Catholic bishops tell African political leaders to come clean

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VATICAN CITY (RNS) An international meeting of Catholic bishops called on Africa’s political leaders to be “saints” who “clean the continent of corruption.”

The unusually strong language came in the official message of the Vatican’s Synod for Africa, which was released on Friday (Oct. 23), the day before the meeting’s concluding session.

“We tried to address (African politicians) with clarity, with charity, but also with sincerity,” Nigerian archbishop John Onaiyekan, president of the Synod’s message committee, told Vatican Radio. “Our leaders should do more than they are doing.”

Bishops from around the world, including Archbishop Wilton Gregory of Atlanta, the highest-ranking black prelate in the U.S. church, have been meeting at the Vatican since Oct. 4 to address the theme: “The Church in Africa in Service to Reconciliation, Justice and Peace.” Their proceedings will eventually serve as the basis for an authoritative papal document on the subject.

Lamenting the violent conflict plaguing much of the continent, including Sudan and Guinea, the bishops’ concluding message stated that “in most cases we are dealing with greed for power and wealth at the expense of the people and nation.”

The bishops’ statement is a less diplomatic version of an appeal made by Pope Benedict XVI, when he ended a week-long visit to Africa in March by urging citizens of war-ravaged Angola to work for “national reconciliation,” and reminded the country’s longstanding president of government’s duty to serve the “common good.”

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