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Saint John Paul II's Pilgrimage to The Gambia

23rd - 24th February 1992

Pope John Paul II was a pilgrim to The Gambia during his 54th apostolic voyage, on which he also visited Senegal and Guinea.

Pope John Paul II's words at the Welcome Ceremony
Yundun International Airport, Banjul, Sunday 23 February 1992 - in English & Italian

"Your Excellency President Jawara, Bishop Cleary, Distinguished Friends,
1. It is with a heart filled with joyful gratitude to God that I come to The Gambia. I have kissed the ground of your country as a sign of esteem, an expression of heartfelt friendship towards you all.

Mister President, I deeply appreciate your kind words of welcome, in which I hear the echo of the warm hospitality and noble sentiments of all Gambians. I greet you, the members of the Government and the civil authorities, and I thank you for all that you have done to make this visit possible. My cordial good wishes go to all who are present here, and to all who are listening to my voice on the Radio.

2. I know that I have come to a country which has a proud tradition of peaceful co–existence among its people, a country in which the ideals of tolerance, justice and freedom are held in the highest regard. You have embarked on the difficult but vitally necessary task of social and economic development for the benefit of all your people. I pray for the success of these efforts, confident that Gambians will know how to meet the challenges of the present with the wisdom and determination which mark their cultural and spiritual heritage. I can only encourage those responsible for the well–being of Gambian society to continue to be guided by a coherent vision of the common good, which ultimately implies a vivid consciousness of the dignity and the rights of the person – of all individuals without discrimination, with particular sensitivity to the needs of the weaker members of society (cf JPII, Centesimus Annus, 47).

Respect for the human person, for the individual’s rights and freedoms, is at the very heart of the democratic multi–party system of government to which you are deeply committed. As a result, all citizens can feel that they are fully at home in their own land, and that they can contribute effectively to the wellbeing of their country and work for its good name in the international community. They can support the nation’s efforts to build ever better relations with other countries both near and far. In this respect, Mister President, I wish to acknowledge with appreciation your resolute efforts to bring about a solution to the sad conflict in Liberia. May God grant peace and justice to that sorely tried land!

3. Naturally, my visit has special significance for the Catholic community of The Gambia. As Pope, the Successor of Saint Peter, I must be for the whole Church a "visible source and foundation of unity of faith and fellowship" (Lumen Gentium, 18). I look forward to praying with Bishop Cleary and all my brothers and sisters in the faith. I wish to strengthen them in their fidelity to the Gospel of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, and in their strong traditions of service to Gambian society.

Catholics in The Gambia see themselves as true sons and daughters of this land, an integral part of the family that is the Gambian nation. They proudly join their brothers and sisters in singing your National Anthem:

"Na njubai sama sunyu jef
jublu chi sunyu njeka u bah
te bole sunyu nit nyi nyep
di wone askan u nit".

("Let justice guide our actions towards the common good, and join our diverse people to prove man’s brotherhood").

Brotherhood among all the citizens of a country is indeed an essential condition for that country’s welfare and development. Policies of justice, solidarity and service of the common good are the path along which Gambian society can move with confidence towards an ever more widespread prosperity and stable peace. The Catholic community will continue to do all it can to support a development which benefits everyone and leads to a society truly worthy of man. Our faith in Christ obliges us to bear witness to "the gospel of peace" (Eph 6, 15), in obedience to him who said: "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God" (Mt 5, 9).

4. At this moment of happy encounter with The Gambia, I wish to extend a special word of esteem and friendship to all the members of the Muslim community. I am grateful for the presence of so many at this meeting today, and I know that it reflects the good relations existing here between the two traditions.

The Catholic Church everywhere, as also here in The Gambia, welcomes opportunities for Christians and Muslims to know each other better, to share with each other their reverence for God, and to cooperate in serving the human family. Catholics rejoice in the religious freedom which marks your society, and which makes it possible for the majority Muslim community and the Christian community to live together in respect and accord. Like the Patriarch Abraham, we are all pilgrims on the path of seeking to do God’s will in everything. Although we differ in many ways, there are important elements of our respective faiths which can serve as a basis for fruitful dialogue and a strengthening of the spirit of tolerance and mutual help.

For this year’s World Day of Peace I published a Message in which I wrote: "In the sacred books of the different religions, references to peace occupy a prominent place in the context of man’s life and his relationship with God.... It can be said that a religious life, if it is lived authentically, cannot fail to bring forth fruits of peace and brotherhood, for it is in the nature of religion to foster an ever closer bond with the Godhead and to promote an increasingly fraternal relationship among people". Confident in this conviction, I renew an appeal I have made many times: Let goodwill and peace govern our relations! Let us always be willing to speak to each other and listen to each other! Let the conscience of every individual be fully respected, so that the image of God in each one will shine forth and bear abundant fruits of justice, peace and love! There is so much that we can and must do together!

5. The world is living through a time of changing economic and political relationships, a time not without grave problems and even fears for the future. As a result, and in spite of its own immense human and natural resources, Africa is finding it difficult to meet the old challenges of poverty, hunger and ethnic rivalries, and the new challenges of materialism, the tragic spread of AIDS and the deadly onslaught of the drug culture.

