2009: A Year of Africa

John Allen has a very interesting column up yesterday on why it’s true to say that 2009 is intended by Pope Benedict to be a Year of Africa in the Church and, specifically, at the Vatican:

Three major events point to 2009 as a “Year of Africa” at the level of the Vatican and papal activity: Benedict’s scheduled visit in March to Cameroon and Angola; a plenary assembly of SECAM, the Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar, to be staged in Rome in September, in order to galvanize Western interest; and a Synod for Africa, a gathering of bishops from around the world, to be held in the Vatican during October.

Allen includes a run-down of the evidence that “Africa is where humanity today is most dramatically walking the Via Crucis.” Even more importantly, he offers some very worthwhile suggestions for effective ways that we can make it a Year for Africa in our own lives and parishes

Sadly, Allen is right on the mark when he writes:

For Catholics, there are also internal reasons why Benedict’s push on Africa may be a tough sell. “Peace and justice” Catholics tend to occupy the church’s left wing, which is sometimes crankily resistant to papal initiatives, even when they cut in a direction liberals otherwise support. For example, an utterly predictable chorus is likely to arise on the Catholic left in ’09 to the effect of, “If the pope wants to do something for Africa, why doesn’t he come out in favor of condoms to fight AIDS?” Such stale polemics often get in the way of doing something constructive. Conservative Catholics, meanwhile, talk a good game about “thinking with the church,” but can be selective in their follow-through. If the pope criticizes abortion, they’re ready to mount the barricades; if he tackles poverty and war, many will quietly suggest he’s out of his depth, or that he’s wading into matters of prudential judgment that don’t oblige conscience.

For those, like me, still mulling over New Years resolutions, this is all good food for thought.  Check out the whole thing.

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