Pope Francis performs a high-wire act as he courts followers in Africa
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The progressive pontifex is visiting parts of Africa this week, and must fulfill a balancing act that looks towards the expansion of his church and the ideological clashes that are coming up along the way.
Who is he? Someone looking towards the future.
What's the big deal? The pope made headlines last week after giving an interview to the Associated Press in which he decried the criminalization of homosexuality. The move surprised many given the Catholic Church's track record on the issue. (Although he later reiterated that Catholic moral teaching says any sexual act outside of marriage is a sin)
What are people saying?
NPR correspondent Emmanuel Akinwotu is following the trip. He spoke to Morning Edition about some of the tension at play.
"The African church is more socially conservative on certain issues, such as around sexuality and divorce. And broadly, the clergy in Africa are not as fond of him, maybe, as they were of the more conservative predecessor, Pope Benedict."
Akinwotu also delved into why the trip matters for the church's numbers.
"This is where the church sees much of its future. 20% of the world's 1.4 billion Catholics are here on the continent, and it's the fastest growing part of the Catholic Church. And as it grows, it's going to have a greater sway on its identity. You know, anyone who's attended mass in the West and here in many parts of Africa knows that Catholicism here usually brings a different energy and sense of spirituality.
For his part, the pope is sticking closely to the script, saying in his address in Kinshasa:
"It is a tragedy that these lands, and more generally the whole African continent, continue to endure various forms of exploitation. The poison of greed has smeared its diamonds with blood ... Hands off the Democratic Republic of the Congo! Hands off Africa! Stop choking Africa. It is not a mine to be stripped or a terrain to be plundered."
The #DemocraticRepublicOfTheCongo and #Africa deserve to be respected and listened to. They deserve to find space and receive attention. Stop choking Africa: it is not a mine to be stripped or a terrain to be plundered. May Africa be the protagonist of its own destiny!— Pope Francis (@Pontifex) January 31, 2023
So, what now?
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