THE LENTEN MESSAGE OF THE HOLY FATHER
FOR LENT 2001
the morning of 9 January 2001 a Press Conference was held in the Holy See Press
Office to present the Message of the Holy Father for Lent 2001 on the theme
"Love is not resentful (1 Cor 13:5).
is the intervention of His Excellency Archbishop Paul Josef Cordes, President of
the Pontifical Council "Cor Unum" and that of Mrs Rose Busingye, born
in Uganda and responsible for the "Meeting Point" in Kampala, an
Ugandan NGO which assists AIDS victims and their families.
of His Excellency Archbishop Paul Josef Cordes
Two weeks ago the Holy Father sent me to El Salvador.
I was charged with the task of taking material help and an expression of
comfort to the victims, the Pastors and workers in that area impacted by the
earthquake. It is a responsibility
that in recent times I have been called upon to exercise more often, an onerous
task, but gratifying. Each time one
is able to reach out and touch the great sensitivity of today's human beings
towards those suffering. Also in El
Salvador, I was struck by the amount of financial assistance that States, and
not least of all the Catholic organisations, had placed at the disposal of the
victims. It is truly laudable, that
the cry of the poor finds a response on such a vast scale.
The visit, however, did not only confront me with the generosity and
compassion of the human soul. You
know that up until 1992, the country was torn by a civil war;
Two political forces, Arena and Frente, were opponents and fought to a
bloody conclusion. The wounds are
still not yet healed. At times I
encountered tensions and hostility that sprung up.
In some local meetings, that in reality should have been to co-ordinate
assistance, they impeded it. They
created suspicion and accusations of favouritism for party friends in the
distribution of help.
It is a truly sad experience. Not
even the disgrace fills in the ideological gaps.
However another important lesson is that the misery and destruction begin
in the hearts of human beings. I
have had similar experiences in my visits to the Balkans, Rwanda and Mozambique.
Today, in preparation for Easter, we present this year's Lenten Message
of the Holy Father. It is titled: "Love is not resentful". It is possible that public opinion is a little surprised that
it has such a spiritual emphasis. Normally
we are in the habit of having an appeal of the Holy Father to give alms.
Instead, it begins with the words, "Behold,
we are going up to Jerusalem" - Jerusalem, the name of the place, and
synonymous with the definitive salvation for all humanity by means of the Cross
of Christ and his resurrection. In
this way, the Holy Father underlines how the true happiness of the human being
has a spiritual foundation, coming from God and actualised in his Son.
In our struggle against human suffering, in aiming at the well being of
mankind, this dimension cannot be forgotten.
It is for the believer that sin in the catastrophe cries louder than the
baby in tears, even if this crying baby moves us more.
The Holy Father then concretises the consequences of evil in our hearts;
he speaks of the "... marks of hatred and violence among peoples ... among
groups and factions within a nation itself (no. 3).
For that reason, he makes a strong appeal to our openness in reconciling
ourselves - with God and with our neighbour.
It brings to mind the famous phrase of the Apostle of the People:
"Love is not resentful" (1 Cor 13:5).
In this way the Holy Father identifies in the Lenten Season a special
opportunity to forgive and live the truth of this phrase:
"Through the Sacrament of Reconciliation, the Father gives to us in
Christ his forgiveness and this encourages us to live in love, considering the
other not as an enemy but as a brother" (no. 5).
This spiritual accent would certainly be misunderstood if we would
recognise in this a drift to spiritualism.
The reconciliation with our neighbour that God offers is expressed in the
good deed (cf. attachment). It is
not by chance that the Message states: "A heart reconciled with God and
with neighbour is a generous heart" (no. 5).
In this way Pope John Paul II encourages us to carry out the traditional
Lenten collection, which should not be forgotten.
Those who preach the love of God must take care that this love becomes a
reality. Precisely in the case of
need, the gift received, necessary for survival, awakes a new hope and trust in
the future. Our Press Conference
has therefore, in addition to presenting the words of the Holy Father, a second
During a pilgrimage, the local authorities of Milan presented the Holy
Father with a gift of one billion lire for Africa.
The sum has been given to "Cor Unum" which has decided to use
these funds for a project for assistance to AIDs Orphans in Uganda.
The International Herald Tribune of 6 February 2001 states that there are
actually 12 million AIDS Orphans. (You
can also consult the paper distributed.) Who
are these orphans? They are less
than 18 years of age and have lost one or both parents and live in a precarious
situation because they were abandoned and alone or because they are infected
with the virus, or because they are dishabilitated by some disease.
Sometimes they themselves must be head of the family because they have
the responsibility for younger brothers and sisters.
The Holy Father speaks for the victims of this terrible disease.
In the Apostolic Exhortation ECCLESIA IN AFRICA he writes, "The
battle against AIDS ought to be everyone's battle.