The Holy See avails itself of every occasion to remind the international community that it must not let itself be distracted to the point of neglecting its duties to this Continent. For this reason, during my visit to Senegal, I drew attention once again to the urgent needs of the Sahel Region. I ask the developed nations to give assistance wherever it is needed, but also to share their know–how, technology and skill, so that Africans themselves can be the principal artisans of their own advancement. I beg the leaders of Africa to encourage education at every level, so that their peoples may gain the knowledge and technical competence needed to ensure genuine progress.

6. Mister President, dear Friends: my prayer for you and for all Gambians is that you will go forward and build a national community that will be a haven of brotherhood and peace. God grant that The Gambia will ever be a safe and happy homeland for its people, a hospitable land where respect for the dignity of the human person will come before all other interests and concerns.

Na yalla wasal barken ju bare chi Gambia."
(May God bestow upon The Gambia his abundant blessings!)

St John Paul II's homily at Mass with the faithful of the diocese of Banjul
Independence Stadium, Banjul, Sunday 23 February 1992 - in English & Italian

"Nekal horom u aduna si! Nekaò ler u aduna si!
(Be the salt of the earth! Be the light of the world!) (cf Mt 5, 13-16).

Dear Brothers and Sisters,
1. These words, chosen as the theme of the Papal visit to The Gambia, echo the Sermon on the Mount and are a vivid reminder of your Christian identity and mission in the world. For a long time I have wished to come to you, to confirm you in your profession of faith and to encourage you in your Christian life, "so that, seeing your good works, (all) may give praise to your Father in heaven" (Mt 5, 16).

Suma nawle Bishop Cleary – njabalekat yi nyi jaybalu ngir yon nyepa ni boka chi jangu kotolic bi chi Gambia: suma mboki kerchen yi, nyi nyu boka di haru – "sunyu yakar ju tehe – nyow u ndam u sonyu yalla ju maga bi ak sunyu musackat Yesu Krista:

Suma haritu serieng si, sen tewai chi hewte gi ni wone na mandarga harito te di firnday legaye gu maga gi serienge si ak kerchen yi muna def di utu jama ak njem kanam:

(Dear Bishop Cleary and all the priests, Religious and laity of the Diocese of Banjul, Dear fellow–Christians, with whom we await "our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Saviour Jesus Christ" (Ti. 2, 13): Dear Muslim Friends, whose presence at this celebration is a sign of friendship and a token of the great work that Christians and Muslims can do together in the cause of peace and progress):

The Successor of St Peter meets the Catholic community of The Gambia on this first day of the week, to celebrate the memorial of the Lord’s Passover from death to new life. Around this altar, the pilgrim Church in The Gambia is drawn into communion with the Blessed Trinity: the Father gives us the Son, so that we may be filled with his Holy Spirit. Here – in Independence Stadium, at Bakau, in The Gambia, in West Africa – we lift up our hearts to God in praise and thanksgiving for his gifts to the Church in this land.

2. Before all else we give thanks for the way in which God has established and built up his Church, first at the mouth of the River Gambia and then along its banks.

It is true that from the 15th century until recent times, outside interest in West Africa was often motivated by commercial and political ambition, when it did not involve the terrible scourge and evil of the slave–trade. However, that dark picture was partly lightened by the outstanding example of Christian men and women who had the true love of God in their hearts and wished only to serve the needs and well–being of the peoples of this region. I recall one significant example: Blessed Anne Marie Javouhey, who came to Saint Mary’s Island with three companions in 1821 to care for the sick, so that in their suffering they would know the tender compassion of Christ.

Nanyu len gerem jaybalekat yi njayka indi hibaar bu neh bi di ligil bi chi rew mi.
(We give thanks for the missionaries who first brought the Gospel to this land).

In obedience to Christ’s call, these courageous men and women left their own lands and came to The Gambia, in order to make known the mystery of salvation, to bear witness to the truths and values of the Gospel, to educate the young and to care for the needy.

To all who are listening to my voice I wish to say that the age of the missions is not over; Christ still needs generous men and women to become heralds of the Good News to the ends of the earth. Do not be afraid to follow him. Share freely with others the faith you have received! "No believer in Christ, no institution of the Church can avoid this supreme duty: to proclaim Christ to all peoples" (JPII, Redemptoris Missio, 3) .

3. At this Mass we give thanks to God that, from the tiny seed which the first missionaries planted, the Church in The Gambia has grown and is bearing abundant fruits of faith, hope and love. With affection I greet each priest and seminarian who is a native son of The Gambia, each Religious who is child of this land. In love I greet the laity, young and old, the parents of families, the children, the catechumens and, especially, the catechists and the members of the various Catholic Associations.

Mange nuyu wa Bakau, Lamen, Banjul ak Serekunda nyi fayto sowu ak nyepa nyi jogay chi kaw gi – wa Brikama, Bouyam ak Soma Farafeni, Kuntaur, bansang ak Basse.
(I greet the people from Bakau, Lamin, Banjul and Serrekunda here in the West, as well as those from up–country: from Brikama, Bwiam and Soma; from Farafenni, Kuntaur, Bansang and Basse).

