Reports of the Working Groups
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VATICAN CITY, OCT. 16, 2009 (Zenit.org).-- Here are the English--language summaries provided by the Vatican press office of the Reports of the Working Groups of the Second Special Assembly for Africa of the Synod of Bishops. Reports were either read Thursday in the Synod Hall, or delivered in written form.
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Lusitanus: H. Exc. Mons. Gabriel MBILINGI, C.S.Sp., Archbishop Coadjutor Lubango, President of the "Inter--regional Meeting of Bishops of Southern Africa" (I.M.B.I.S.A.) (ANGOLA)
A. Some themes not developed:
-- Consecrated Life, the role of Bishops, of priests, of catechists, as qualified agents of reconciliation;
-- the administration of justice as an essential element for a reconciliated society, knowing the problems existing in our countries pertinent to this;
-- The Word of God as light which illuminates the paths of Reconciliation, of Justice and of Peace;
-- Liturgy as center of life of the Christian and therefore essential in the path of re conciliation;
-- The role of the school and of the family as places of formation for reconciliation
-- Inculturation without which the efforts of reconciliation could be useless;
-- Pneumatological and Marian dimension;
-- Tribalism and xenophobia as the causes of violent conflicts and violations to human rights;
-- Fetishism as an element that generates suffering, fear, conflicts and exploitation of peoples ;
-- Young people, adolescents and children as protagonists of reconciliation and peace and not only victims;
-- Hunger, expression of the lack of the basic means for a dignified life, as an element that generates conflicts and injustice;
B. Some suggestions
-- A clear reference to the Social Doctrine of the Church, as being part of the content of our Evangelizing and Catechetical Doctrine
-- That Catechesis should take on a Catechumenal model, that leads a person to make their personal choice for Christ;
-- To refer to the fundamental role of Consecrated Life in the mission and life of the Church, emphasizing above all its work in the field of reconciliation, justice and peace through prayer, present in school, in hospitals, in the mass media for social communication, promotion of woman, etc.
-- To point out the role of women in the field of reconciliation from its proper feminine characteristic;
-- To emphasize politic work as service to the society, helping Christian politics to assume their commitments based on their own faith. Trying to invest in the formation and supervision of laws in the various sector of his life, with the possibility to nominate chaplains for the specific sectors: professors, police, military, etc.
-- As for clergy, insist on the existence of sacerdotal minister as the service to the people of God and not as authoritarian. That the priests support truth in the people, with time for the ministry of listening and reconciliation.
Being able to help in the healing of wounds and traumas. Being also aware of their social role, by becoming authentic instruments of reconciliation, even among non Christians.
-- To denounce serious situations against human rights, by doing it with energy, clearly and precisely.-- To have the courage to walk a path of reconciliation and purification of memory within the Church.
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Gallicus E: Rev. F. Edouard TSIMBA, C.I.C.M., Superior General of the Congregation of the Immaculate Heart of Mary (Missionaries of Scheut) (UNION OF THE SUPERIOR GENERAL)
The search for truth is the necessary condition for reconciliation.
Continent of many resources and yearnings, Africa must bring her own contribution to the rest of the world.
Is it possible to speak about peace to a hungry people? Can poverty excuse the rage against each other for acts of barbarity?
To speak of reconciliation means to speak about the mercy of God. Only a person reconciled with God, living in peace, is able to bring peace.
Therefore it is necessary to recall the value of the sacrament of reconciliation and therefore the seriousness and time that the agents (priests) must direct to this subject by consecrating all the time and preparation needed, for personal confession as well as for community celebrations.
Christ is the source of reconciliation and justice. To begin again from Him, in prayer and full of His Word. We should form lay persons more, men and women, as agents of reconciliation.
As well as Biblical foundations, use the African traditional foundations in proverbs, sentences. Despite everything going on in Africa, we should not despair. Many good things also happen there and are worthy of the world’s attention. The life and witness of many Christians, sometimes to the point of martyrdom, are worthy of being remembered and are a source to reinforce faith. The life and example of Church agents, without distinctions, is of great importance in this domain of reconciliation. In fact, for Christians, it is in hope that we are saved (Spe salvi).
