Africa Synod Propositions 31-40
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VATICAN CITY, OCT. 29, 2009 (Zenit.org).- Here are Nos. 31-40 of the 57 propositions that were published unofficially Saturday by the synod press office at the conclusion of the Second Special Assembly for Africa of the Synod of Bishops on the theme The Church in Africa at the Service of Reconciliation, Justice and Peace."
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Globalization and International Aid
The Church in Africa should be aware of the ambiguity of globalization and its consequences. She must be ready to respond to the challenges that globalization entails and confront them responsibly. The best globalization must be a globalization of solidarity.
This globalization sometimes takes the form of international aid from international agencies. Unfortunately, such aid does not always reach the people for whom it is intended and, at times, it comes with conditions which do not reflect the needs of the people.
The Synod Fathers call upon African governments and intermediate agencies to a more responsible and transparent management of this international solidarity for the sake of the common good. The Synod Fathers insist that these values should be appreciated and that the local Churches be recognized as partners in development.
Respect for Ethnic Diversity
The Church, as servant of reconciliation, has the mission of reconciling all things in Christ (cf. 2 Cor 5:19). In carrying out this mission, the Church acknowledges and respects the rich ethnic, cultural, political and religious diversities of the African peoples by seeking a unity in diversity, rather than in uniformity, by emphasizing what unifies, rather than what divides them and by tapping the positive values of these diversities as a source of strength to forge social harmony, peace and progress.
A thorough study needs to be made of African traditions and cultures in the light of the Gospel, so as to enrich Christian life, to set aside any aspects which are contrary to Christian teaching and to animate and sustain the work of evangelizing the peoples of Africa and their cultures.
The Church in Africa is seeing a steady growth in the number of her members and those serving within the clergy. Nevertheless, an inconsistency exists between some traditional African cultural practices and the demands of the Gospel.
To be relevant and credible, the Church needs to make an in-depth discernment, so as to identify those aspects of culture which promote and those which hinder the inculturation of Gospel values.
Therefore, the Synod proposes that:
-- positive cultural values be promoted and inculcated in all its institutions of learning and training;
-- the work of authentic African theologians be encouraged and promoted;
-- positive elements of African traditional cultures be incorporated into the Church’s rites;
-- pastoral agents learn the local languages and cultures, so that Gospel values can touch people’s hearts and help them towards a genuine reconciliation which leads to lasting peace;
-- the documents of the Magisterium be translated into local languages;
-- the exchange of documents between Episcopal Conferences be facilitated;
-- canonical and liturgical regulations regarding the ministry of exorcism be used in a ministry of compassion, justice and charity; and
-- simony be denounced among a certain number of priests, who abuse the sacramentals in order to meet the demands of the faithful who are fond of religious symbols, like incense, holy water, olive oil, salt, candles, etc.
The teaching of culture conditions the integral development of individuals and groups. Therefore, Africans should promote the cultural heritage of their region. They should cherish certain values and, at the same time, open them to an encounter with other cultures – values such as respect for elders and for women as mothers; respect for solidarity, mutual aid and hospitality; unity; respect for life; and honesty, truth and the word of honour.
III - PROMOTORES
The Synod Fathers highlight the urgency and necessity of evangelization which is the mission and, indeed, the very identity of the Church ("Evangelii nuntiandi", 14).
The Synod Fathers emphasize that this evangelization essentially consists in bearing witness to Christ in the power of the Spirit through life and then by word ("Evangelii nuntiandi", 21), in a spirit of openness to others, respect and dialogue with them, concerning Gospel values.
This synod calls upon the Church-Family of God in Africa to be a witness in service to reconciliation, justice and peace, as "salt of the earth" and "light of the world."
Small Christian Communities (SCC)
The Synod renews its support for the promotion of Small Christian Communities (SCC), which firmly build up the Church-Family of God in Africa. The SCC are based on Gospel-sharing, where Christians gather to celebrate the presence of the Lord in their lives and in their midst, through the celebration of the Eucharist, the reading of the Word of God and witnessing to their faith in loving service to each other and their communities. Under the guidance of their pastors and catechists, they seek to deepen their faith and mature in Christian witness, as they live concrete experiences of fatherhood, motherhood, relationships, open fellowship, where each takes care of the other. This Family of God extends beyond the bonds of blood, ethnicity, tribe, culture and race. In this way, SCC open paths to reconciliation with extended families, which have the tendency to impose on Christian nuclear families their syncretistic ways and customs.
The Challenges Posed by the New Religious Movements
In light of the challenges posed by the new religious movements (cults, esoteric movements, etc.) local Churches are required to devise forms of evangelisation which best meet the existing problems of the faithful.
Parishes are to promote in their Small Christian Communities a fraternal life of solidarity. Agents in apostolic activity are also to develop a ministry of spiritual listening and support to assist the faithful to live each day in keeping with their faith.
Furthermore, the Synod recommends that catechesis lead to a genuine experience of conversion and include formation for perseverance in the faith in time of trials (cf. Rm 5:3-5), in the same manner that traditional initiation prepares young people to encounter any and every situation, deep Scriptural and doctrinal teachings of the Church should be transmitted to the faithful. Prayer groups, Church movements and new communities should also make this concern a part of their programmes.
Christ’s lay faithful share in the threefold mission of Christ, priest, prophet and king, because they are members of the People of God. They are therefore called to live their vocation and mission at all levels of society, especially in the socio-political, socio-economic and socio-cultural spheres. In this way, they become the "salt of the earth" and the "light of the world", as they serve reconciliation, justice and peace in the these spheres of society.
Consequently, the Church must provide them with an initial and ongoing catechesis for a conversion of heart, supported by an adequate spiritual, biblical, doctrinal and moral formation for a social Christian conscience.