4. Dear brothers and sisters, today’s reading from St Paul (1Cor 15, 45-49) explains that our true destiny is to pass from a "material" and earthly life to a "spiritual" and higher life in Christ. In the beginning God breathed a "living soul" (Gen 2, 7) into the first man, and Adam became a "living being" (1Cor 15, 45), the head and father of the entire human family in the order of nature. We are all the offspring of the first Adam, the man of dust, subject to the tyranny of sin and death (cf
1Cor 15, 49).

But by God’s grace in Baptism we have been recreated in the likeness of the second Adam, Jesus, the Son of the Father (cf Lk 3, 38). He too is a source of life for the whole human family: of a new life, which flows from "the life–giving spirit" (Lk 3, 45). This new life will appear in a definitive way at the moment of our resurrection, when even our earthly bodies will pass from death to immortality. Then we shall fully bear the image of the man of heaven, freed from the corruption of sin and death (cf Lk 3, 49). In fact, that image is already impressed on us, and is apparent in all our efforts to live by grace and to do the works of grace.

The All–Holy God has shared his own life with us sinners, out of the overflowing abundance of his love. Our first response then is to sing his praises before all the world: "O my soul, bless the Lord! All that is within me, bless his holy name!" (Ps 102 (101), 1-2). When we gather to pray, let us never forget his love and mercy. He has crowned us with the resplendent glory of the Saviour! (Ps 102, 2b-4)

5. Because we have died to sin and been raised up to God’s own life, we must walk always in this new life (cf Rom 6, 4-11). This new life, which began at Baptism, develops in us as we grow into the likeness of Christ who "humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross" (Phil 2, 8). Having been transformed from children of the old Adam into brothers and sisters of the new Adam, we are filled with his savour and aflame with his light.

Naka Krista bi nyun it war nanyo don horom u aduna si sepa–di ler u aduna si sepa.
(Like Christ, we too must be salt for the whole earth, light for the whole world).

Salt gives flavour and preserves. Light enables us to walk without stumbling. To be salt and light means to perform the works of evangelical love, works whereby the compassion of Christ touches those who are troubled in spirit or afflicted in body, works which transform human activity into a resplendent revelation of God’s presence and his merciful love. From the start, the Catholic community in The Gambia followed the pattern set forth in the Reading from Isaiah which we have heard today: its works of love caused a great light to shine in this land (cf Is 58, 7-10).

Insofar as you continue to act as the Prophet indicates, you cause the light of Christ to radiate up and down the banks of the River Gambia. When you supply the needs of the poor, relieve those bearing the yoke of oppression and battle against wickedness (cf Is 58, 7, 9b, 10), the Lord Jesus himself is at work in you, to shatter the darkness of sin and scatter the gloom of despair.

6. Today our world cries out for salt and light from God. Africa needs this savour and fire in order to preserve what is good and just in its traditional culture and values; in order to direct its search for solutions to its pressing problems; in order to enlighten and guide with wisdom its efforts to achieve greater development and a better life for its peoples.

Ne kalen horom, ak ler dimale Gambia m’u tahaw bo bah chi li mo heh.
(Be salt, be light, in order to help The Gambia to face these challenges!).

In a particular way, your nation needs the witness of strong Christian family life, for it is above all in the heart of a united and loving family that the young learn essential values and the Christian attitude to the realities and relationships through which we journey to our transcendent destiny. "The family is the first and fundamental school of social living" (JPII, Familiaris Consortio, 37). It teaches the value of human dignity. It teaches respect for each one’s rights. It teaches true justice and solidarity. The communion and constant sharing involved in everyday life in the home is the best training for an active and responsible sharing in the wider life of society.

The truth about the family receives a ready acceptance in the hearts of African men and women, because the strength of Africa has always been the family: Dole Afrika dafa mus di don njabot gi. Your society has been built upon the bonds which expand from the love of husband and wife to embrace children and all who make up the extended family. Your culture’s respect for the family shows how you have always prized the family’s fundamental role in God’s plan. As Christian families, you are called to pass on to future generations this great inheritance, and to strengthen and ennoble it with the grace of the Sacrament of Marriage.

Faithful, exclusive and persevering love between husband and wife is a gift to be asked for in prayer. Prayer strengthens the unity of all the family members. Prayer is a fundamental part of the family’s role as the "domestic Church", when parents and children together humbly and confidently ask God’s grace and aid. My appeal to all of you is to strengthen family life, for your own happiness, for the good of the Church, for the welfare of society as a whole.

7. Christians know that their faith obliges them to work with their fellow–citizens for the common good, and to support all that is noble and good in the life of their country (cf LG, 36). By promoting reconciliation and peace, through honesty and integrity in your relationships with others, through your solidarity with the poor and the needy, you make a lasting contribution to the future of your nation. Do not be concerned that you are a "little flock" (cf Lk 12, 32).

A little salt can enhance all the other ingredients in a dish. A little candle can give light to everyone in a room.

There is another reason why this Mass is a joyful prayer of thanksgiving. Side by side with the Christians here today there are many followers of Islam.

Beg nanyu ngir ne sonyu harit u seringe u bare hgi fi tew.
(We are happy that so many Muslim friends are present).

