As the Bishops entered into the study session, Cardinal Robert Sarah, Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments invited them to appreciate their pastoral historical journey since the establishment of SECAM in July 1969.
Recalling Africa’s pastoral historical journey
The Cardinal asked the Bishops to bear in mind the challenges facing Africa from the messages of Pope Paul VI on the occasion of the inauguration of SECAM; Pope John Paul II’s Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation on the Church in Africa, Ecclesia in Africa, 1995; and Pope Benedict XVI’s Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation on (Africa’s commitment to Christ, Africae Munus) in 2011.
He urged the Bishops o ask themselves how much SECAM has moved the Church’s mission and to what direction from Pope Paul VI to Pope Francis. He further asked them to introspect on the message of Pope Francis concerning new Evangelisation in their local contexts.
“Africa has almost 200 million Christians. According to Pope Francis, this is already a big affirmation. However, as Bishops of Africa we have to ask ourselves whether we are putting the Gospel in the hearts of our people so that Christ may live in us: preaching democracy, bringing out in us the culture of inter-personality and Christian transformation. Let us not abandon our vocation and indulge in politics. Rather, let us live the Christian faith that will allow us to live the life of Christ in accordance with the Gospel,” he said.
In practical terms, how have we lived for the last 50 years?
In her speech, Sr Teresa Okure, HCJ, made reference to the theme and invited the delegates to focus on Africa’s contextual issues bearing in mind Jesus’ words in John 10:10, “The thief only comes to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that you may have life, and have it to the full,” she said.
“The (SECAM Jubilee) theme has three elements: firstly, Church as family of God in Africa; secondly, celebrate your jubilee. Thirdly, proclaim Jesus Christ, your Savior. This implies that we must listen to God, who is Head of the family, how in the past 50 years, we have become members of God’s family, the body Christ. It is a moment to ask how we have lived together in the most practical terms as a people liberated by God. Finally, let us look at how we are proclaiming the Good News (not just) as Bishops, priests but all of us the baptised especially today as we celebrate the memorial of Mary Magdalene,” Sr Teresa Okure said.
Address globalisation and ecology
Fr. José Luemba asked the Bishops to address globalisation and ecological challenges on Africa, particularly looking at the economic, social and political aspects.
“Let us reflect on what is happening in the world and Africa in particular. Let us recognise the intensification of human interaction in society as it is relating to environmental and ecological issues. Africa cannot ignore the impact of globalisation. Rather, Africa must identify itself and face the realities with courage,” he said.
“The ecological crisis is essentially a crisis between man and his environment. It is not only the production factor but also how we are taking care of our environment. There is the need for our people to appreciate that nature is a gift from God and that our responsibility should be extended to the love of nature. Man must be a pastor of his own and of nature, taking it (nature) as our sister,” he continued.
What are the emerging socio-cultural, political and economic challenges of Africa?
Mr Kizito Tenthani, Director of the Centre for Multiparty Democracy in Malawi, challenged the Bishops to look critically at the socio-cultural, political and economic challenges of Africa. He provided a cursory view of challenges emerging from the cultural, social, political and economic perspectives. He noted that the changes have an impact on the beliefs, values and norms of the modern African people.
“The question is: what is the emerging culture? For instance, with the Online presence, text messaging, social media, smartphones people are no longer appreciating physical contact; there is an information overload; the media content is forming people’s consciousness; there is an apparent decline of the sense of guilt; people want to participate in dialogue than simply being told what to do or be given doctrines. Regarding loyalty and the establishment, the Church is perceived as too rigid,” he said
Mr Tenthani pointed at several threats to family life in Africa. He cited consumerism manifesting itself as social pressure among young people and parents, who for example, stage expensive weddings. Other forms are materialism manifesting itself as social pressure to make quick money, which leads to various problems such as corruption; age-disparity sexual relations; the crisis of parenting, single parenthood; homosexuality; abortions and sexism; substance abuse, suicides and the HIV/ AIDS pandemic. There is also the challenge of illiteracy.
The speaker further pointed to the lack of leadership as the core of many problems in Africa.
“Africa is experiencing political instability whereby the Church-state relationships and the role of the Catholic Church in politics ought to be scrutinised as the continent is experiencing an erosion of democratic dividends, leadership deficiencies, choice-less elections and monetising of politics.