VATICAN CITY, NOV. 14, 2004 (Zenit.org).- John Paul II announced that he will convoke a second Synod of Bishops for Africa as a follow-up to the first synod held in 1994.
The Holy Father made the announcement Saturday at a general audience with the participants of the first Symposium of Bishops of Africa and Europe, held in Rome from Nov. 10-13.
The symposium had as its theme “Communion and Solidarity between Africa and Europe.” An estimated 150 bishops from over 60 countries participated in the event organized by the bishop’s conferences of Europe and Africa, with the sponsorship of the Vatican Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples.
“Taking up the proposals of the post-synodal council, interpreter of the wishes of the African pastors, I take advantage of the opportunity to announce my intention to call a second special assembly for Africa of the Synod of Bishops,” John Paul II said without specifying the dates.
The first meeting of African bishops was held in the Vatican from April 10 to May 8, 1994, in the framework of continental synods called by the Pope whose objective was to prepare the Church for the great jubilee of the year 2000.
The conclusions of that synod were summarized by the Pope in the apostolic exhortation “Ecclesia in Africa” (1995).
While preparing for the next synod, the Holy Father invited believers to “implore from the Lord the precious gift of communion and peace for the beloved land of Africa.”
The Pope also encouraged meetings such as the first Symposium of African and European Bishops, as they enhance “communion among the Churches.” This symposium, and the one foreseen between the bishops of Africa and America serve in “addressing jointly problems of common interest.”
On Sunday Vatican Radio’s international news program concluded that several conclusions could be drawn from the event.
“The first is the authentic communion and sense of effective collaboration for the proclamation of the Kingdom,” it reported.
“The Bishops have understood better in what conditions their brothers work in the local Churches and have seen what pastoral options of some might help others. For this reason, it was decided to create a working group to continue this dialogue in a concrete way,” said Vatican Radio.
Second was the verification of “the need to evangelize the political structures, which means to find ways to apply the social doctrine of the Church.”
The third conclusion Vatican Radio added was that there were discussions on “the formation of the lay faithful so that they will give an ever more incisive testimony in society.”
The bishops also hope to establish a pressure group at the international level to resolve the problem of the external debt of poor countries. In addition, they reminded developed countries of their assumed commitment to allocate 0.7% of the GNP to aid for development.
Also discussed were the possibilities that dioceses of Africa and Europe have to exchange human resources, in particular, priests, seminarians, and laymen. One of the most debated topics was the sending of African priests as missionaries to Europe. Some prelates said that this practice robs the Church in Africa of necessary vital forces and that the priests do not always find the right reception in European communities.
The symposium concluded with a message of hope of the African and European bishops to their faithful.