Dear Friends, the revelation which we Christians have received is the "gospel of peace" (Eph 6, 15). It is a message of reconciliation with God and between all God’s children. Far from being a source of rivalry or division, it urges us to solidarity and mutual respect. Its very proclamation must be an act of peace, an expression of utmost respect for the dignity and conscience of our hearers. The Catholic Church is grateful for your appreciation of this truth. I pray that the Christians and Muslims of this nation will continue to build upon the good which they find in each other and thus ensure The Gambia’s development and progress as a just and enlightened society in which all its members can play their rightful part.

8. Catholics of The Gambia! Christ is calling you to be salt for every part of this nation and light for every aspect of Gambian society. The Holy Spirit who has been given to you (cf Rom 5, 5) brings grace and truth, not for your own sake alone but for the life of the world (cf Jn 1, 17; 6, 33). The challenge before you is arduous, but our Heavenly Father sustains you. He gives you the Bread of Life and the Cup of Salvation.

Receive this gift with confidence, that it may build you up in love. Let the Eucharist be your strength and joy. Let it also be the programme of your Christian life – to be more closely united in Christ, Pastors with your people, all of you one in heart and mind, in solidarity with all your fellow–citizens in promoting the common good.

Yonel sa hel mu sela mi chi sunu i hol yi te esalal sunu i yiw u batise.
Olbatil sunu i hol yi. Degeral len ndah nyu sede ak baneh lepa li yegle bu neeh bi santane. Dimbali nyu yoka sunu ngum ndah nyu di dimbalante chi jubo ak nohofel. Amen."

(Send your Holy Spirit into our hearts and renew in us the grace of Baptism.
Change our hearts, strengthen them, so that we may witness with joy to the Gospel message. Help us to deepen our faith so that we can serve you and each other in unity and love. Amen.)

Saint John Paul II's words at the Angelus
Independence Stadium, Banjul, Sunday 23 February 1992 - in English, Italian & Spanish

"Neyu nala Mariama fes nga yiw! (Hail Mary, full of grace!)

At the conclusion of this Holy Mass, let us turn with love to Mary, the Mother of Jesus and the Mother of all his disciples. From the beginning, Mary has accompanied the Church in The Gambia along her pilgrim way. Your love for her is expressed in the dedication of your Cathedral to her Assumption, in your pilgrimages to her Shrine at Kungkujang–Miriam and in your strong devotion to the prayer of the rosary. Even now Mary is present among you with a Mother’s love, drawing you nearer to Christ her Son.
Marie Linguer u Jama! (Mary, Queen of Peace!)

To you I entrust the sons and daughters of The Gambia. May they always work together in building a society of justice, peace and brotherhood. May the spirit of reconciliation and true solidarity take ever deeper root in this land and in the hearts of all its people.
Marie ndey u njabot gu sela ga cha Nazaret! (Mary, Mother of the Holy Family of Nazareth!)

Watch over the parents and children of The Gambia. May families be strengthened in unity and love, and become schools of wisdom and virtue for the moral and civic leaders of the future. May Christian families be true "domestic Churches", where all find encouragement to grow in faith, in holiness and in the knowledge of God’s will.
Marie ndey u Musalkat bi ak ndey u jangu bi! (Mary, Mother of the Redeemer and Mother of the Church!).

May Gambian Christians become the salt of the earth and the light of the world! By your prayers, may all Christians be brought to a deeper knowledge of the mystery of Christ, a more effective witness to the Gospel and a fuller communion in the one Spirit. May many young people respond generously to the Lord’s call to serve his people in the priesthood and in consecrated life!
Marie sunyu ndey! (Mary, our Mother!).

All generations call you blessed, because you believed that the Lord’s words to you would be fulfilled. Look upon all who long for God’s grace to be poured out in their lives, in their families and upon this beloved nation!

And now, in the words of the "Angelus", let us join our hearts and voices and lift our prayers to the Holy Mother of God, that we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ."

Papa John Paul II's words to Young People
St Augustine's High School, Banjul, Sunday 23 February 1992 - in English & Italian

"Yen ndow u Gambia–munu ma nyaka dage ak yen.
(Young people of The Gambia, I could not miss having this meeting with you).

1. I am delighted that this gathering could take place here at Saint Augustine’s High School, as a token of appreciation and gratitude for the Church’s long involvement in education in The Gambia.

Mangi len di nuyu ku neka chi yen. Te mangay neyu ndaw yi ma deglu chi radio bi.
(I greet each one of you. And I greet all the young people who are listening to me over the Radio).

I come to you as the messenger of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Successor of the Apostle Peter, charged with confirming the Church in faith, unity and love. In the Lord’s name I wish to encourage you, the Christian youth of The Gambia, in your fidelity to the Gospel and in your love of the Church. And I wish to encourage all of you, Christians and Muslims, to pursue the great ideals which will enable you to work together to build a better world.

I am grateful to your representatives for their kind words of welcome, and for the bouquet and the gift which they have presented to me on your behalf.

2. Before coming here I tried to learn as much as I could about you. I wanted to understand your hopes, your fears, your aspirations, and the difficulties you face as you grow up and take your place in society. I was especially interested to know how you live your Christian faith, how closely you follow the teachings of Jesus, how the Christian and Muslim young people of The Gambia share the same concerns and are open to each other in the search for the good of your country and its people.

