Pope to raise issue of human rights in Africa

Pope Benedict XVI arrives in Africa today for his first visit to the country since becoming the head of the Roman Catholic Church four years ago.

The Pope will visit Angola and Cameroon and is due to hold mass with 100,000 Catholics later in the week.

Speaking to pilgrims in St Peter’s Square last Sunday, the Pope said he wished to embrace the whole continent of Africa with all of its differences and that he had the victims of hunger and injustice in his mind.

The Pope is expected to meet with political leaders in both African nations.

John Baptiste Odama, the Archbishop of Gulu Diocese in Uganda, told VOAnews that the Pope’s visit would bring hope and encouragement to suffering Africans.

The Archbishop said: "In Cameroon, the Pope is coming to give to the Church in Africa the agenda for the next synod (a council or assembly of church officials) of bishops of Africa.

"That means the agenda for discussion for the African bishops in Rome next September or October about the Church in Africa in service to reconciliation, justice and peace.

"That is the purpose of his visit. Of course, he's coming to give hope to the people of Africa who have been very seriously affected by so many unfortunate situations, economical, political."

The Pope is also expected to raise the issue of human rights in Africa, although he is not expected to “point the finger” at specific individuals or governments.

Paul Biya, who has been President of Cameroon for almost 27 years has been criticised by Amnesty International for leading a government which represses political opposition through killings and torture. Cameroon and Angola have also faced criticism for corruption in their governments.

On the issue of human rights Archbishop Odama said, "Certainly he [the Pope] will address these issues as general setbacks for Africa to which he will call the attention of Africa as a whole and the leaders to direct their people together to address these issues. I don't think he's coming for finger-pointing as such."

Odama added that the Church had not done enough to help solve the issues of poverty and disease in Africa, but was optimistic that the Pope introducing a synod on reconciliation, justice and peace would help redress that.

"As far as the faith is concerned, there is some growth in that. The Church is on the better side in Africa. But as far as agitation of political, economic and things, we are rather on the negative side because many of our countries are infected by civil strives and continuous wars therefore causing more suffering to the citizens.

"Many countries are below poverty line in economic sense; there is a lot of this illiteracy situation in Africa, poor agriculture, hunger, migration, permanent refugees, corruption and the HIV/Aids."

He continued, "From my own outlook, we have done quite a lot, but not enough to really address the issues to logical conclusion. We have a lot more to do and that is the purpose of the forthcoming synod on Africa. It is meant to re-awaken and strengthen our determination to speak and act also in favour of addressing what I call the setbacks for Africa.”