Monday, 14 September 2015

Catholic Herald: The Pope must choose his words carefully during his visit to Africa

Catholic Herald: The Pope must choose his words carefully during his visit to Africa

Article by Father Alexander Lucie-Smith

'Finally, the Pope has of course written a book, or rather an encyclical, about the environment, and ecological questions are of pressing urgency in Africa. The countries he will visit are industrialising after quite a few fits and starts, and this is important for them, given their growing (though still modest) populations. More and more people are moving to cities, where they live in often squalid conditions. The Pope might well visit the notorious slum of Kibera in Nairobi (it is served by missionaries from Mexico) but if he does, he should see Kibera as in part at least as a success story.

People come together to live in such places because there are jobs nearby, and they can live cheaply there; large and dense urban populations are the engine of economic and social development. Kibera, for example, is packed full of schools, traders, craftsmen, service-providers, churches and bars. It is filthy, but it gives opportunities the countryside does not offer, just as London did in the nineteenth century. London then was as packed and squalid as Kibera is today.'

I am also concerned about the impact of the Holy Father's visit. One huge problem in Africa is a common attitude that the West should always be giving Africans money, food and other resources. With his emphasis on poverty and social justice, Pope Francis could encourage this sense of entitlement in Africa, when what Africa needs most is the development of markets and wealth-creation.

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