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"I came, I saw, and I understood"

on Saturday, 01 October 2005. Posted in Testimonies

Rooted in prayer, working with the poor - God's favorites

Most Rev. Marcel Agboton, Archbishopof Cotonou, Benin, was introduced at our Congress in Rougemont on September 3-5, 2005 by Father Pamphile Akplogan, who was ordained a priest by Archbishop Agboton himself:

Archbishop Agboton had been ordained a priest almost 40 years ago, on January 6, 1966. He spent about twenty years in the service of the youth, training, and was professor at the seminary. Among other things, he was my professor of Spanish. After years as a professor and head of a seminary, he was appointed founding bishop of a new diocese in Benin. After five years, he had succeeded so well that he was appointed to the diocese of Porto Novo, where he was born, and which is also my native diocese.

On April 2, 2005, he was transferred to the metropolitan see of Cotonou; he became archbishop, and also my bishop. I would like to point out that this was the last act of the pontificate of John Paul II, since the ceremony for the installation of the new archbishop ended at noon on that day, and the Pope died at 7 p.m. At the same time, it is one of the first official acts of the new Pope, Benedict XVI, since Archbishop Agboton was among the archbishops who received the pallium from Pope Benedict XVI in Rome on June 29, 2005. We salute His Excellency, and on behalf of all, I thank him for being here, despite his many activities, for he is still in charge of the diocese of Porto Novo – so he has two dioceses to lead. Nevertheless, he has accepted to be here today and to attend this Congress with us. Since yesterday, he has asked me many questions about Social Credit, for he wants to understand it thoroughly. With your help, he will! Now, I will let him talk to you with his heart of a bishop:

Excerpts from the address of Most Rev. Marcel Agboton Archbishop of Cotonou, Benin at our Congress, September 4

I really thank you for the opportunity that has been offered to me to take part in this Congress. First of all, I would like to thank the Pilgrims of St. Michael, and especially the Directors and Miss Tardif whom I did not know until now - I knew her only through correspondence. I am not a graphologist, but through the writings of your Directors, I knew that there were fantastic people here. Yes, I really thank you for this chance to discover the Pilgrims of St. Michael, to take part in their Congress, and to already have a foretaste of this reality of Social Credit.

I asked myself, when Father Pamphile told me about the Pilgrims of St. Michael and Social Credit, what could sustain so much enthusiasm among you, what force drove you. How could Christians, lay faithful — with all the materialism that surrounds us today, this selfish desire to grab everything for oneself - how could they have this desire of justice, of sharing, of solidarity, of commitment for the poor. I asked myself that question.

When I arrived here, I began to understand. I said to myself: "Ah, now I see! I have noticed that all your activities, meetings, begin with a prayer. The prayer to the Holy Spirit, the prayer to Mary." I said to myself: "Now I understand! If they are so deeply rooted in God, if they take their strength from God, it is easy to understand why they are so dedicated to the poor, for the poor are God's favorites. It is to the poor that God gives the best of Himself; it is for them that He puts the most efforts; it is to them that He shows that His Heart is filled with love."

Continue this way, and may God give you the grace of keeping on with your work, but also the grace of becoming contagious, that is to say, to communicate, to pass on your enthusiasm, your love for the poor, to other generations. As Louis Even said, "I would like to be 20 years old to go all over the world..."

If I could start again to go all over the world at the age of 20, that would be fantastic! We must transmit such an enthusiasm to the youth, not only those who are young at heart, but also those who are young physically, so that they may become torch bearers of the Faith on new foundations. Pope John Paul II often spoke about the civilization of love and brotherhood, where no one is excluded from the table of the Lord, especially not the poor! So I beg you, keep your charisma and enthusiasm!

One day, during an audience on St. Peter's Square, Pope John Paul II told a story to explain the difference between Heaven and Hell:

There were two tables, on which there were plates filled with all kinds of good food. Those sitting at the right table looked happy and healthy; one could see they were well fed. On the contrary, those who sat at the left table were skinny and sick, with just as much food on their table as on the other. Someone asked why, with two tables filled with the same abundance of food, the group on the right was in good health, and the other group on the left in poor health.

It is because all the people, on the right and on the left, had received long forks, which were too long to use for themselves. So, the people of the right table, instead of trying to feed themselves with the forks, used them to feed those sitting in front of them, and that way, everyone could eat. However, on the left table, people were so egoistic that they wanted to feed themselves only, not their neighbors, and the food could not reach their mouths.

A world where people share can be compared to Heaven, and a world where everyone wants to keep everything for himself, and even steal the goods of his neighbor, is like Hell. I believe that we work here in this atmosphere of sharing, of passionate love for the poor, and it is going to be like Heaven on earth; I know this is not going to be easy, but I believe that when you have in your hearts this ideal of the love of the poor, it is God Himself who is at work.

I thank you for sharing with me your love for the poor, for making me want to know more about Social Credit, to share it and make it known to others. This is important especially for a country like us in Benin where we are in continuous contact with poverty. Of course, the Lord gives us food and natural resources; we do not live in dire poverty. But we know what poverty is; we know what it is to lack the basic necessities of life; while some die of overeating, others starve to death. This is a problem of Africa, but the Africans want to fight this problem, become self-sufficient, be able to live without continuous foreign aid, to build a world where all its sons and daughters will be happy. It is for this reason that our churches must also take care of social issues, the problem of justice, of a just sharing of the goods that the Lord gave to every country. My discovery of Social Credit and its implications is certainly going to be a big enrichment for me.

I gave to Father Pamphile the serious assignment of letting himself be impregnated by all the Social Credit principles to see how, within the context of the social doctrine of the Church, they can be a blessing and a starting point for our societies, and to see how, in concrete terms, within our local context, and with the objective of making the poor themselves the agents of their own development and growth, we can turn the Social Credit principles into something that will get our people out of poverty, and turn them into persons worthy of God and worthy of man.

Once again, I thank you for this opportunity to be with you here, and at the next assembly of our Episcopal Conference, I will talk to the other bishops of Benin about Social Credit... even though I am not sure I will have the eloquence of Father Pamphile!

+ Most Rev. Marcel Agboton

Archbishop of Cotonou, Benin

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