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Pope Benedict XVI visit to AFRICA : Going beyond spiritual rhetoric

Pope's visit to AFRICA : Going beyond spiritual rhetoric.

I have read with a lot of concern and interest what many people are writing in different fora concerning the visit of the Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI to Cameroon and Angola during his maiden visit to Africa from March 17-23, 2009. Good and bad things are being said of the visit.

However, I may not want to consider the visit as any favour rather than that, the Pope is fulfilling his papal and spiritual obligation, though Christian Cardinal Tumi of Cameroon, whom I admire so much and with and under whom I have worked for long, sees it as a"…. blessing from heaven". (Benedictions du ciel)", Mutation online March 10, 2009. That not withstanding, we are very happy to receive the Supreme Pontiff.

We all know some speeches/statements have moved mountains, like the "…do not be afraid" address of Pope John Paul II of blessed memory to his fellow Polish people. As an ex seminarian and someone who believes he is serving God in his current capacity, my worry is that "Men of God” must go beyond spiritual rhetoric, typical of them nowadays, and address real and concrete issues which affect the lives of people daily.

Concerning addressing “pragmatic” issues, that is the more reason I have always admired and loved to listen to the homilies of Cameroonian born Christian Cardinal Tumi, during which he always relates the Bible or word of God to our daily life. In so doing he urges mankind (us) often, to change and follow God. He constantly implore leaders/politicians whom, I must admit, have a critical impact in the all our societies today, to always make efforts to lead us in the right direction. This has brought him a lot of criticisms, from those who think he usually goes beyond his limits. They often want him may be, to limit his preaching at saying “the bible says, the bibles says….”

As the Holy Father visits Cameroon and Africa , he should note this. First and foremost, the Catholic Church and most of its (shepherds) in Cameroon in particular, need serious "redressing" or "overhauling”. The numerous stories about promiscuity, extravagance and gallivanting attitudes of some of our priests including some bishops, some even go as far as bearing children, others fornicating with their students, peoples’ wives, parishioners etc must be addressed.

Mortgaging the Church and its assets for “loans”, as if to sell Jesus Christ again for FCFA 950.000. 000 as Judas did for 30 pieces of silver. This follows using a famous Cathedral in Cameroon as a security for a loan taken by one of its bishop. The serious and terrifying cases of embezzlement among others, merit papal attention. These are issues which if the Pope fails to address even in private with his priests, then his mission to Cameroon, I must admit, must have fallen far below expectations, and why not, a non-starter. If such issues are not addressed, the Church in Cameroon/Africa as has been the case in the USA, in the years to come, may have to even sell most of its buildings or assets etc, to settle problems being caused by some of its priests including bishops now. Some clergy men and women may end up in jail. The Pope must be bold enough to tell his priests and clergy in Cameroon/Africa that religious life is a vocation and not a profession. He must make them know that besides being a call, it is a choice, which those "called" can as well turn down. God gave us this freedom to choose. There is no force in it and those who have decided to live the life, MUST abide by the principles of the vocation or QUIT.These will make more meaning than for the Holy Father just to tell us that he has prayed for us.

We as human beings and also as Catholics, are not only religious, but also social, economic, and political beings. It would serve no interest if the Holy Father comes and fails to address, even in private meetings with the Head of State(s), some of the issues Cameroonians/ Africans among whom are Catholics are kind of frustrated with. If some people are looking up to the Holy Father, it is because they expect him as spriritual leader to hold SINCERE dicussions with country leaders.

We understand the Church and the Vatican as a state, and as a religious body, though with political connotations, sometimes has to be diplomatic in its approach. In my opinion, true religion must not be indifferent to injustices, oppression, exploitation, colonialism in all its forms and other vices. The Catholic Church has done much and is still doing a lot but a lot more still has to be done.

However, diplomacy though good in its own ways, must not be of too common usage in the Church because, a spade must be called a spade. In trying to always use "subtle" means to explain burning issues, the message is either lost or the meaning/importance, seriously minimized. Church leaders must not choose to dine only with those in power, the rich, and the powerful. They must not necessarily be with the opposition, but, they should stand beside the weak, the oppressed, the sick etc.

As a spiritual leader who represents hope, he must not only tell us to just keep waiting and hoping. We expect him to be courageous enough to tell those thwarting the hope of Cameroonians and Africans to at least, have some feelings for human beings and or their fellow citizens.

We expect him to speak about and against neo-colonialism and its funded wars and its economic and political domination in Africa . We expect him not only to hinge on the murder of Jews by Nazis, but, also recognise that even before that, millions of Congolese were murdered under the auspices of the Belgian King Leopold of Congo Kinshasa etc. Thousands continue to die till date because of these economic-neo-colonial driven wars. It is not about going back to the past. But we must know the present was shaped by the past and struggling during and for the present, will determine the future.

It is true that real change can only come from within, but the influence from such personalities cannot be underestimated.

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