Legi mange gis sen ni muun te di daaga sen bat u neh. Yen na di dega yakar gu mag cha kanan (uelaak).
(Now I see your smiling faces and hear your joyful voices. You really are a great hope for the future!).

You have prepared for this meeting by reflecting on the theme of the Papal Visit: "Be the salt of the earth; be the light of the world!" Let us think together about some of the implications of this Gospel invitation. Salt is useful if it gives taste to food; light is useful if it banishes darkness. Jesus was very forceful when he said: "if the salt has lost its taste... it is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out" (Mt 5, 13). Then he said that people do not light a lamp and hide it under a tub. That would defeat its purpose. Rather, they put it on a stand, "and it gives light to all in the house" (Mt 5, 15). Both the salt and the light must contribute to improving things. That is what is expected of the young people of The Gambia.

Am na lu bare lo len mona defal sen bopa jangu bi ak rew mi mep.
(There is much that you must do for yourselves, for the Church, for your country).

3. But where will you find the strength and the incentive to work for the well–being and the true happiness of others, without ever giving in to difficulties and discouragement? The Gospel of St John tells us the wonderful story of what Jesus did for a person he met in the streets of Jerusalem: a man "blind from his birth" (cf Jn 9, 1-41). Jesus anointed the man’s eyes and sent him to wash in the nearby pool of Siloam. The whole story of the miracle is meant to teach us about Jesus himself. He says: "As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world" (Jn 9, 5). Jesus gives the man his sight so that we might understand that he alone can give us the light we need to see things as they really are, to understand the full truth about ourselves and others, about our life and its destiny. Jesus is indeed our light. In St John’s Gospel he says: "I am the light of the world; he who follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life" (Jn 8, 12).

The name of the pool, "Siloam", means "sent": and Jesus himself is the one sent by the Father for the life of the world (cf Jn 6, 51). The pool where the man has to wash his eyes is a symbol of Jesus’ own role as the Messiah, the One sent to wash away the sins of the world, to redeem us through his death and resurrection, to purify us through the waters of Baptism.

4. Let us think about the experience of the blind man. He has not yet seen Jesus, he can only hear his voice and feel the Lord’s fingers anointing his eyes. But he "went and washed and came back seeing". Imagine his joy and his surprise as he looks at the world for the first time! The people standing round want to know how he has been cured. He tells them that it was done by "the man called Jesus". But when they ask where Jesus is, the man has no answer. He has to admit: "I do not know". The man born blind has already received a great gift from the Lord, but a lot must happen before he will actually see Jesus and fully believe in him.

First, he must resist the opposition of the Pharisees. Then, even his parents were afraid, and defended him only halfheartedly.

The cured man does not yet have a full answer to the accusations made against Christ. He has only one argument, the fact that Jesus has cured him. "One thing I know, that though I was blind, now I see" (Jn 9, 25). He has one certainty, that Jesus is a good man, a prophet: "If this man were not from God, he could do nothing" (Jn 9, 33).

Seeing that he publicly defended Jesus, the Pharisees "cast him out" (Jn 9, 34). The blind man was now free to follow Christ, but he was also beginning to pay the price of discipleship.

Then the Gospel tells us something very beautiful: "Jesus heard that they had cast him out" (Jn 9, 35). The Lord never loses contact with his followers. He never abandons them. When they are alone and lost, he searches for them. That is the work of the Good Shepherd and of all those who take the place of the Chief Shepherd in the life of the Church.

Jesus looked for the man whom he had cured, "and having found him he said: ‘Do you believe in the Son of man?’" Here we come to the heart of the Gospel message.

Nda ngom ngen: li di largte gi Yesu di wah chi ndaw u katolic yi neka chi rew mi tei (chi Gambia tei)
(Do you believe? This is the same question that Jesus addresses to the Catholic young people of The Gambia today).

Is your faith in Jesus Christ, the Son of God and the Son of Mary, strong enough to give meaning and direction to your lives? To lead you out of fear and loneliness: to fill you with an ardent desire to serve his Kingdom and make it present in your own lives, in your families, in society?

Remember, the man has not yet seen Jesus with open eyes. But his heart is full of the desire to know the one who has done this great thing for him. He asks: "Who is he, sir, that I may believe in him?" (Jn 9, 36). And then comes the great moment when Jesus reveals himself: "It is he who speaks to you" (Jn 9, 37). When we are open, the light of Christ penetrates our hearts. When we discover him as the Way and the Truth and the Life, we are transformed (cf Jn 14:6). God’s truth teaches us wisdom; his love fills us with certainty, and with a great desire to do what he wants of us, and to share our discovery with others so that they too may have the marvellous experience of meeting the Lord.

The cured man professes his faith: "Lord, I believe" (Jn 9, 38). At this moment he worships Jesus and a whole new world opens up before him. He enters into a new relationship with God. He will never again doubt God’s unique love for him. He will adapt his life in every way to the will of God, to the following of Christ, to working for the coming of God’s Kingdom in the heart of everyone he meets.

Yesu angi len di o’ tei chi sen ngom.
(Jesus is calling you to just such an encounter of faith).

