ADDRESS OF HIS HOLINESS JOHN PAUL II
Johannesburg International Airport (South Africa)
Dear President Mandela,
Everywhere we look, Africa is being transformed. We do not yet know where change will lead. We do know that the hopes and expectations of millions of human beings cannot be ignored. They constitute a moral challenge for us all. That is why my present journey holds particular significance, first for myself and the members of the Catholic Church, but also, I would hope, for all those who have Africa’s wellbeing at heart. The purpose of my visit in fact is to present the results of the Special Session for Africa of the Synod of Bishops, held last year in Rome. The Synod recommits the Church to working with all the means at her disposal for the spiritual and full human advancement of Africa’s peoples. The Catholic community throughout Africa will seek to be inwardly renewed in order to reach out in love to everyone, in the firm belief that by his Incarnation the Son of God has united himself in some fashion with every human being (cf. Gaudium et Spes, 22).
2. Today my journey brings me to South Africa, to the new South Africa, a nation firmly set on the course of reconciliation and harmony among all its citizens. At the beginning of my visit, I wish to pay tribute to you, Mr. President, who, after being a silent and suffering "witness" of your people’s yearning for true liberation, now shoulder the burden of inspiring and challenging everyone to succeed in the task of national reconciliation and reconstruction. I remember our meeting at the Vatican in June 1990, shortly after your release from prison. In your kind words of welcome today I recognize the same spirit which sustained you then in the ideal of achieving a better life for the peoples of this Nation. To you and to former President F. W. de Klerk, joint recipients of the 1993 Nobel Peace Prize, we must all be grateful that you acted with wisdom and courage. And let us commend to God in our prayers all those who have worked and suffered and continue to strive for that day when everyone’s dignity will be fully acknowledged, respected and safeguarded throughout this land and all over this Continent.
3. South Africa refers to itself as a "Rainbow Nation", indicating the diversity of races, ethnic groups, languages, culture and religions which characterize it. And you have the extremely rich concept of UBUNTU to guide you, according to the saying that "People are made people through other people". Certainly, the Government of National Unity’s commitment to bring all the citizens of this land together in a united, fair and more prosperous society is shared by South Africa’s Religious leaders, Christian, Jewish, Islamic, Hindu and Traditional, all of whom I greet with cordial esteem. By insisting on the things which unite, all believers can "build together", using their spiritual resources to keep alive the flame of hope on the horizon of humanity’s march towards a brighter future.
4. With particular joy I greet my Brother Bishops and the faithful of the
Catholic Church of the whole southern part of this Continent. It has been my
hope and prayer to celebrate our faith together here in the Republic of South
Africa, and to encourage you in the task of helping to heal the wounds of past
injustices and educate the moral conscience of individuals and peoples
concerning the demands of their human dignity and of Christian service.
5. [Translation from Dutch]:
6. The epochal change for which South Africa is striving will require the best that each one can give in the service of the common good. It will demand much hard work and many sacrifices. Eventual success will ultimately be a gift from the Almighty, the Lord of life and of human history. May He sustain you, President Mandela, with the Vice-Presidents and the members of your Government and all your fellow-citizens, in the great task before you! I make my own the prayer of the Psalm: "May the Lord give strength to his people! May the Lord bless his people with peace!" (Ps. 29 :11).
God bless you all!
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