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John Paul II's Apostolic Visit to Zimbabwe

10th - 13th September 1988

Click here to read Pope John Paul II's words during his trip.

Pope John Paul II's Address at the Welcome Ceremony
International Airport of Harare - Saturday, 10 September 1988 - in English & Italian

"Mr President, My brother Bishops, Brothers and Sisters in Christ, Dear Friends,
1. In kissing Zimbabwe's soil, I have wished to honour the entire nation and show my gratitude to Almighty God who enables me to visit your beloved country. I give thanks to him from the depths of my heart for ringing me once more to Africa: continent of hope and promise for the future of mankind.

It is fitting that my pastoral visit to five countries of Southern Africa should begin here, in Zimbabwe, a nation making a new beginning, where a new era of peace and reconciliation is taking shape – in the midst of not a few difficulties – a nation to which the whole of Africa, and indeed the world, looks for a sign that a better future can be built on the basis of justice and brotherhood under God, without discrimination.

2. Mr President, I wish to express to you my deep gratitude for the welcome to Zimbabwe which you have extended to me. When you visited the Vatican in May 1982 you asked me to come to your country, and recently you renewed that cordial invitation. I express my heartfelt appreciation to you, to the members of the Government and to the entire population who have so warmly welcomed me as a friend.

Within Africa Zimbabwe is the country which has most recently come to independence. Your people vividly recall the midnight between 17 and 18 April 1980 when the national flag was raised and the new Republic was proclaimed, inaugurating what you yourself called a “time for reconciliation, reconstruction and nation-building”. These noble words still constitute the goal which inspires your efforts and those of your fellow-citizens. Such a programme offers an appropriate framework for the effective and practical collaboration of all sectors of society on the path of progress and peace. I assure you of my prayerful support and encouragement.

I also wish to greet you, Mr President, in your capacity as current Chairman of the International Movement of Non-Aligned Nations. Zimbabwe and the other members of this group affirm what I spoke of in my recent Encyclical, namely: “the right of every people to its own identity, independence and security, as well as the right to share, on a basis of equality and solidarity, in the goods intended for all” (Sollicitudo Rei Socialis, 21).  In this regard I would repeat something I said on a previous visit to this continent: “It is my conviction that all Africa, when allowed to take charge of its own affairs, without being subjected to interference and pressure from any outside powers or groups, will not only astound the rest of the world by its achievements, but will be able to share its wisdom, its sense of life, its reverence for God with other continents and nations, thus establishing that exchange and that partnership in the mutual respect that is needed for the true progress of all humanity” (12 Feb 1982).

3. Unfortunately, in the Southern African region these rights are far from being fully respected, these aspirations far from being fulfilled. Powerful political, economic and ideological forces endanger the still fragile stability of countries which are only beginning to consolidate their recently acquired independence. Those forces impede the self-determination of peoples; they foment ideological, ethnic and tribal conflicts; they delay the process of development.

Where instances of serious injustice have caused and continue to cause immense suffering, hope for a peaceful outcome and just solution must include genuine and sincere dialogue between opposing viewpoints. This is true for the grave issue of apartheid and for all violations of human rights. I appeal to all those who bear responsibility for the destiny of the peoples of this region, of whatever racial extraction or ideological inspiration, to renounce the use of violence as a method for achieving their ends. They have a duty before history to resolve their differences by peaceful means, in the only way consonant with man’s transcendent calling. The time for such steps is now!

4. The main purpose of my present pilgrimage is to visit my brothers and sisters of the Catholic faith. I am overjoyed to be among you and to rejoice with you in the faith and sacramental life that unites us in the Body of Christ. I look forward to celebrating this unity with you in the Eucharist. I come to encourage you all, especially you, my brother bishops and priests, in the great task of evangelization and in your many services to the national community.

I also greet my brothers and sisters, representatives and leaders of the other Ecclesial Communities in Zimbabwe. I express to you my sincere affection in our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

As a pilgrim of peace, seeking to follow the example of Jesus Christ, the Good Shepherd, I salute all the citizens of Zimbabwe: the men and women of every walk of life, the children, the young, the old; in a special way, the sick and the poor, and all who are burdened in body or in spirit. May God’s love embrace every one of you.