5. Like young people everywhere, the youth of The Gambia have many problems. You are anxious about your future. You are sometimes tempted by the false promise of happiness in drug or alcohol abuse, or in the misuse of the wonderful divine gift of human sexuality. These deceitful sirens of a would–be liberation and progress have already betrayed millions of young people like you in other parts of the world. By robbing them of their youthful ideals and the sense of responsibility and challenge, these harmful models of happiness have led many young men and women into a terrible state of frustration and alienation. Above all, a false "gospel" of materialism is being loudly "preached" to young people. It says that happiness depends on having more and more material things, and that material wealth, however obtained, is the measure of a person’s worth. Nothing could be farther from the truth! True happiness has to do with "being", not with "having".

6. What then is the Pope’s message to you? To be what you are!

Yen nyep dom u yalla nden, te ku neka chi yen am na legaye gu mu wara mutali chi jangom ak chi kurail gi mu boka.
(You are all God’s children, and each one of you has a task to fulfil for the Church and society).

God has endowed you with many gifts and talents which you must develop for his glory and for the good of The Gambia. Here I must remind you to use every opportunity to study well and educate yourselves for the tasks that life will set before you. I know that some of you may have to leave your own country in search of employment and opportunities elsewhere, but it is also true that as far as possible your vitality and skills are needed here in your homeland, in the service of your own communities.

To some of you the Lord may give the very special gift of a vocation to the priesthood or to the religious life. Listen to his voice! Such a calling requires great sacrifice and absolute generosity. But remember the promise Jesus made to Peter and the rest of the disciples: "Every one who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands, for my name’s sake, will receive a hundredfold, and inherit eternal life" (Mt 19, 29). May the Lord grant many of you the light to discover this unique grace in your lives!

No one must think that he or she has nothing to offer. All of you, Christians and Muslims, are called to make your families and society itself places where God is truly present, where justice and peace really exist, and where people are motivated by a spirit of love and mutual respect. My message to the young people of The Gambia is this: Neka len horom u aduna si neka len ler u aduna si! (Be the salt of the earth! Be the light of the world!). Be for The Gambia a sign that respect for God’s law is the only true path of peace and prosperity for her people. This is what the Pope and the Church expect of you. This is what your country needs from you.

Na yalla barkel kena ku neka chi yen.
Na yalla barkel sen wajour, sen njabot sen jangalekat yi ak nyepa nyi len di sama chi sen hol.
Na yalla barkel Gambia bi."

(God bless each one of you.
God bless your parents, your families, your teachers, and all those who have your well–being at heart.
God bless The Gambia).

John Paul II's address to Priests, Religious, Seminarians & Lay People
Cathedral of the Assumption, Banjul, Sunday 23 February 1992 - in English & Italian

"Dear Bishop Cleary and my other Brothers in the Episcopate,
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
1. Today God gives me the grace of seeing at first hand your fervour and devotion and of joining my voice to yours in praise of his Holy Name. You are "the leaders and workers in the missionary apostolate" (JPII, Redemptoris Missio, VI) here in the diocese of Banjul. As the Successor of the Apostle Peter I have come to confirm you in your service of preaching Christ. I extend cordial greetings to each one of you: Bishop Cleary, the priests, Religious, seminarians, catechists and lay leaders who have gathered for the celebration of Evening Prayer in this Cathedral, dedicated to the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

2. Tonight we make our own the words of the Psalmist: we "give thanks to the Lord with [our] whole heart", we worship him whose saving deeds are "great" and "full of honour and majesty" (Ps 111(110), 1-3). Here, in this congregation, the Lord "has caused his wonderful works to be remembered" (Ps 111, 4). We are filled with the memory of how he "has shown his people the power of his works in giving them the heritage of the nations", of how "he sent redemption to his people" (
Ps 111, 6 & 9).

As we sing this song of thanksgiving together, we are particularly aware of the many ways in which the Lord has sent redemption to The Gambia, to this corner of his beloved Africa. God’s word has gone forth and accomplished his purpose. As the Prophet proclaimed, this word does not return to God empty (cf Is 55, 11). All of you can testify that it has struck root in The Gambia; it has found a dwelling place in the hearts and minds, in the thoughts and actions of many people in this land.

3. All those who accept God’s word recognize that they are bound in turn to share this word with others. That greatest of missionaries, the Apostle Paul, gave voice to this "law" of the Christian life when he explained that, in preaching to the Corinthians, he had handed on what he himself had received (cf 1 Cor 11, 23 & 15, 3). Having accepted the Good News, you too are devoted to sharing this treasure of your hearts with others.

Such devotion to the saving word led the first missionaries to bring the Gospel to The Gambia despite the suffering and danger it entailed. Your forebears in the mission could have joined with St Paul in cataloguing the trials and hardships, the hunger and thirst, the dangers at sea and the dangers in the wilderness (cf 2 Cor 11, 23-27) which they endured in order to bring the word of God to their Gambian brothers and sisters. Love moved them to take up the task of evangelization. Their way of giving thanks for this precious gift was to share it.

The same ardent love must be the motivating force of all your own efforts to make Christ known. The Encyclical Letter "Redemptoris Missio" repeats this conviction of mine: "Those who have the missionary spirit feel Christ’s burning love for souls... [They are] urged on... by a zeal inspired by Christ’s own charity" (89). Once we have been captured by this love, like Peter and John we cannot but speak of it (cf Acts 4, 20), and like Paul each of us must say: "Woe to me if I do not preach" (1 Cor 9, 16). Indeed, how can we rest until all those whom Christ wishes to call his own have come to hear of his love?