Echoing the voice of the Synod Fathers, I too ask pastoral workers to
bring to their brothers and sisters affected by AIDS all possible material,
moral and spiritual comfort (no. 116). Following
these indications, the Catholic Church is working in these areas in various ways:
- by forming pastoral and health care workers and youth themselves
- by trying to prevent through the education and consciousness raising to
the responsible love lived in the family
- by caring and assisting in the health area with the engagement of
medical personnel, carrying out programmes of assistance to victims and creating
rehabilitation and accommodation centres for the sick, and supporting the other
members of the family;
- by following in a pastoral way the sick and their families, most of all
those alone and abandoned, for example the orphans of parents killed by AIDS.
CAFOD, CRS, Misereor and many other Catholic agencies of assistance have
worked in this area in a co-ordinated manner since 1988.
From the beginning one of the most important categories taken into
consideration were the children. In
addition to health care, it is particularly important to work so as to overcome
discrimination and the fears linked to this disease, which marginalised the
victims. I stress that for the
Church it is important to have a global approach to the problem which is not
limited to simple medical care or prevention but that includes the totality of
the human person and aims to the responsibility of each person. Education, the
relationship to the community, acceptance of responsibility in marriage and for
family life are essential.
It is well known that Uganda is one of the most severely impacted
countries by this scourge. For example, at the end of 1997 the prevalence of the
infection of HIV in Ugandan adults was 9.51%.
In that period 1,700,000 children were orphaned due to the disease.
On the other hand in Uganda, thanks to prevention, major achievements
were reached in the fight against the disease:
in some rural areas the percentage of women between 10 to 20 years of age
infected by HIV dropped from 4.4% in 1989-90 to 1.4% in 1996-97, (UNAIDS
statistics of July 2000). We were
willing to support a recovery project in such a stricken country in order to
demonstrate that with good will and the help of many, important results can be
achieved in this area.
SPEECH BEFORE THE VATICAN'S PRESS-GALLERY
February 9, 2001
would like to begin by thanking the Holy Father. Allow me to say that he is also
the Father of everything that I have been doing from the very beginning.
Throughout my life no one has ever shown me such a way of giving witness to
human value, the value of the person. I have learned from his untiring and
constant insistence on the conscience of what man is. I would like to thank You
Holy Father, not so much because You are helping us with funding, but rather
because You allow my own person to be whole.
faith determines my work, then the unity of my person is safeguarded. Faith,
that is to say the sense of responsibility in the face of something much larger
all my work pivots on the human being, it is necessary that faith permeate the
way I act, thus generating the
correct subject so that you know how to treat the other person well.
present, it is popular to undertake various projects and it is quite easy to
confuse or substitute man with that which we must or can do for him.
And then when things do not go as expected, we become violent to him and
to ourselves as well.
really matters is positive value, which technical development has utilised, so
that man is not a mechanical object, a cog in the machine.
is a composition of needs. If we cannot perceive that, if we do not possess this
sensitivity, it is like passing him by with indifference.
Uganda many have undertaken projects to distribute condoms, defend human rights,
overcome poverty, defend women and children, etc.
However, these simply pertain to projects and never to the person. The
person is nobody, reduced to his problems.
example, a person has AIDS or a headache, I am dealing with AIDS, not with the
person suffering from AIDS. It is not possible to cure a piece of a human being,
you have to cure the person. Touching only a part of the person implies touching
whole of his body.
work with the AIDS victims, children, adults and orphans. It is an adventure and
it is even entertaining, since I face wishes, characters, needs, traditions and
attitudes which are totally different. It is interesting to work with what is
called "man and his needs".
help people? Who are they to us? And who am I?
Point" is the concrete experience of a group of friends who have found
themselves in the position of facing the HIV/AIDS issue, either because they are
personally suffering or someone in their family or amongst their close friends
is affected by AIDS and they desire to discover a sense of suffering and death.
purpose of "Meeting Point" is not to allow AIDS victims to face alone
their sickness and death. This is
possible only through a mature and daily companionship which takes all needs
of all we offer a human relationship, a friendship which with time deepens and
whereby the children and the sick discover how to face reality with liberty and
joy unknown before and along with them we grow.
46 years of age and suffering from AIDS for 10 years, was desperate, looking for
drugs to hasten her death. I did not know what to do about her. Before going to
work, I would go visit her and sometimes stayed there without saying a word, I
could not even comfort her. After a
week, crying she told me: "You know, I had my husband, I have six children,
the relationship with my husband was the only relationship which meant something
to me, it filled me with meaning. Now he is no longer there, it is as if
everything has lost its meaning, I lack consistency, I feel lost, I just want to
die, help me die now. I will not tell anyone." That was eight years ago.
