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Bishop hopeful of Angola’s recovery

26 July 2013

JOHN TASKER

BISHOPS with large dioceses might spare a thought for the Rt Revd André Soares, whose flock is dispersed across a land five times bigger than the United Kingdom.

Bishop of Angola since 2003, Bishop Soares oversees 50 parishes, 96 congregations, and 67 priests. The faithful now number 57,000, compared with 25,000 in 2007.

This month, the Bishop (far right, with Archbishop Welby) arrived in London to celebrate the 15th anniversary of a covenant between the diocese of Angola and the Church in Angola and Mozambique. The visit was organised by Mozambique and Angola Anglican Association (MANNA) and  ALMA (Angola London Mozambique Association), and Bishop Soares preached on Sunday 14 July in St Paul's Cathedral.

On Tuesday, he spoke of his hopes for his country just 11 years after the end of a 27-year civil war, in which up to 1.5 million people died. This conflict followed the Angolan War of Independence. The country has the eighth highest infant-mortality rate in the world; almost half the population is under 15 years of age.

The relationship between Church and state is now trouble-free, the Bishop declared, in contrast to his early years as a pastor, when the country was Marxist, and the Government "denied pastors the right to any basic means of livelihood". But, after 41 years of warfare, "we still have a long journey," the Bishop said. The Church is managing projects that deliver education and tackle HIV/AIDS and malaria, the leading causes of death in Angola.

Angola has enjoyed economic growth recently, owing to the high price of oil. Nevertheless, just 2.9 per cent of the GDP is spent on health, and only 3.5 per cent on education. "Angola has many natural resources, including oil and diamonds, and some people say that it is a rich country. But that is not our reality."

The Bishop pointed to the need for government investment in infrastructure, but said: "All of us as Angolans must do something, not only the Government. Angola is our mother, and as children we must help her."

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