We must inspire the collaboration of men as well as women, in the consideration of their qualities, in the Church and in society.
May all Christians, each according to their ministry, be proud of being such and demonstrating it in their lives. Thus, our Church will become a community of joy and celebration and will accomplish her prophetic mission. Holiness is a plea for us all, men and women, and is worthy of an important place in the text.
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Anglicus A: H. Exc. Mons. Anthony John Valentine OBINNA, Archbishop of Owerri (NIGERIA)
1. We recommend that all means of communication, national and local, be used to spread the news of the fruits of the Synod.
2. There was a positive and healthy experience of ecclesial communion throughout the Synod. Let us try to transmit this within our Churches and organizations.
3. There is a pressing need to heal our hearts and consciences, wounded by various personal and social sins: from egoism to tribalism to the clan system to the factionalism that at times even our Churches have been afflicted by. The Synod allows us to deepen our knowledge of these wounds and prepares us to heal them.
4. The spirituality of this Synod is formed by the self--transcending and self--sacrificing figure of Our Lord Jesus Christ.
5. While respecting the doctrinal and evangelizing contents of the Sacraments, in particular those of marriage and reconciliation, elements of African culture could be introduced that could help to raise a Church--Family of God in Africa.
6. The lay faithful have to be made aware of their role as agents of reconciliation, justice and peace in their areas of work or spheres of activity.
7. While appreciating the work of the Justice and Peace Commissions, they have to be further strengthened.
8. To strengthen the Africa family it is not sufficient to condemn: positive initiatives need to be undertaken to correct irregular situations.
9. To respond to the numerous victims of injustice on the continent, the unborn (abortion), orphans, street children, disabled, prisoners, persecuted and marginalized communities, we need to create structures of justice, peace, and pastoral care, understanding and empathy in the Church and from the Church.
10. Lay people have to be better trained in order to be able to better serve the Church and society.
11. The compendium of the Church’s social doctrine should be an obligatory text for the formation and skills acquisition of lay people.
12. The authentic African and Christian sense of the family has to continue to be underlined and pondered.
13. We need to use official texts on human life and sexuality to teach seminarians and young people the Christian doctrine and approach to sexuality.
14. The Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph has to be presented to every family as a model to grow in love, harmony and peace.
15. The catechesis on the family has to be promoted to become part of the compendium of the Church’s social doctrine.
16. Women have to be given roles in the Church as full members. Renewed efforts have to be made to eliminate discrimination against women in all areas.
17. Support and aid structures for religious have to be made more functional.
18. A more profound conversion is required in our relationship with Christ in order to pass beyond egoism.
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Gallicus A: Rev. F. Gérard CHABANON, M. Afr., Superior General of the Missionaries of Africa (White Fathers) (UNION OF THE SUPERIOR GENERAL)
We thank God for the involvement of lay persons, men and women, in the self--determination of the Church in Africa. But we would also like to turn attention to the negative influence of witchcraft, a truly occult war which Africa bears within her.
Justice, peace and reconciliation are gifts from God. The Church has a prophetic role to play in making these gifts bear fruit.
A dual path is called for: denouncing and announcing. Denouncing the injustices by trying to understand the deep causes for them and announcing, to proclaim the efforts, the politics that are going in the right direction.
Two great themes
1. The family: This is the base cell of Christian society and communities. It is threatened by poverty, bad government, the difficulty in teaching children, violence and irresponsibility by fathers of families who abandon their spouses and children.
2. Islam: A greatly discussed subject. The situations in Africa are many and in particular between North and South of the Sahara. Arabness and Africanity do not always have the same values. A dialogue of life and a social dialogue could be developed between Christians and Muslims. It has been strongly underlined that we must aim everywhere at the freedom of conscience and the reciprocity of worship.
-- Traditional African Religions must have more space in our reflection.
-- Formation, the life and role of priests.
-- Development of permanent deacons, the possible players of justice, peace and reconciliation.