In this regard, perhaps one of the providential tools for the development of this conversion and faith experience are the new ecclesial movements. These movements and communities of faith and communion exist in the Church as "veritable laboratories of faith", places of formation and empowerment through the Spirit for a life of witness and mission. Thus equipped as disciples of the Lord, they act in the world as leaven.
For those who are engaged in directing political, economic and cultural affairs, the Church is to take special care to plan a formation programme based on the Word of God and the social doctrine of the Church (cf."The Compendium", 12). This program is to include formation in leadership which transforms life through action (leadership training for transformative action).
At the same time, the Church is to encourage the formation of lay associations and fellowships in the different professional fields (medical, juridical, parliamentary, academic, etc.) to assist them in their apostolic activity in society and the Church. She is to further strengthen existing Councils of the Laity and support them at all levels by providing chaplains for them.
Small Christian Communities are to offer assistance in the formation of the People of God and serve as a place for concretely living out reconciliation, justice and peace.
As an institution, the family has a divine origin. It is the "sanctuary of life" and the nucleus of society and the Church. It is the proper place for learning and practicing the culture of pardon, peace, reconciliation and harmony.
Because of its capital importance and the threats this institution faces, notably, the trivialization of abortion, the devaluation of maternity (child-bearing), the distortion of the notion of marriage and the family itself, the ideology of divorce and a new relativist ethic, the family and human life need to be protected and defended.
The Synod Fathers call upon the local Churches to adopt the following measures:
-- make the Holy See’s Charter of the Family known;- adequate catechesis on the Christian understanding of the family;
-- concrete, integral pastoral programmes which promote a life of prayer and listening to the Word neof God ("lectio divina") in families;
-- education of couples to grow in conjugal love and responsible parenthood, according to the doctrine of the Church;
-- offer pastoral support to parents in their responsibilities as first educators;
-- spiritual accompaniment for couples (for instance, through the Notre Dame Team, the Cana Fraternity, etc.);
-- consider the service of Christian spouses as a ministry and make of this dignity the foundation of the family;
-- help the spouses to live their ministry as a ministry of prayer, evangelization, charity and life;
-- celebration of jubilees (silver, golden) of marriage with the awarding of certificates of honour;
-- support of young couples by well-identified model couples;
-- provisions for marriage counselling and institutes for the family;
-- education and formation in marriage and family values through the media (radio, television, etc.); and
-- creation of diocesan and national associations of families, supported, on the continental level.
Every priest configured by ordination to Christ, the Head and Good Shepherd, is called to be a living sign of Jesus Christ, who came to serve and not to be served (Mk 10:45).
Consequently, priests must cultivate a profound spiritual life that involves listening to the Word of God, celebrating the Eucharist, and fidelity to prayer, especially the Hours. They must resolutely commit themselves to an evangelical and a fraternal community life, shielded from family pressures, a modest life of discipline and self-denial ("Apostolica vivendi forma") and a special love for the poor. They are to be examples of responsible stewardship, of accountability and transparency. They should imitate the courageous prophets in the face of social ills. Thereby they become "salt of the earth" and "light of the world".
The priestly vocation also includes a commitment to the Gospel virtues of poverty, chastity, and obedience. These are their greatest profession of love for Christ, for his Church and for their neighbour. Accordingly, The Synod Fathers urge all priests of the Latin Rite to live their celibacy generously and with love.
According to the Apostolic Exhortation Pastores Dabo Vobis, (no. 29), "Celibacy must be accepted . . . as an inestimable gift of God, as a stimulus for pastoral charity, as participation in the fatherhood of God and in the fecundity of the Church, as witness of the kingdom for the world".
In addition, this grace period of the Year of Priests invites all priests to imitate the zeal of St. John Vianney for the ministry of the Sacrament of Penance.
In view of this and because of the ministries which priests exercise in the Christ and for Christ’s Faithful, sometimes in very difficult circumstances, the Synod Fathers do not cease to thank God for them and to lift them up in prayer to God for his help. But the Synod Fathers also wish to assure their priests a solid and ongoing formation in the pertinent areas of their life and ministry. They commend to them, for their sustenance and spiritual growth:
-- annual and monthly days of recollection
-- regular prayer life and reading of Scriptures
-- ongoing formation, especially for young priests who need to be lovingly accompanied, and which should include the Social Doctrine of the Church; and
-- overall security and the means of an honourable life for sick and aged priests.
Furthermore, for priests who work outside their dioceses, the Synod specifies that an agreement (or contract) be reached between the diocese of origin and the welcoming diocese, clearly defining the conditions of life and work and the duration of the mission. In addition, these priests must be considered as fully pastors in all justice and Christian charity and with full membership in the presbyterate.
A holistic approach is needed in the formation of seminarians preparing for the Catholic priesthood. While the importance of a solid intellectual, moral, spiritual and pastoral formation must be upheld, the human and psychological growth of each candidate should be included as a foundation for the development of an authentic priestly life. The formators are to ensure the spiritual renewal of seminarians who should not conform to ethnic and cultural limitations (cf. Rom 12), but on the contrary become that "new being in Christ" (2 Cor 5:17).
In this way, our future priests can become more firmly grounded in the understanding of their cultures and Gospel virtues and strengthened in their commitment and loyalty to the person of Christ and the Church’s mission of reconciliation, justice and peace.
The academic staff of the seminary and the special formation team are to work together in order to facilitate this integral formation. The seminarians should be formed for community life in such a way that fraternal life among them will, in the future, guarantee a true experience of priesthood as a "close priestly fraternity".
In the selection and formation of candidates, the bishop and the team of formators are to discern carefully the motivation and aptitude of the seminarians, in order to ensure that those who are eventually ordained priests will be true disciples of Christ and servants of the Church.