4. Dear Brother Priests: you have dedicated your lives to the service of the Gospel in this land. Each of you brings to this evening’s prayer of praise and thanksgiving his own memories of the times when he has been the instrument for God’s word to be welcomed in the hearts of others, especially through the offering of the Eucharistic Sacrifice and the celebration of the Sacrament of Penance.

Never cease being grateful to God for the priesthood, and never lose heart in the face of obstacles. Certainly, the harvest is great, and the presbyterate of Banjul is a small band. There is so very much to be done for the Master – much more than you could ever accomplish by yourselves. But when you have prayed to the Lord of the harvest to send more co–workers, and when you have entrusted yourselves to his care, go forward confidently. The work is Christ’s. It is he who gives the increase (cf 2 Cor 9, 10).

By living in hope, disregarding the way the world judges success or failure, you will be faithful to the heritage of the priests who have served here before you. They too were few in number, their resources scarce, and the difficulties they faced great; and so it is all the clearer that what they accomplished was from God and not from themselves.

To the priests who are native sons of The Gambia, I extend an especially cordial greeting. In your preaching and your celebration of the sacraments, in your instruction and exhortation, the one Gospel preached by the universal Church has gained a distinctively Gambian "accent". When the Lord addresses your countrymen through you, they find it all the easier to recognize that his invitation is not something foreign or alien. They hear more clearly that they are called to a life which is the fulfilment and perfection of everything that is noble and praiseworthy in Gambian life.

Dear Seminarians: from all that I have said to the priests, you will clearly understand that the life to which you aspire is to be Christ’s heralds, preachers of his Gospel and ministers of his sacraments (cf Presbyterorum Ordinis, 4-5). Your service to the Kingdom of God at this time is measured by the devotion and zeal which you bring to the prayer, studies, and pastoral formation which make up the seminary programme. You will become pastors after the very pattern of Christ, the Good Shepherd, insofar as you subordinate your own plans to the responsibilities the Church gives you to fulfil, and to the degree that all your words and actions are directed to bringing others to our Eternal Father.

5. It is a special joy for me to say a word of deep appreciation and encouragement to the men and women Religious: to the priests and brothers of the Congregation of the Holy Spirit, which has been present in The Gambia since 1848; to the Christian Brothers who have arrived more recently; to the spiritual daughters of Blessed Anne Marie Javouhey, the Sisters of Saint Joseph of Cluny, who continue to labour here after the example of their Foundress, to the Presentation of Mary Sisters, the Sisters of Saint Joseph of Annecy, the Marist Sisters and the School Sisters of Notre Dame. I cannot fail to mention with gratitude that many of the missionaries both now and in the past have come from Ireland, including the recently deceased and dearly remembered first Bishop of Banjul, Michael Maloney. I thank you all in the name of the Church for the witness of your consecration and your dedicated apostolate.

Within the Church, Religious bear a special witness to Christ through their example of chastity, poverty and obedience for the sake of the Kingdom. The evangelical counsels reveal the heart of the Gospel: the Good News that God loves us and invites us to respond to his love with the total gift of ourselves. Religious life is therefore of its very nature apostolic. The various pastoral and apostolic tasks which you perform, your teaching, your works of charity and Christian service are the expression of this love. All your activities, therefore, must flow from prayer and contemplation. St John reminds us that those who are sent to announce the Word of life do so by testifying to what they have come to know personally and intimately. He says: "That which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you" (1 Jn 1, 3). Dear Religious, know that you have a special place in the Pope’s heart.

Perhaps those of you who have come to The Gambia from far away sometimes wonder whether what you are doing is worthwhile. Dear missionaries: I can only assure you that your sacrifice is most pleasing in the Lord’s sight. You have been set apart so that all may be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth (cf 1 Tim 2, 4). Be confident in your special vocation! (cf Ad Gentes, 23). Every day I pray earnestly that God will sustain with his gracious presence the men and women "on mission", often in difficult, remote, demanding situations. The Son of God, who whole–heartedly accepted his mission to come among us, will not leave you without "the crown of life which God has promised to those who love him" (James 1, 12).

6. To you, the catechists of The Gambia, the Pope has come to affirm the priceless value of all that you do to spread knowledge of the faith. In many cases you are the first messengers of the Gospel to those who are not Christians. From you they gain their first impression of what it means to be a Christian. It is by your example that the Lord speaks most clearly and persuasively.

It is my hope that a firm conviction of the importance of the help which you give the Church will lead you to study her teachings all the more diligently, so that you will offer inquirers, catechumens and the baptized the full riches of our Apostolic faith. Take new heart; be strong against every form of discouragement. Thank you for your unfailing fidelity to the Church!