-- Solidarity among churches. That Episcopal Conferences speak with one voice.
-- Importance of ecumenism.
We walk under the guidance of the Holy Spirit towards a plan of action for the Church of Africa that will make it a recognized and appreciated agent of social transformation which inscribes itself perfectly in her evangelizing mission.
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Anglicus C: Rev. Mons. Obiora Francis IKE, Director of "Catholic Institute for Development, Justice and Peace" (CIDJAP), Enugu, Nigeria (NIGERIA)
Our proposal concerns the realization of structures to reinforce episcopal unity in the various ecclesial communities on the various continents, in mutual solidarity and co--responsibility. The SECAM will be reinforced and if necessary reviewed and reformed to become a continental episcopal structure effective for African needs, with country members making available material, financial and human resources.
In the hearts of African bishops are freedom of movement and the rights of migrants and workers who suffer restrictive policies in the whole world, often left in living conditions that are dehumanizing. In many countries we can see a strong resurgence of racism and xenophobia, and many Africans are victims of this inhumane treatment. Persons must be treated with dignity and respect even in the places of destination. For our part, we must try to understand why so many young persons, often professionals, leave their countries of origin.
It would be necessary to also create commissions in each diocese in Africa to promote the dignity and role of women in the Church and in society.
Another aspect that should be evaluated concretely is the lack of knowledge of the teachings of the Church and its potential in the area of education and formation for the betterment of human quality. For this we exhort giving life to permanent formation, with programs of reconciliation, justice and peace.
Despite the great potential of the African peoples, we then see that our countries suffer extreme poverty and bad governance. To face these situations for us is a challenge to be taken up. Therefore we repeat the position of the “Ecclesia in Africa” No. 104 which clearly exhorts urgent action by the Church in Africa for this (No. 104).
Of particular importance then is the formation of pastoral agents who must insist on the spreading of the concept of the dignity of labor, the mobility of savings, trustworthiness, the use of appropriate programming and the creation of banks for agriculture, schools and structures that can guarantee self--sufficiency of the Church.
Finally, the Synod exhorts the creation of an African Council of Peace that should intervene and help the local Church in the resolution of conflicts and in the consruction of peace in the continent.
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Gallicus C: H. Exc. Mons. Philippe OUÉDRAOGO, Archbishop of Ouagadougou (BURKINA FASO)
Our group took as its scheme for reflection the trilogy proposed by the Instrumentum laboris: Christ our reconciliation, Christ our justice, Christ our peace, and added a fourth dimension: agents of reconciliation, justice and peace.
1. Christ our reconciliation
Positive and negative aspects in African culture and traditions have been found pertaining to reconciliation. Among the negative elements we can mention: the collective characteristic of guilt, solidarity of the clan, a category of guilt judged impossible to forgive, the lack of consideration of the private dimension of guilt, revenge, which do not allow for reconciliation. The positive elements of African traditions, useful for catechesis and the celebration of the Sacrament of Reconciliation are instead: the use of confession, sanctions and reparation, signs of reconciliation, that is palm wine, the gift of a daughter in marriage, calling on the ancestors, swearing or committing to never fall into the same error.
2. Christ our justice
Man created in the image of God must be respected above all in his fundamental rights, in particular that of women, who in Africa are the first victims of injustice. The Church -- Family of God in Africa must commit itself to rise to this challenge through justice and peace commissions, literacy, teaching citizens’ rights.
3. Christ our peace
The witness of the Church must go step by step with the concrete effort for peace in each of its members. There is no justice without respect for the law. We must help our politicians to put them back in place and consolidate the state founded on law, preaching on every appropriate and inappropriate occasion, according to the mandate of the Apostle Paul. We noted the widespread power of money on all levels of social, political and economic life. From this the need for a better catechesis on the value and use of material goods.
