Bishops Ask Pardon for Africans' Guilt in Slave Trafficking

On Goree Island, Symbol of the Trade in Human Beings

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DAKAR, Senegal, OCT. 9, 2003 ( The Catholic Church in Africa has asked forgiveness publicly and solemnly for the role played by Africans past and present in old and new forms of slavery.

The appeal took place in a «ceremony of forgiveness» for Africans who «have sold their brothers.» The event came within the framework of the meeting of the Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar (SECAM) which ends Sunday.

On behalf of the whole African episcopate, three bishops said: «We acknowledge these grave faults and we kneel down to ask for forgiveness.»

«These sins, once forgiven, require that the Catholic Church today, for which we respond in Africa, put ten times more ardor to correct the mistaken mentality, which has arisen from these events and permitted them,» the bishops added in the ceremony held last Sunday.

The ceremony was held in the infamous «House of Slaves» on the island of Goree. It was followed by a Stations of the Cross and a Mass. John Paul II visited this place on Feb. 22, 1992.

The SECAM meeting, attended by 150 cardinals and bishops, aimed to stimulate the work of «purifying the memory,» terms used by Archbishop Laurent Monsengwo Pasinya of Kisangani, president of SECAM.

A report published Oct. 4 attests to the guilt of Africans in their own enslavement. It was written by Father Barthelemy Adoukonou, secretary-general of the Regional Episcopal Conference for French-speaking Western Africa. In his 15-page report, the Benin theologian states that slavery took place thanks to the complicity of some Africans.

«The trade of Blacks is one of the most odious acts, or perhaps the most odious of human history, be it for its dimensions or the human disasters it caused, or because of the mentalities and behaviors that allowed them,» the reports states. «Among these mentalities and behaviors we, for our part, include in the first place the mentalities and behaviors of ourselves, Blacks.»

The «trade,» the priest writes, «would not have taken place and would no be perpetuated under such harmful and hidden forms if we did not bear the responsibility that we have.»

«There are Africans who have sold their brothers,» Archbishop Theodore Adrien Sarr of Dakar told the press on Monday.

Affirming this truth was necessary, he added, so that «Africans will emerge from a kind of ‘self-inferiority’ and take the future of Africa by the reins.»

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