The continent of Africa is getting a healthy dose of attention from Pope Benedict XVI. The Pope’s new book, Jesus of Nazareth, has been written about quite widely in the international press, especially for what the Pontiff has said about Africa, notes that Pope Benedict has used the word, Africa, even more times than the word, sex. And that, in spite of writing an encyclical on human erotic love.

In celebration of his 80th birthday, the Pope released the book that is a meditation on the life of Jesus with an eye on the current situation in the world. In particular, he uses the parable of the Good Samaritan to discuss what is happening with his African sisters and brothers today. Benedict states that the impoverished countries of the world have been plundered and sacked and that their oppressors have brought with them a the ‘cynicism of a world without God.’

The book, with its mention of Africa, comes in a long line of statements and apparent interest in the continent. Allen attributes Benedict’s focus on Africa to three factors: the many crises that the continent’s peoples are faced with, the fact that Catholicism is growing faster in Africa than anywhere else in the world and the profoundly moving speeches of the Africa Cardinals when they spoke in the consistory presided by then Cardinal Ratzinger before his election.

In a more self-critical moment, the Pope recognizes the negative role that some in the Church in Africa have played in creating some of the present moral crises. He laments that, “instead of giving them God, the God close to us in Christ, and welcoming in their traditions all that is precious and great … we have brought them the cynicism of a world without God, where only power and profit count… we destroyed (their) moral criteria to the point that corruption and a lust for power devoid of scruples have become obvious.” Far from being a repudiation of the missionary movement of the Church, which he supports, it is a call to pass on the truth of the person of Jesus and the justice for which Jesus himself suffered and died.

Africa and her people need strong voices to remind the world that the Africans are indeed our sisters and brothers and that we will be judged by what we have done for the least of those. AFJN would hope that this personal interest in Africa will lead the Pope to take prophetic stands, particularly concerning the HIV/AIDS crisis, as have several of his brother biships. The Pope is uniquely placed to make strong statements on behalf of his fellow human beings and Catholics on the continent of Africa. We can only hope that these statements of concern will become public policy so that plundering and sacking ends for good. At AFJN, it is our prayer and it is the goal of our work.