4. Agents of reconciliation, justice and peace
Following the example of Christ and through its members, the Church is called on to constitute the Kingdom of God: a reign of reconciliation, justice and peace. All the baptized, each according to their own vocation, are called to play out their irreplaceable role. Therefore the Church must promote a pastoral appropriate to service to the families. It must then give women their worth and their role in the community and guide the laity so that their commitment is effective on a social level and rich in evangelical values. In the same way priests, being at the service of God and men, must live in a coherent way with their vocation to be a model. The mass media, which are modern means of unstoppable communication, must be evangelized and used by the Church to teach consciences about the discernment of information, with the goal of contributing to the good of humanity rather than evil.
Reconciliation, justice and peace constitute today’s complex challenges in Africa and in the world. The disciples of Christ must therefore take note of the situation and mobilize themselves more for a more reconciled, more just and more peaceful world.
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Anglicus -- Gallicus: H. Exc. Mons. Jean MBARGA, Bishop of Ebolowa (CAMEROON)
The report contains two main articulations:
1. General appreciation for the relatio postdisceptationem,
2. Answers to the questionnaire of this document.
In general, the relatio postdisceptationem was positively received; the needs related to its drafting shows the worthiness of its author who was able to produce such a text in so short a time with so few characters. The Secretariat of the Synod could have foreseen giving more time and more literary space.
However, we would have liked it to be drafted in following as much as possible the structure of the Instrumentum laboris. Moreover, a multi--ministerial vision of the Church would have given more importance to the place and the mission of all the categories of the People of God in the Church, especially the lay persons. The question of tribalism in the Church is still the major challenge. An equilibrium could have been made between the theological developments and the breadth of the human dramas in Africa to which the synodal fathers must answer; the prophetic action of the "justice and peace" commissions should also have been taken more into consideration. The analysis of the African conflicts should have allowed the study of the main causes, such as pillaging of the natural resources of Africa, more incisive than the so often incriminated tribalism.
Group 12 recognizes that the Synod is a gift from God for the whole Church and even for all of humanity. Ecclesial communion is also a force which must allow Africans to confront the challenges which are theirs, with hope and the resurrection, as well as in complete universal solidarity. Faith in Christ which is specific to Christians offers all men and especially Africans, a real ability to breathe the spirit of reconciliation, justice and peace into the whole continent. It is for all African Christians a plea to a true missionary and prophetic commitment for it to be in every place and in every time the sign and instrument of this reconciled, peaceful and just Africa.
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Anglicus B: H. Exc. Mons. Sithembele Anton SIPUKA, Bishop of Umtata (SOUTH AFRICA)
We note that the lack of publicity for the Synod reflects our weakness in communication, so we need, on our return, to communicate what we discussed and decided here. We could give more publicity to the results of the Synod in South Africa to make up for its lack of preparation. We note that there is a link between this and the last Synod, the Family of God and how to keep them together are the objectives. We need to organize more Synods, reinforce the commissions on justice and peace, or establish them where they haven’t been set up and form small committees to spread the results from the foundations, even before the final publication of the results of the Synod by the Pope.
We also have to consider that the causes of wounded hearts are manifold: from the point of view of the guilty who are wounded by sin and pride, and from the point of view of the victims. Whoever is injured by sin perpetrates conflicts, whoever is a victim of these crimes is inclined to seek revenge.
A part of the solution to the problem of instability is to be found in we Africans. For example, we have to establish good government. I believe that the themes of our conference, the conversion of hearts and its influence on society, will help us resolve this problem.
Unfortunately, we do not have a permanent formation after baptism and confirmation that might help people remain in the Church. For this reason we have to look again at our current methodology of catechesis.
There is a problem with the hierarchical structure in African society as a result of which superiors cannot ask pardon of inferiors. For example, it is unthinkable that a husband would ask forgiveness of a wife or an old man of a young man. This also applies to ethnic groups: one ethnic group might not consider it appropriate to ask another for pardon. It further appears that traditional African means of reconciliation are an obstacle to the Christian ideal and practice of reconciliation.