God bless Zimbabwe! God bless Africa!"

Blessed John Paul II's Act of Entrustment of Zimbabwe to Mary
at the Angelus - Harare, Sunday, 11 September 1988 - in English & Italian

"At the conclusion of this Sacred Liturgy, let us turn with filial love to Mary, the Mother of God, the Mother of the Eucharistic Christ.

In the Liturgy of the Word in today’s Mass, we recalled Peter’s response to Jesus: “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God”. Peter was the first to make such a public profession of faith. But, long before Peter’s profession, Mary already believed.

You, Blessed Virgin of Nazareth, You, O woman of faith,
You listened to the message of the Angel Gabriel.
You put your trust in God’s word.
You accepted in faith that the Son whom you would conceive and bear would be called “Son of the Most High” (Luc. 1, 32).

On this day, Mary, Help of Christians, I entrust to you in love all the people of Zimbabwe. See the faith of those gathered here in prayer. We too have received the wonderful grace of knowing and believing in Jesus, your only Son, and the Son of God.

But Mary, Our Lady of Mount Carmel, see how our faith is tested and how at times we waver. Plead with the Father on our behalf. Ask him to overshadow us with his Holy Spirit. Let the Spirit strengthen our fearful hearts and enlighten our doubting minds so that we may firmly believe, as you did, that “nothing is impossible to God” (Luc. 1, 37).

O Mary, the Immaculate Conception,

You yourself never sinned, and from the beginning you were preserved from sin’s harmful effects on your soul. Yet you knew the depths of human suffering and the terrible extent of evil in the world, for you stood at the foot of the Cross and shared with a Mother’s pierced heart in the Passion and Death of your Son.

You know, most gentle Mother, how this nation has suffered, suffered during the War for Independence and from acts of violence in various places in the years that have followed. You are Our Lady of Peace, and this day we gladly turn to you under this title.

Look upon these sons and daughters of yours, whom I confidently entrust to you today. They have known the horrors of hatred and violence. They hunger for justice and peace. They desire reconciliation and harmony among the tribes and races of Zimbabwe, among all the peoples of the earth.

Your beloved Son died on the Cross “to gather together in unity the scattered children of God” (Io. 11, 52). We are a people who believe that Jesus died for us all. We believe that Jesus lives for us all. We believe that he is the Prince of Peace. Pray for us, O Holy Mother of God. Obtain for us the favour of believing ever more firmly in the Victory of the Cross, and of living in loving communion with Jesus and with all our brothers and sisters.

And now, in the words of the Angelus, let us join our hearts and voices in prayer."

Blessed John Paul II's words to the Zimbabwean Young People
at Glamis Stadium, Harare on Sunday, 11 September 1988 - in English & Italian

Dear Young Friends,
1. Thank you for the warm welcome you have given me! I hold each one of you and all Zimbabwean young people in my heart. Bishop Reckter’s presentation and the sincere and thoughtful words of your representative show that you are conscious of the grace that is ours – here, today, in the Harare Showground: we are together in Christ!

Are the young people of Zimbabwe as happy to meet the Pope as the Pope is to meet you?

Yes, I am sure that you are happy, because Christ has brought us together in his name. We share the same Baptism into the death and resurrection of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. We are God’s adopted children, brothers and sisters in the one family, members of the Church, the body of Christ.

In the Church you are never alone. You have been present in the prayers of so many brothers and sisters all over the world – and you have been in my prayers – both during the difficult years before independence and now that you face the challenges of the future.

The symbolism of your traditional dance has vividly expressed the sentiments that fill our hearts at this moment. Thank you for the beautiful way in which you have expressed our friendship.

2. There are many things the Pope would like to say to you, the young people of Zimbabwe. First of all, I want to remind you that you are Christ’s friends. You are his brothers and sisters. St John tells us that our love for Christ originates in his love for us. He writes: “We are to love... because he loved us first” (1 Jn 4, 19).

