.
2. Catholics, together with other Christians, cannot fail to assume responsibility for this situation. "You shall be my witnesses" (Acts 1,8) Jesus says. Jesus' words form the basic theme of the forthcoming Synod; they rouse people to the courage of witness and daring in defence of the poor.
It is essential to strive in collaboration with everyone to increase respect for justice and the building of peace in Africa. It is necessary to promote the spread of the Gospel in all sectors of culture and society. Evangelisation and human advancement progress side by side.
Africa, open your doors to Christ, the Redeemer of man! Do not fear for your values or your culture! The Gospel is a light that does not destroy but transfigures. It is leaven that renews hearts and gives an authentic value to all things.
3. We ask the Blessed Virgin to give fresh impetus to the apostolic activity of the African Church. She certainly bears the African continent's sufferings in her maternal heart. The words of the Magnificat are the hymn of the poor who abandon themselves to God. "The hungry he has filled with good things; the rich he has sent away empty" (Lk. 1,53). May the Magnificat be Africa's hymn of deliverance on the threshold of the third millennium.