The Pope’s visit to Cameroon and Angola this week is the latest tactical move in the Catholic Church’s battle against the evangelical movement among Africa’s Christians — a movement that threatens the status and prosperity of the Church far more than does the poverty of Africa’s masses.
In the coming days Pope Benedict will make many gestures of compassion towards Africa’s needy, who are numerous in both countries. Many shall look to him for moral leadership. But his visit is also a rejoinder to the surging vitality of new Christian formations, many of them led by Africans themselves.
While the media is careful to emphasize the Pope’s moral mission, religious “rule from Rome” is another echo of colonialism in a world where such echoes are no longer heard. The church, from its earliest days in West and Central Africa, wasÂ always another aspect of European domination of Africa. That today, Catholics vie for popularity with home-grown sects, is fitting in a grand historical sense.