Christ loved us first. He loves us as a brother and as a friend. The Gospels describe Jesus as a friend of many people whose lives he touched. To the Apostles he said: “You are my friends... I call you friends, because I have made known to you everything I have learnt from my Father” (Jn 15, 14-15). At the tomb of his friend Lazarus “Jesus wept; and the Jews said, ‘See how much he loved him!‘”. The Gospels tell how the children flocked to him and even sinners and outcasts were considered his friends. St Mark says about a young man who asked about the way to eternal life, that is, to salvation, that “Jesus looked steadily at him and loved him” (Mk 10, 21). Unfortunately, the young man did not accept Jesus’ invitation to follow him. He could not bring himself to accept the conditions of Jesus’ friendship.

For to be Jesus’ friend and brother is above all to know him and to do what he has commanded.

3. Some of you may say that it would have been easy to know Jesus when he travelled around the towns and villages of Galilee and Judea, preaching and doing good. You may say that it is hard to think of yourself as a brother of someone who lived so long ago.

But no, Jesus Christ is alive today and always! This is our faith. This is the source of everything it means to be a Christian.

Jesus not only died for us – he rose from the dead, and there at God’s right hand he pleads for us. Ever since the day of Pentecost the Risen Jesus has been present in his Church, above all in the sacraments, and especially the EucharistHe has become one with every human being, so that when we serve our brothers and sisters for love of him, we truly love and serve Jesus himself. That is what he means when he tells us that whatever we do for the least of our brothers and sisters, we do to him.

This is how you young people of Zimbabwe can prove your love for Christ. You must help other people. You must serve them. And you can help and serve your brothers and sisters in Christ by building up a world in which the dignity of everybody will be acknowledged, defended and respected, where there will be no discrimination based on race or colour or national origin!

Remember, when God looks at you, he does not see a black face, or a white face, or a brown face; he sees the face of his Son, Christ. And when Christ looks at you, he looks “at your heart”. And he teaches each one of you – and all of us – to do the same!

When the Lord asks you, in the depths of your consciences, “Where is your brother?” you cannot, you must not answer like Cain who murdered his brother Abel. Cain asked the Lord in reply, “Am I my brother’s guardian?” (Gen 4,9). The answer is "yes". Yes, you are always the guardians and defenders of your brothers and sisters! You are their servants and their friends.The answer is “yes”. Yes, you are always the guardians and defenders of your brothers and sisters! You are their servants and their friends.

4. But it is not enough to act individually and alone. Many of you already belong to Catholic Youth Associations, Catholic Guilds and other groups where you pray together and do charitable and social work. Through these shared activities you can experience the meaning of those words of Jesus: “where two or three meet in my name, I shall be there with them” (Mt 18, 20). You can discover the joy of being partners with each other and partners with Christ in the cause of his kingdom.

Are you, the young people of Zimbabwe, ready to build up a strong and lasting brotherhood with Jesus?
Are you ready to be his partners and disciples?
Are you ready to give up passing interests and attractions in order to join him in the cause of his kingdom – that kingdom of justice and mercy, of reconciliation and peace?

Are you ready to work with your bishops and priests and with the religious sisters and brothers to build up the Church in your parishes and in your country, for the sake of spreading the Good News of Jesus Christ?

Your willingness to do this is what gives the Church and the Pope confidence in the future. You are the future of Zimbabwe! You are the future of the Church! You are the future that the Pope prays for every day!

5. Some of you will hear Jesus calling you, softly but insistently, to follow him in the priesthood or in the religious life. Listen to his voice deep in your hearts! Look around you! See his need of you in the faces of the children, the elderly, the sick and suffering people of your land! “The harvest is rich `but the labourers are few”. When you feel the call to “something more”, and when the Sermon on the Mount – the Beatitudes – fills your heart with a new sense of purpose, do not silence that call! Let it develop into the maturity of a vocation! Respond to it in prayer and greater fidelity to Christ’s commandments!