Many people accuse me of having given her some special medicine, she now weighs
around 90 kilos and she says: "You simply have to look up to someone having
a sense of life, and you also will live." Now she is a volunteer at
"Meeting Point", since she wants to do what I do.
friendship with the sick and their families is a school where we learn how to
realistically and truly love the life of others and their destiny. Condoms and
fear are a negative approach, proposing no solutions to cope with the challenge
of the epidemic.
offer our patients and young people psychological support, along with
on basic health and proper sexual behaviour. I have already told you that it is
an adventure working with adults, youth and children. There is a lot to discover and it cannot all be said today:
"I have understood what man needs".
so happens that I was happy about the time, the money, the food and the
medicines that I gave my patients. Then, the opposite occurred. In spite of
everything, at a certain time the children, instead of going to school began
spending their time in the trash, they refused to talk or pretended they were
sick so as not to go to school, or they would hide under their beds or behind
the house, or they would not eat. The sick refused medicine, nor did they want
to eat. I felt like leaving everything and running away. That is how the
question came to me: "But who are these people to me?" and "But
who am I to them?"
until a short time ago everybody in Uganda knew that they belonged to a tribe, a
clan, a family: one knew that he was someone. Now that has lost meaning:
families have disintegrated, tribes no longer are concerned with the
general interest, but only for their particular interests. Once a child used to
belong to the whole tribe, to a whole people, and that gave him consistency and
children and women find themselves without defences, without dignity, and they
become melancholy, without any will to live and without expectations.
do not have a value for their families, after all this wives do not have value
for their husbands, nor husbands for their wives. For whom do we live? For whom
do we get married? For whom do we
the very idea of ourselves has made us lose the sense of everything. Having lost
the point which gave meaning to them, they no longer know why they must go to
school or why they must take medicine, or talk, or whatever. In the end, they do
not trust anyone.
we have tried to do is basically enter into a relationship with them. It is
apparent that we are not there to replace their parents, but it is apparent that
we love them, that they are important and that they are valued by us. It is not
possible to give the idea of the dignity expressed by the formula "being
someone" if not one within a relationship.
Point" is present in the suburbs of Kampala, Hoima and Kitgum.
Kampala is a town built upon seven hills and there is a slum at the foot
of each one of these hills. We go through the slums every morning. In the city
many people suffer from AIDS. As a result the problem of orphans continually
grows. If orphans are not cared for, they will end up living in the streets.
the population grows, so also the more the disease spreads and this causes great
confusion about judgements and feelings, among which are dominant fear, shame
and rejection by relatives for their sickness. This adds up to great difficulty.
There are no families welcoming orphans, whose numbers are growing.
and men between the ages of 20 and 45, that is to say the most active section of
population, are the most affected
by the sickness. Most of them die in great poverty after long suffering, with a
sense of helplessness and having had to give up their employment.
present we are giving assistance to about 600 sick registered at "Meeting
Point" and nearly 1,000 orphans throughout Kampala.
care for the sick from a medical viewpoint visiting them at home and taking
medicine to those who cannot afford the costs of hospitalisation. Of major
assistance to orphans is the paying of their school fees, so that they can at
least attend primary school. We distribute food and other goods of primary
importance: blankets, soap, pans, etc.
also care for widows and the sick also from the legal point of view - (problems
pertaining to heritage, adoptions, etc.).
am not here to describe all that we do. But
what I do want to tell you and that is really close to my heart is the human
person, that which concerns man. I
know that you know this but as I work with them in Africa, my frailty appears
more vividly before my eyes. Since I cannot stand alone, it is much easier to
have an intuition of man's greatness and of how much the human being is worth,
an absolutely unassailable value.
human person is something which internally contains a complexity or mixture of
emotion, wrath, reaction and tenderness which is inconceivable in any other
natural phenomenon. Therefore the things we use such as time, money, food,
medicines are but a tool an expression for telling the person that they are
worth more than the whole world is worth and that they are responsible for this
and for their own lives. It is not a collective responsibility. If it is not
belonging to every single man, then it is not necessary, but completely useless.
That is why we need responsible people to look up to. To be precise when using
instruments on a person you need to
love that person, and have consideration for that person.
the face of the drama of the life we lead in Africa - diseases, wars, conflicts - to be part of our happiness, we
need someone having passion for our dignity, and respect for our person.
teacher used to tell me that the novelty in the world is when man belongs to
something, for it is within the experience of belonging that everything changes.
From this a new society, a new civilisation can be generated.
is what I have seen happen in my life and in the lives of the people I care for.
It seemed something abstract, but then I saw people change, I saw the sick that
I thought would never change, change - and they have changed me, too.
children who call me Mum - because they have found life. The prostitute
Vicky who says, "I do not know what 'Meeting Point' is, but what I
do know is that there are people who care for me, and that I want to live for
them - Akello's children, a woman
at the refugees' camp.
I have already said that belonging to someone appears as something abstract,
instead it is the awareness of what the human person is. The responsibility
toward the dignity of that person can change the face of the world and go as far
as tearing down the structures that frame it. What I wish is that the object of
my work is One, that is to say the relationship with a friend. It is this
position that can make me change and create something new within the existing