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On the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the John Paul II Foundation for the Sahel, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, S.D.B., Secretary of State, addressed a letter to those taking part in the commemorative celebrations in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso. The following is a translation of the Cardinal’s letter, which was written in French and dated 6 February 2009.

Pope Benedict XVI addresses his cordial greetings to the participants at the Foundation’s solemn commemorative celebration that is taking place in Ouagadougou, assuring them of his fervent prayers. Following the appeal to the whole world launched by Pope John Paul II on 10 May 1980 for the countries of the Sahel particularly affected by drought, hunger and desertification, the Foundation undertook to guarantee the Catholic Church’s special aid in the fight against the evils that undermine the dignity of these populations.

Pope John Paul II’s prophetic gesture, deeply appreciated by the local peoples, has enabled Christians to work for the benefit of all, without distinction, in collaboration with Muslims and with those who practise the African Traditional Religion. On this anniversary, the Holy Father wishes to mention in particular the names of Cardinal Bernardin Gantin, then President of the Pontifical Council Cor Unum and of Cardinal Paul Zoungrana, Archbishop of Ouagadougou, who, together with the latter’s predecessor, were in a certain way the “Fathers” of the Foundation – without forgetting Cardinal Roger Etchegaray, who was its first legal representative, and Cardinal Paul Josef Cordes, the current President of the Pontifical Council Cor Unum.

Pope Benedict XVI gives thanks to God for the work achieved under the direction of the successive General Secretaries during the past 25 years thanks to the solidarity of several local Churches, especially of the Italian Bishops’ Conference and of the faithful in Germany. He prays the Lord that the generosity of all may enable the Foundation to persevere effectively in its fight against the evils that prevent the peoples in the countries of the Sahel from achieving authentic development.

The journey which the Holy Father will be making to Africa in the month of March, in addition to the celebration in Rome in October of the Second Special Assembly for Africa of the Synod of Bishops, are eloquent signs of the important place that the African continent occupies in the life of the universal Church and of the special affection that Pope Benedict XVI feels for the whole of Africa. He is pleased that the Jubilee of the John Paul II Foundation for the Sahel should be marked by these events.

His Holiness cordially imparts an affectionate Apostolic Blessing to the generous donors, as well as to all those who are taking part in the commemorative celebrations for the 25th anniversary.


L'Osservatore Romano, English edition [ORE], 25 February 2009, p. 11