6. The second subject of my conversation with you and with the young people of Africa concerns your family life. Families are the basic units of society. If there is peace within families, there will be peace in society. Africa’s traditional cultural values are closely connected with a tightly knit family life, with special love for children and respect for the aged. You, as young Africans, must not let this human treasure disappear. Do not become enticed by a new way of life that does not bring with it genuine human progress, but only an appearance of progress, made up of a material development that benefits some but leaves many others abandoned along the way. Only through the values of love and life can families become strong and stable and so care for their members effectively. When a society does not protect these values, only unfavourable results can follow, not the true prosperity and peace that people long for.

7. At times young people do not appreciate the importance of family life. In fact you may take your family for granted. You do this if you refuse to help support your family, if you adopt attitudes and behaviour contrary to family life, or if you become involved in drugs, or follow the paths of violence or sexual irresponsibility.

As Christians, you are called to be builders of a healthy and moral family life. You must help to make your families truly “domestic churches”, where God is present in all the daily joys and concerns of the family members, where prayer and worship, mutual understanding and forgiveness, encouragement and love are the atmosphere you breathe. If you are builders of peace within your families now, your own future families will be communities of faith and holiness, of self-sacrifice and responsibility. The truth of Jesus Christ should be the standard of your lives, in theory and in practice. When other models and values are presented as “progress” or “liberation”, measure them against the “truth” of Christ, and his promise will become a reality in your lives. Jesus promises us: “If you make my word your home you will indeed be my disciples, you will learn the truth and the truth will make you free” (Jn 8, 31-32).

8. Dear young friends, my third word of encouragement concerns your contribution as Catholics to the development of your country. I am speaking here about your responsibility to grow up into loyal and dedicated citizens of Zimbabwe. I am talking about your duty to make the best use of your education and training, so that you may lead useful and productive lives for the common good.

I should like you young people of Zimbabwe to be convinced followers of the “gospel of work”. The “gospel of work” means that our daily “toil”, whatever it may be, is good for us. It is also necessary for the society in which we live. It implies that our work is an important part of our lives, provided that it always expresses and increases our human dignity.

Work does this because it serves the community, permits a fuller sharing in the social and cultural life of one’s country and, above all, constitutes a magnificent way of collaborating with the Creator in “harvesting” the resources and values contained in creation itself.

And yet, I know that many young Africans are unemployed, and will find it very hard to obtain work in the future. This is the sad situation of so many young people all over the world! Without any fault of your own, many of you are deprived of the means to further your personal development and to fulfil your hopes, namely, a job, a profession. What is needed is the support of other people. I know that your bishops are setting up programmes to provide training and other assistance, especially in rural areas. And I will continue to appeal for a new international economic order that will enable developing countries to expand their economic bases without accepting undue burdens or dependence on the more developed nations. But solutions to unemployment are best found in initiatives and collaboration at a local level. I encourage you to have confidence in yourselves. And know that the Pope is at your side with his support and his prayers as you look for concrete and imaginative ways of dealing with the problem.

Remember, my friends, that work has everything to do with union with God. Prayer and religious duties do not begin only when work and other commitments end. Remember the example of Jesus of Nazareth, “the carpenter’s son” (Mt 13, 55) and a “carpenter” himself. His work was also his way of doing the will of his heavenly Father. On this subject I am sure that your bishops and priests and teachers will have more to say to you in the light of the social doctrine of the Church.

9. Young people of Zimbabwe: the reading from St Paul’s Letter to the Romans which you have heard today is my parting word to you: “Bless your persecutors... Never repay injury with injury... See that your conduct is honourable in the eyes of all... Do not be conquered by evil but conquer evil with good” (Rom 12, 14-21).

Our meeting is coming to an end. But be sure that I will carry you always in my heart. We are united in brotherhood with our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. We will be united in prayer: Prayer that is open to the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of truth and love; prayer that knows how to approach Mary, our Mother in the Church, asking her to intercede with God for the needs of your country and of the world.

God bless you! God bless all the young people of Zimbabwe!"

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Father Peter on John Paul II   ¤

Father Peter Nkomazana CMM, a Marianhill Missionary priest, was an altar boy at Mass with Pope John Paul II, at the race course of Borowdale Park in Harare (on 11th September). Father Peter speaks here of JPII's leadership: as a spiritual father, as a man of prayer who was deep in contemplation.