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Gallicus B: H. Exc. Mons. Louis PORTELLA MBUYU, Bishop of Kinkala, President of the Episcopal Conference (REPUBLIC OF CONGO)
The group greatly insisted on the universal dimension of the synod, which implies the active participation of every continent in all phases of the synod, in particular, through the presence of those responsible for the dicasteries of the Roman Curia and the representatives of the Church on other continents. Even in Africa, the mobilization was great: diocesan synod, reflection--reply to questionnaires, meetings between theologians, use of mass media and prayer.
It is also hoped that the ecclesial communion will be more effective on all levels (national, regional and continental).
Africa has been through deep wounds which have marked her history heavily. However, there is a need for a healing of the memory. Therefore one must commit oneself firmly in a dynamic of hope and resurrection like the first synod for Africa recommended.
The Group also underlined the importance of a spirituality which must integrate the religious or mystical dimension with programs of action. Therefore to develop a spirituality of life.
Our cultures are rich in positive elements that can contribute to reconciliation and peace such as the "palabre," the "fiavana" in Madagascar, parenthood as a solid form of family ties, mediation, the symbolism of water that people drink after having recognized and confessed their differences. Other examples to the contrary create obstacles (hatred, accusations of witchcraft, caste systems, etc.) A deep work of evangelization would allow the overcoming of the contradictions that exist sometimes between the ethnic bond and the ecclesial one.
More than the Church in its internal workings, the problem of injustice concerns governments and societies that exploit our resources.
Therefore the urgencies are many: to form those who have decisional powers now and in the future (a spiritual and doctrinal formation, but also technical, followed by chaplains in turn appropriately formed); to give women the place which is theirs; to educate the persons to peace from a tender age and help them change their way of looking at others; the same can be said for education in a state based on law and all other Christian values that concern society.
The family, the fundamental cell of society, merits an important pastoral mobilization. The family pastoral implies all categories: children and youth must receive an accurate education, couples must progress in conjugal love; parents must accept their responsibilities as the first teachers. The Christian values of matrimony and family must therefore be at the center of appropriate pastoral initiatives.
The relationship between our culture and the Sacraments of the Eucharist and Reconciliation points us towards an incultured catechesis of these Sacraments. In this sector, why not think about a continental Eucharistic council led by a dynamic of theological research, catechesis and incultured celebration?
The prophetic mission of the Church demands a plan of pastoral action centered on the analysis of the causes of the conflicts and violence in the light of the Word of God and the social doctrine of the Church and also requires calling on those responsible.
The ordained ministers must also therefore be true witnesses of reconciliation, justice and peace, and also teachers, as Paul VI said in the Evangelii nuntiandi.
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Anglicus E: H. Exc. Mons. Martin Igwemezie UZOUKWU, Bishop of Minna (NIGERIA)
The discussion was organized into series of questions and answers. Here follow the most interesting points that emerged from the dialogue. The formation of the Christian should start from that domestic church that is the family, with particular attention being paid to translating the documents into local languages and distributing audiovisual recordings. We have to have a positive attitude towards African traditions, see them as an opportunity and examine them closely to purify and use them in the process of reconciliation.
Diversity too has to be seen as a gift; it was created by God and it is a resource. But often politicians use our diversity to divide one ethnic group from another and create tension and conflict; for this reason reconciliation has to be de-politicized, freed from the blackmail of not always clear political motivations. We do not wish to demonize politicians as such but remind ourselves that they need, like everyone, fraternal formation and correction on the part of those who are further on than they are on the road of faith. The criterion to follow is that suggested by Christ himself: condemn the sin but love and guide the sinner.
Particular attention must be paid to the formation of the clergy who in their work are building the Kingdom of God every day. Even the priest risks losing sight of the greatness of his vocation and is threatened by the mentality of the world that spreads the non-values of materialism; the priest has to imitate Christ in serving, not in being served. Seminarians should be taught how to use the new media, to make their education more complete and to be able to evangelize also using internet and other new means that become available with technological progress. Particular attention has to be paid to the cinema; in the case of Nigeria, all too often films deal with magic and witchcraft, while we hope for a greater presence of Catholic artists in this field.