7. Some members of Christ’s Body are set aside completely for the preaching of the Word (cf Acts 13, 2), but every Christian is "a witness and a living instrument of the mission of the Church" (Lumen Gentium, 33). This means that the lay leaders of this local Church have their own indispensable role to play in proclaiming the Word of God in The Gambia. And so – in the words of the Second Vatican Council – I appeal to you, members of the laity, to "stand before the world as a witness to the resurrection and life of the Lord Jesus Christ and as a sign that God lives" (LG, 38). By striving to order the affairs of the various spheres of Gambian society according to the New Law of Christ, you bring your fellow–citizens face to face with the Gospel. God’s revelation, as it shines out from your homes and businesses, schools and farms, will exercise its own inherent power to attract hearts which are well–disposed.

All the members of the Church are called to live in communion, for although we are many we form one body in Christ (cf 1 Cor 12, 12-27). Remain united in love and try to outdo one another only in humble service.

8. Dear Friends in Christ: as we celebrate the Liturgy of the Hours we are united in the worship which the whole Church offers to the Blessed Trinity. We give thanks that the family of God in The Gambia is growing through your fidelity to God’s grace. In your devotion to spreading God’s word the Church’s essential missionary dimension shines out and she responds anew to the Lord’s summons: "Go into the world and preach the gospel to the whole creation" (Mk 16, 15).

Together we shall sing Mary’s Canticle, the Magnificat, joining our voices to hers in praise of God for the great things which he has done to save his people. Mary was with the Apostles on that Pentecost Day when they first went forth boldly to proclaim the Lord Jesus. For 2000 years she, the Queen of Apostles, has never ceased to watch over the spread of the Good News. I commend to her powerful intercession the Special Assembly for Africa of the Synod of Bishops. I ask you to pray with me that she will obtain for all who contribute to that Assembly a clear understanding of the evangelizing mission of the Church in Africa and the strength to respond wholeheartedly. I ask you to make this intention your own especially when you say the Rosary, a most efficacious prayer, one which has a strong tradition here and which you must strive to preserve and see grow (cf JPII, Familiaris Consortio, 61).

To you and to all those for whom you, like Mary, are the humble servants of the Word of Life, I impart my Apostolic Blessing."

Pope John Paul II's words at the Farewell Ceremony
Yundun International Airport, Banjul, Monday 24 February 1992 - in English & Italian

"Your Excellency President Jawara, Dear Friends,
1. My brief but intense pastoral visit to The Gambia is coming to an end. The time has come to say goodbye. At every moment I have been surrounded by your gracious hospitality. As I leave you, I shall take with me many happy images of the people of this beautiful place. Mine is a goodbye full of esteem and gratitude towards all Gambians.

I thank all those who have contributed to the organization of this visit. I am grateful to you, Mister President, to the Vice-President and to the authorities who are present here at this moment. You have made it possible for me to have a first–hand experience of this dynamic, growing nation. May God always inspire the leaders of this country to promote the genuine welfare of the people and to act with deep respect for the dignity and rights of every individual. Only on such a basis will a just and peaceful world be forthcoming.

2. My meeting with the Catholic community has been a joyous celebration of our faith. We have prayed together, thanking God for his blessings and commending our needs to his loving mercy. The Church is Catholic because she is open to peoples of every race, tongue and social condition. She is as much at home here in The Gambia as in every other part of the world. Her desire and commitment is to foster the spiritual life of her children and to cooperate with all believers and men and women of good will in serving the good of the human family.

I give thanks to God for the Catholic community’s vitality and fidelity to his word. I am confident that my brothers and sisters in the faith will continue to reflect the image of the earliest Christian community when all "devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers" (Acts 2, 42). The Successor of Peter will carry you always in his heart.

3. In bidding farewell to this peace–loving country, my thoughts turn with concern to another part of West Africa. It had been my wish to visit the nearby nation of Liberia but a terrible fratricidal war has ravaged that country and caused immeasurable suffering among its people. I pray for the victims of this conflict. I am deeply disturbed by the plight of the hundreds of thousands of refugees, and so many homeless and hungry people. In addition to the deaths, injuries and sufferings which armed violence always brings with it, we cannot fail to see that such a situation destroys any chance of economic development and political stability for the peoples involved.

The interdependence of all the countries of West Africa has found expression in concerted efforts to arrive at a solution to this difficult situation. It is my hope that the leaders of the region will persevere in this endeavour and that the parties in conflict will put the genuine good of the local populations before all other considerations.

4. While I encourage all those who can influence situations of conflict to pursue the urgent work of peacemaking, I also invite all who believe in Almighty God’s dominion and providence over the affairs of men to pray unceasingly for the great gift of peace. Let us beseech the Lord of Life and History to turn hatred into love, and rivalry into solidarity. Let us pray that Africa will not fall into a spiral of conflicts and power-struggles, but that it will set itself firmly on the path of responding to the needs of its peoples and creating conditions that will favour growth and prosperity.

It is clear that the international community has a grave moral duty to implement just and helpful policies in relation to this Continent. A new era of solidarity with Africa is needed. In the name of our shared humanity, and on behalf of those who are without voice, I renew my appeals to those Governments in a position to help, and to the international organizations engaged in assistance to developing countries, to hurry to Africa’s side in this decisive hour.

Again, Mister President, I express my deep gratitude to you and all your fellow–citizens.

Upon Bishop Cleary and all the members of the Catholic community I invoke the joy and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Na yalla barkel Gambia bi!"
(God bless The Gambia!)



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