African Prelates Expose National Problems

Propose Strategies for Reconciliation

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Share this Entry

VATICAN CITY, OCT. 7, 2009 ( Prelates from various African countries addressed the Synod of Bishops to present the specific challenges with which their people are struggling, including violence, human trafficking and abuse of political power.

These interventions took place Tuesday afternoon at the Fourth General Congregation of the Second Special Assembly for Africa of the Synod of Bishops, which began Sunday in Rome.

From the Democratic Republic of Congo, Archbishop François-Xavier Maroy Rusengo of Bukavu came to describe the wars and violence in his country.

Reconciliation requires considering «the deep causes of the crisis in relations,» he said, as reported in an English summary provided by the Vatican.

While we gather in these meetings, the prelate told the 225 synod fathers present, «the pastoral agents in our archdiocese are worried about the enemies of peace.»

Just last Friday, he said, one of our parishes was burnt down, «the priests were attacked, others taken hostage by uniformed men who demanded a very high ransom, which we were forced to pay to save the lives of our priests that they threatened to massacre.»

The archbishop underlined the need to give «special attention» to educating youth in reconciliation so as to «build a new future.»


Archbishop Simon Ntamwana of Gitega, Burundi, another of the 16 prelates who offered interventions in this session, appealed for the families in his nation that are «disrupted, destabilized and impoverished.»

He observed, «Some do not even have their own homes to live in, nor land to cultivate in order to survive.»

«Added to these types of lacking,» the prelate said, «there are phenomena such as the rape of women» and «the recruitment of children into armed groups.»

The archbishop, who is president of the Association of Episcopal Conferences of Central Africa Region, decried the fact that in Burundi, «political men use ethnic fractures to gain and to maintain power.»

He underlined the role of the Church in building peace and justice, as well as in aiding the vulnerable in conflict situations.

A representative from Zimbabwe, Bishop Martin Munyanyi of Gweru, described similar issues in his country, «such as poverty, violence, lack of recognition of women, children and minority groups.»

«Zimbabwe had very difficult and inhuman socio-political experiences,» he said, «which need to be dealt with urgently.»

The prelate added that reconciliation is needed within the Church, not only on a national level, because there is «simmering tension» due to ethnic differences.

Bishop Michael Wüstenberg of Aliwal, South Africa, echoed this call for reconciliation within the Church, in particular noting the need to develop stronger ties between prelates and laypeople.

He underlined the need for «a comprehensive spirituality of reconciliation» based on the sacraments.

The Maronite bishop of Cairo, Egypt, had a suggestion that followed along these lines: give more importance to the formation of priests for Africa, with an emphasis on promoting dialogue.

Bishop François Eid affirmed that this training can help priests become «instruments of peace and reconciliation,» so that they can be «messengers of the Gospel of peace for a New Africa.»

Consecrated life

Salesian Father Guillermo Luis, the general counselor of his order for Africa and Madagascar, stated that instead of speaking of the religious as the protagonists of reconciliation, justice and peace, the «community of sacred life» should be stressed.

In this sense, he said, there is an urgent need to help consecrated persons to remain faithful to the «vocation of profound communion and reconciliation.»

Archbishop Antoine Ntalou of Garoua, Cameroon, also underlined the need for greater formation in the Church, for laypeople as well.

He noted the «significant division» between «the organization of social life and the needs of the evangelical message.»

It is «more urgent,» the prelate said, «to ensure a solid Christian formation of the sons and daughters of our Church than to commit oneself to politics, economy and the other key-sectors of life in our African countries,» so that they can then work to change the societal evils.

Among these problems, the apostolic vicar of Tripoli, Libya, Bishop Giovanni Innocenzo Martinelli, made special mention of the «more than ten million displaced persons» on the African continent.

«They look for jobs to help their families or as a means to reach Europe in the hopes of finding a better and more secure life,» he explained.

The prelate asked the synod to remember these immigrants, who are often forced to work «badly-paid and dangerous jobs,» or, in the case of women, are «obliged to prostitute themselves and are turned into slaves.»

The president of the Council of the Ethiopian Church, Archbishop Berhaneyesus Demerew Souraphiel of Addis Abeba, also appealed for the displaced persons, refugees and migrants.

He underlined the need to study the root causes of human trafficking, and to «show to the world that African lives are sacred and not cheap.»

— — —

On ZENIT’s Web page:

Full text:

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Share this Entry


Support ZENIT

If you liked this article, support ZENIT now with a donation