Africa: Reactions to The Beatification of Pope John Paul II

Des photos du Bienheureux Jean-Paul II aux abords du Colisée

Portraits of the Blessed John Paul II in the streets outside the Colosseum. Photo – Abkodo2 for GV

From 29th April to 2nd May hundreds of thousands of mostly young pilgrims from all around the world landed on Rome to participate in religious ceremonies for the beatification of Pope John Paul II, known as “JP2”, declared “Blessed” on May 1st by his successor, Benedict XVI, in the presence of official delegations from 87 countries and 2,300 journalists. In central Rome, posters of JP2 were pasted on all the bus stops, power poles and some taxis [all links in French].

During his pontificate, John Paul II made 104 apostolic voyages outside Italy, out of which about 40 to Africa. From the more than 150 million African Catholics, we would have expected an emotional homage but the event was celebrated quietly, and was sometimes the subject of criticisms on African blogospheres.

In Kinshasa, the capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), the apostolic nuncio Mgr Adolfo Tito Yllana presided over an official Eucharistic celebration in Notre Dame cathedral. Catholics here celebrate the memory of this pontiff every year, as Bienvenu Ipan reminds readers on

Bien avant cette messe de béatification, la Chaire Jean Paul II a organisé, le lundi 25 avril 2011, un concert de musique classique en hommage à Karol Wojtyla. Mais aussi, pour célébrer le sixième anniversaire du « retour vers le Père du serviteur de Dieu, de ce vulnérable pape Jean Paul II».

Well  before this mass of beatification, the  John Paul II Department organized on Monday, April 25, 2011, a classical music concert in tribute of Karol Wojtyla. It was also meant to celebrate the sixth anniversary of the “return to the Father of the servant of God, this vulnerable Pope, John Paul II.”

In Senegal, Thierou expresses his admiration for JP2 on

Pour moi qui suis musulman, le Pape Jean Paul II a rempli une mission au service non seulement de la foi chrétienne, mais aussi au service de la foi universelle en Dieu. A mon avis, sa résistance face à ceux, nihilistes et autres lobbyistes, qui cherchaient à le faire démissionner lorsque physiquement il fut au plus mal, cette résistance donc s'est soldée par une éclatante victoire de la foi sur les ennemis de l'église.

For me, a Muslim, Pope John Paul II fulfilled a mission not only in service of the Christian faith but also in service of the universal faith in God. In my opinion his resistance, in the face of nihilists and other lobbyists who were trying to get him to resign when his health was at his lowest, shows a shining victory of faith over the enemies of the church.

However, is struck by the contradictory track record of John Paul II:

Progressiste dans certains domaines, ce pape était aussi étonnamment rétrograde sur les questions de société : contraception, ordination des femmes, célibat des prêtres, divorce, remariage. Et Jean-Paul II perdit sans conteste son droit à la béatification en ne parvenant pas à fixer une norme juridique pour évincer les pédophiles de la prêtrise.

While progressive in some fields, this Pope was also astonishingly reactionary on society issues about contraception, ordination of women, celibacy of priests, divorce, remarriage. And John Paul II loses his right to beatification, without contest, by not having determined a legal standard in order to oust the paedophiles of the priesthood.

Blogger Jacky is still outraged by the paedophilia scandals revealed under John Paul II’s pontificate, which he did not firmly denounce:

A l'occasion de cette cérémonie, je pense à toutes les victimes des pédophiles protégés par Jean Paul II au cours de son pontificat.Pour lui les souffrances des enfants ainsi martyrisés comptaient moins que la réputation de son Eglise. Jean Paul II complices des pédophiles ? Je ne franchirai pas le pas mais quand même oublier tant de victimes au cours de son procès de béatification, c'est navrant !

On the occasion of this ceremony, I’m thinking of all the victims of paedophiles protected by John Paul II during his pontificate. For him, the suffering of children martyred like this counts less than the Church’s reputation. John Paul II, the accomplice of paedophiles? I won’t go there, but really, to forget so many victims during the process of his beatification, this is disturbing!

On weekly Jeune Afrique, Tshitenge Lubabu M.K. recalls the abuses in several provinces of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya and Uganda by those they call the sango bidoba in the common Lingala language of the Congo (literally “fornicating priests”):

L'affaire qui, ces dernières années, a eu le plus grand retentissement en Afrique francophone concerne un prêtre français, le père François Lefort des Ylouses, qui a officié au Sénégal au milieu des années 1990.

In recent years, the scandal which has had the greatest repercussions in francophone Africa concerns a French priest, Father François Lefort des Ylouses, who officiated in Senegal in the mid-90s.

The article refers to other cases in several provinces of the RDC, in Kenya and in Uganda. 

Afaithful awaits the beatification of Pope John Paul II, Saint Peter’s Square in Rome. Photo – Giuseppe Cicci. Copyright Demotix.

On the day of his beatification, another scandal has made African bloggers react: the attendance of the solemn mass by the Presidents of Cameroon, Congo, Togo and Zimbabwe and two deputies of President Dos Santos of Angola, all considered to be dictators and all accused of atrocities against their own people. The first two, Paul Biya and Denis Sassou Nguessou are involved in the «Biens mal acquis» (”ill-gotten gains“) controversy. As for President Robert Mugabe, he is wanted by the International Criminal Court and banned from Europe, but the Vatican has nevertheless invited him


Commentator patricedusud, on is shocked:

A quoi servent les condamnations unanimes des états si le pape peut inviter en toute impunité  Robert Mugabe, le président du Zimbabwe, à la béatification de son prédécesseur ?
Il avait déjà été invité dans l’indifférence générale aux obsèques de Jean Paul II en 2005.
Jean Paul II se retournera-t-il dans sa tombe lorsque le tyran aux mains pleines de sang s’inclinera sur son cercueil ?

What good are unanimous condemnations by various countries if the Pope can invite Robert Mugabe, president of Zimbabwe, with complete impunity, to the beatification of his predecessor? In 2005, no one showed the slightest interest when he was invited to the funeral of John Paul II. Will John Paul II turn in his grave when this tyrant with blood-covered hands pays his last respects? published the official reaction of the Vatican:

(…) le porte-parole du Saint Siège, le père Federico Lombardi, a observé que « le Zimbabwe est un Etat avec lequel le Saint-Siège entretient des relations diplomatiques ». « Il n’y a donc rien à cacher » sur la présence de ce président africain qui sera aux côtés de quinze autres chefs d’Etat du monde entier, a-t-il dit.

(…) the spokesman for the Holy see, Father Federico Lombardi, observed that “Zimbabwe is a State with which the Holy see maintains diplomatic relations.” “Therefore, there is nothing to hide” about the presence of this African president who will be there with fifteen other Heads of State from around the world, he said.

Cameroonian Joël Didier Engo  published a virulent article the following day, 2nd May, on the blog nousbouger, “What makes African tyrants run to the West?”:

Comment analyser la propension des tyrans africains et de leurs suites à se précipiter en Occident à la moindre occasion? Ils y prennent visiblement beaucoup de plaisir…mais s'avèrent chroniquement incapables de s'offrir le même environnement socio-politique, technologique, sanitaire en Afrique.

How do we analyse the propensity of African tyrants and their retinues to rush towards the West at the least opportunity? Obviously, they take great pleasure in it… yet they prove to be chronically incapable of providing the same socio-political, technological and sanitary environment in Africa.

However, in Italy, this video, more than anything else, amused the blogosphere; it shows the embarrassment of the President of the Italian Republic, Giorgio Napolitano, seeing Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi asleep during the beatification ceremony.

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