November 16, 2011. (Romereports.com)
The pope has described Africa as a type of “spiritual lung.” It's no
surprise then, that he's getting ready to visit the continent once
again. After Asia, Africa is the most populated continent with just over one
billion people. In fact, about 2,000 languages and dialects are spoken
in Africa's 56 countries.
The majority practice traditional African religions like animism. In North Africa, Islam is the main religion. Catholics make up roughly 17.5 percent, which adds up to about 165 million people.
Africa is full of contrasts though. Despite it's cultural riches, every year, close to a million people die of malaria. Among them, 85 percent are children younger than five.Mons. Barthélemy Adoukonou
Secretary, Pontifical Council for Culture “In social terms, the Church is present in a very efficient way. Hospitals run by the Church are always full, and it's not just because of the medical service, but also because of the heartfelt care and concern. There are several hospitals and clinics that do a lot with few resources.”
The numbers speak for themselves. The Church in Africa manages roughly 16,200 medical centers. They include 1,074 hospitals as well as 5,373 primary care centers and 186 facilities that care for people with leprosy. It also has a total of 1,279 clinics. They include 753 homes for the elderly and disabled, 979 orphanages and 1,997 nurseries. Marriage counseling centers add up to 1,590. There are also 2,947 social education centers.
The Catholic Church has about 12,496 elementary schools. Roughly 33,000 secondary schools and close to 9, 900 higher education centers. But, Bishop Barthélemy Adoukonou says the main challenge is higher education. Mons. Barthélemy Adoukonou
Secretary, Pontifical Council for Culture “When it comes to education, the Church has a clear success in building elementary and secondary schools. But there is a lack of universities, so those who want to study go elsewhere.”
Despite its challenges, African leaders say they are optimistic about the future.