Many interventions asked for greater attention on women; as regards this we would like to recall the presence of the WUCWO (the World Union of Catholic Women’s Organization) who with its 60 million members constitutes an influential and active presence. All the members of our working group were in agreement in recognizing the ecclesial value of this occasion: the Church is the body of Christ, speaking and working together is a precious experience that helps us experience concretely this truth of faith.
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Gallicus D: H. Exc. Mons. Denis Komivi AMUZU--DZAKPAH, Archbishop of Lomé (TOGO)
This second synod must keep in mind the first, in which it inscribes itself, maintaining as its objective spreading the fruits that it has produced from its conclusion, in the respective dioceses in Africa, to all the agents of evangelization (priests, religious, catechists) without forgetting the young persons.
To be certain that it is well received, the Message of the Synod must be simple, understandable and accessible to the greatest number of persons possible. The synod must orient the pastoral and pastoral action.
The challenges and problems raised by the synod belong not only to Africa, and its resolutions and recommendations will most surely be valid also for other continents.
The destabilizing of the African continent is due to many wounded hearts, from the many evils and injustices that have sown revolt. This is the reason the synodal fathers make a plea to conversion and purification of memory and heart.
No. 66 of the Instrumentum laboris refers to: “cultural alienation and racial discrimination, which have engendered along the course of African history an inferiority complex, fatalism and fear”: it is time for things to change in us and around us, the bishops have said, because we must progressively become the authors and the protagonists of our destiny. We must rediscover our culture.
The first synod was a synod of hope and resurrection; today's must follow this in a way and also be a synod of commitment and courage. We must follow a balanced program of spirituality to reinforce faith in our societies.
We must make an effort with regards the community celebration and regular exercise of the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Countries and dioceses must establish justice and peace commissions, trustworthy intermediaries for reconciliation.
The education of the young in respect for one another, in love of truth and the search for reconciliation is a priority, as are the formation of the laity and the apostolate of those responsible for society. It is fundamental to contemplate measures of protection and safekeeping of the family, through a program of "education to life and to love." The promotion of woman’s dignity also needs concrete measures.
To develop the Eucharistic spirituality the celebration of a continental Eucharistic congress was proposed.
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Anglicus D: H. Exc. Mons. Lucas ABADAMLOORA, Bishop of Navrongo--Bolgatanga, President of the Episcopal Conference (GHANA)
The challenges faced by society are also challenges for the family: fidelity, poverty, violence, birth control, divorce, etc. From here stems the need to encourage Christians to adequately prepare for marriage and generosity in the procreation of new lives. Christian marriage even has to be strengthened in its role as domestic Church, while the African family in general must not close its eyes to the modern threats this institution is facing. Formation has an essential role and should be reinforced in every way. For lay people, as regards their spiritual life and knowledge of the social doctrine of the Church as an instrument to make them witnesses of reconciliation, justice and peace in all fields of life. They also require an ongoing professional formation.
For their part, lay people can help in the formation of priests, enriching their education not just academically but also spiritually and socially. Presbyters need help to look more closely at their vocation and appreciate the sense of its ministry. A lot needs to be done before people are healed of the many wounds they bear, the fruit of the wars and dramas the continent has endured. In this sense, a purification of the memory should be established as a way towards justice and reconciliation. Since "peace is found in truth", with the light of Christ the Church can help in this challenge through the sacramental life, liturgies of forgiveness and well--prepared counselors.
The role of the Church should also be endowed as regards the apostolate to prisoners, the promotion of their human dignity and the drive towards reconciliation and integration back into society. The Church, for her part, has to wake up in front of the scourge of HIV which is decimating families. A greater role should also be given to youth, because they deserve greater access to education, integral formation and a catechesis that takes them deeper into their faith. From here stems the need for deeper religious formation on the part of teachers as well.
The spreading and strengthening of human values, such as the dignity of human beings, the common good, values like peace and justice for the development of society, all have a role of great importance to play here. For this reason the pastoral of the Church in Africa, in its dialogue with society, has to aim at the task of the media and, above all, at those Catholic media principally in reconciliation, justice and peace.