From Joseph Vandrisse's book

Rally for Solidarity

Ouagadougou 29th January 1990 - The building looks a bit outdated beside the new official constructions, less inspired by local art than by that of 'comrade countries' of a crumbling communist world. We are at the Council of the West African Economic Community. (CEAO) The semicircle looks more like a film theatre. The guests are waiting for John Paul II. As for him, he is in the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, one kilometre away, ending the community prayer in exemplary silence.

This 29th of January evening he has decided to draw attention to the destitution of Africa. He wants the rich countries of the northern hemisphere to know that this continent is afflicted with evils that cut to its heart. He is thinking of the Gospel parable of poor Lazarus begging for the crumbs that fall from sumptuous tables.
Since leaving Rome for his sixth African journey, he has travelled to the windswept Cape Verde Islands, visited Guinea-Bissau where basic needs are heart-rending then on to Mali where poverty, less apparent, is nonetheless very real. In the capital Bamako, stretching along the banks of the majestic River Niger, the welcome was the warmest for a Muslim country where Catholics make up only 1% of the population.
The next stage is devoted to Burkina Faso where the Catholic Church is deeply rooted. On arrival he recalls his visit in May 1980 when he came to Ouagadougou to launch an appeal in favour of the Sahel burdened by drought. This evening he wants to renew his advocacy and above all to broaden it.

It is a subject close to his heart. He tackled it in December 1987 in his encyclical Sollicitudo rei socialis (The importance of social issues) relative to development. His concern is to mobilise the world for a real 'rally for solidarity' in favour of Africa. He believes Burkina Faso is the right place to do so.

At a time when the peoples of Eastern Europe are making their first steps towards democracy, the Holy Father, whose action so much contributed to cracking the 'wall of communism', reminds people that there is another wall, perhaps more difficult to bring down than Berlin, a wall of destitution which is constantly rising between rich and poor nations.

"It is essential," he insists, "to become aware of the need for solidarity. It is the path of peace and at the same time, development. From the beginning, Christian charity has always practiced solidarity. However, today, it has become the sole antidote to the structures of sin, that is to say, to the deeply ingrained unjust socio-economic consequences brought about by contamination from individual sin."

J P II et Joseph Vandrisse

This trip to Africa confirmed in his mind that the long and often obscure promotion of international justice is a long-term enterprise.

In Burkina, Paul Cardinal Zoungrana, M.Afr, Archbishop of Ouagadougou, whispered an African proverb in his ear, "When God made time, he made plenty of it!"

Joseph Vandrisse
Vatican Journalist
1974-2002 Rome Correspondent
for the daily Le Figaro

Joseph Vandrisse, Ce jour-là, Jean-Paul II, 50 dates qui ont marqué son pontificat, Perrin / Mame, Paris, 2003, 230 p.

John Paul II Foundation for the Sahel

The John Paul II Foundation for the Sahel was founded on the 22nd February 1984 following on an appeal launched by the Pope on the 10th May 1980 in Ouagadougou Burkina Faso. Its headquarters is in the Vatican. The Churches of the Sahel administer it and the offices of its Board of Governors are in Ouagadougou. The John Paul II Foundation combats desertification and helps drought victims. The Foundation finances community activities in rural areas and supports the training of executive administrators. It is geared to sustainable development and the eradication of poverty in the Sahel. Projects submitted to it by Local Churches are financed by Churches in the North and by donations worldwide.