By Jesús Colina
VATICAN CITY, OCT. 5, 2009 (Zenit.org).- The synod on Africa is seeking to bring justice and peace to a continent bloodied by dozens of conflicts, according to the relator-general of the assembly.
Cardinal Peter Kodwo Appiah Turkson, the archbishop of Cape Coast, Ghana, affirmed this in the longest of the “Before the Discussion” reports given today to the Second Special Assembly for Africa of the Synod of Bishops. The cardinal did not read the complete report, but the Vatican published it in its entirety.
In the discourse, Cardinal Turkson pointed to the theme of the synod, explaining that the objective of the assembly is to bring African Catholics to become “servants of reconciliation, justice and peace” as “salt of the earth.”
In his analysis, the 60-year-old prelate observed how Africa and the Church in Africa have changed since May 7, 1994, when Pope John Paul II formally concluded the first synod on Africa.
At the beginning of the Polish Pope’s pontificate, the number of Catholics on the continent numbered some 55 million. By 1994, their number had almost doubled, bringing Catholics to be nearly 15% of the population. Today, fifteen years later, Catholics number almost 165 million, 17.5% of the African population.
In this context, the relator-general affirmed: “Gathered again in a Second Special Assembly for Africa, 15 years after the First Special Assembly, we need to be rooted deeply in the first synod, but cognizant of and keen to explore, most importantly, the ‘new ecclesial and social data for the continent,’ which now affect the Church’s mission there and require that the African Church, besides understanding itself as ‘a witness of Christ’ and ‘family of God,’ also understands itself as ‘salt of the earth, light of the world’ and ‘servants of reconciliation, justice and peace.'”
This reconciliation, he clarified, should be “with God — vertical — and among human beings — horizontal.”
No easy task
Cardinal Turkson did not hide the obstacles the African faithful face in bringing justice and peace to their continent.
“Bad governance begets bad economy,” he observed, and “this explains the paradox of the poverty of a continent which is certainly the most richly endowed in the world.”
Another obstacle, the prelate said, is the “strange and terrible pressures” affecting the family.
“Traditional marriages, which founded families, are threatened by an increasing proposal of alternative unions and relationships, devoid of the concept of lasting commitments, non-heterosexual in character, and without the aim of procreation,” he said.
A further concern, Cardinal Turkson said, is drug and weapons trafficking. Another is the environment.
And yet, the cardinal contended, “The truth is that Africa has been burdened for too long by the media with everything that is loathsome to humankind; and it is time to ‘shift gears’ and to have the truth about Africa told with love, fostering the development of the continent which would lead to the well-being of the whole world. The G-8 countries and the countries of the world must love Africa in truth!”
The relator-general stated to the 244 members of the assembly — including 33 cardinals, 79 archbishops and 156 bishops — that “Jesus Christ, after revealing himself through Scriptures as our reconciliation, justice and peace, now calls and commissions his disciples in Africa and its islands to expend themselves, like salt and light, to build the Church in Africa as a veritable family of God through the ministries of reconciliation, justice and peace, exercised in love, like their master.”
Open contributions and reports on the relationships of the other continents with Africa made up the afternoon of the synod today. As well, various bishops made an analysis of the application of “Ecclesia in Africa.”
Cardinal Turkson’s intervention came after an opening meditation from the Pope. In his reflection, the Holy Father explained that the Church is not an organization but the fruit of the Holy Spirit.
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On ZENIT’s Web site:
Cardinal Turkson’s complete address: www.zenit.org/article-27056?l=english