General Articles

Pope meets with Angolan leaders, cautions against ‘reproductive health’ groups

Catholic News Agency

Luanda, Angola, Mar 20, 2009 / 04:11 pm (CNA) – Pope Benedict addressed civil leaders and bishops of Angola in a meeting at the Presidential Palace on Friday. In his remarks, the Pontiff urged leaders to ‘transform the continent,’ and warned against programs that "claim that the termination of life is a matter of reproductive health!”

Following a speech given by Angola’s President José Eduardo dos Santos, the Holy Father urged the country’s leaders to work to transform the continent, “armed with integrity, magnanimity and compassion.” He explained that the people of Africa aren’t calling out “simply for more programs and protocols, but for a deep-seated, lasting conversion of hearts to sincere solidarity.”

“Their plea to those serving in politics, public service, international agencies, and multinational companies is simply this: stand alongside us in a profoundly human way; accompany us, and our families and our communities!”

Speaking about social and economic development in Africa, Pope Benedict spoke highly of programs that bring Africans into partnerships requiring that “African nations be seen not simply as the receivers of others’ plans and solutions.” He continued, “African men and women themselves, working together for the good of their communities, should be the primary agents of their own development.”

He went on to list several effective initiatives whose common goal is to “promote transparency, honest business practice and good governance.”

Turning to discuss the family, the Holy Father praised Africans for their solid family structure, but also addressed the difficulties that many families are facing. “I think that those who come from other continents can learn afresh from Africa that ‘the family is the foundation on which the social edifice is built,’” he said, citing John Paul II’s document “Ecclesia in Africa.”

“Yet the strains upon families, as we all know, are many indeed: anxiety and ignominy caused by poverty, unemployment, disease and displacement, to mention but a few. Particularly disturbing is the crushing yoke of discrimination that women and girls so often endure, not to mention the unspeakable practice of sexual violence and exploitation which causes such humiliation and trauma.”

A “further area of grave concern” for the Pope involves groups who advocate abortion while describing themselves as supporting “reproductive health.”

“How bitter the irony of those who promote abortion as a form of ‘maternal’ healthcare! How disconcerting the claim that the termination of life is a matter of reproductive health!” the Pontiff decried.

He assured the leaders that “the Church will continue to do all she can to support families – including those suffering the harrowing effects of HIV/Aids – and to uphold the equal dignity of women and men, realized in harmonious complementarity.”

In his closing remarks, the Pope thanked the President for the welcoming him into his home and assured him of his prayers for all of Africa.