Interventions From Synod's 7th Congregation

VATICAN CITY, OCT. 9, 2009 ( Here are the English-language summaries provided by the Vatican press office of the interventions given Thursday afternoon at the Seventh General Congregation of the Second Special Assembly for Africa of the Synod of Bishops.

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H. Em. Card. André VINGT-TROIS, Archbishop of Paris, President of the Episcopal Conference (FRANCE)

The relationships between our Churches are registered in a more than secular history. However our relations have evolved greatly since the first evangelization. Our European Churches have rejoiced in seeing the Sub-Saharan African Churches reach maturity with their own hierarchy, their clergy, their religious communities, their laity so strongly involved in the life of the parishes and in the proclamation of the Gospel on the African continent.

After few years, our relations developed into a true exchange of gifts. Without a doubt many French dioceses and parishes are committed to giving concrete aid to the various African Churches. But today, many of those dioceses receive important help from the African dioceses.

This aid can mainly be seen in two forms. The first is the number of African Catholic immigrants to France. On the other hand, African priests have an increasingly important place in the French pastoral system. Also, student priests (more than 250 priests) are numerous in university towns, we find more and more African priests in the title of «Fidei Donum». Today, they number more than 600, while the French priests «Fidei Donum» in service to Africa are no more than 70.

The plea to African priests and their welcome presupposes a particular preparation and attention. I would like to particularly emphasize a very important point. The relationship between the two bishops (the African bishop and the French bishop) must be as clear as possible. Each time we neglect these prerequisites, it is to the detriment of the mission and to the detriment of the priest.

The difficulties we encounter must not mask the wealth of relations between our Churches and prevent us from giving thanks for the exchange of gifts that we are living.

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H. Em. Card. Anthony Olubunmi OKOGIE, Archbishop of Lagos (NIGERIA)

I want us to look at African families as the source of various divine blessings towards the growth and the well being of African families in general.

Africa, once referred to as the ‘dark continent’, is today seen in a different light by her colonizers even though in most countries, Africa still experiences poverty; the poor becoming poorer and the rich, richer. Family life is disintegrating through divorce, unfaithfulness and Western ideologies that are incompatible to our culture. Natural resources needed for the development of our society are being plundered by our neo-colonialists. In fact, it seems that only the dishonest ones get ahead in the society.

Our morale presently is low and many people, some church leaders inclusive, are throwing caution to the wind saying; ‘what’s the use of trying to be good?’ The words of the prophet Malachi, «all is not lost, only trust in God» to those found in our position today is most appropriate. We seem to have forgotten that like children, we are dearer to God than children to their parents. We seem to have forgotten those words of the Lord Jesus: «without me you can do nothing». Let us, therefore, arm ourselves with prayer and be patient for, in God, true justice will prevail, knowing that His love for us surpasses anything we can imagine.

Africans are generally known to be very religious people. The idea of God or the deity is innate in us. It is therefore not surprising that two of the world’s most diffused religions, Christianity and Islam, have found a warm welcome in the continent. It is however saddening to note that often these religions have been misused and made a source of deadly conflicts in Africa. This notwithstanding, most parents can hardly fulfill their responsibilities to their families without an organized, conscious, consistent and serious fami1y prayer life or put simply, without referring to God in times of difficulties, joy and sorrow. They firmly know and believe that only God can change, bless and empower the family.

While I thank you for your various suggestions regarding the need for prayer, I want to add my voice to emphasize even more strongly the importance and centrality of prayers in this our seemingly bleak situation. No matter how bad things may seem to be, no matter what solutions we may seem to proffer, if these are not blessed by God, I wonder how durable our success if any, will be? Let us therefore not forget to encourage our faithful about this great gift God has given us knowing full well that only with Him shall we succeed. He is the vine and we are the branches. With Him, therefore, we can succeed.

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H. Exc. Mons. Orlando B. QUEVEDO, O.M.I., Archbishop of Cotabato, General Secretary of the «Federation of Asian Episcopal Conferences» (F.A.B.C.) (PHILIPPINES)

As in Asia, so in Africa many issues of reconciliation, justice and peace have global dimensions. Thus the arms trade, the trafficking of women and children, the destruction of the environment, corruption, the support of dictatorial regimes, population control, migration, poverty and underdevelopment, economic globalization, global warming and climate change. This is especially so since decisions impacting the peoples of the South are made in the decisions of power in the North.

Problems with global characteristics require a response with a global dimension. We do have such a response with a very distinctive faith dimension.
We have a faith-vision of the human person, of all humanity, and of the whole of creation. Man has a divine origin and an eternal destiny. The whole of humanity is on a pilgrimage to the Reign of God. Creation groans as it awaits the parousia. We believe that Jesus our Lord and Savior is the ultimate Reconciler, our Justice and our Peace. We believe in the Church as Family of God, as Communion, with a vocation to proclaim Jesus as the Lord and Savior, and to announce that the Reign of God has entered into our history in the person of Jesus. We are also deeply aware that the Church has a structure of Episcopal conferences in every continent of the world.

It is this global vision and this global structure that we·need to bring to bear upon the urgent issues facing us.

Therefore, I respectfully propose that some Vatican agency convoke a gathering of some bishops from North and South in 2010. Assisted by experts and church aid agencies, they would plan and put flesh into a project of communion and solidarity among Bishops, South-South and North-South, in order to respond from the viewpoint of religious faith and morality to urgent issues of reconciliation, justice and peace. The driving force as well as the fruit of such a communio-in-actione would be caritas in veritate.
Our struggle is against sinfulness. Our efforts can bear lasting fruit, only if prayer part and parcel of our striving. May Mary, Comfort of the Afflicted and Queen of Peace, intercede for us.

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H. Exc. Mons. Matthew Kwasi GYAMFI, Bishop of Sunyani (GHANA)

In some parts of Africa because of the culture and tradition of the-people before the Church was introduced, many African women find themselves in polygamous marriages through no fault of theirs.

Because of this, many of the women attending the Church are denied the Sacraments of Initiation, Reconciliation and Marriage. Attempts by these affected women to walk away from such polygamous marriages in which most times they are the first wives with children, result- in untold economic hardships and social tension. In cases where women have walked away without the consent of the husbands and the extended families the Church has been cited for injustice, insecurity, breaking up families, fomenting disunity and destroying social cohesion. In certain cases where the husbands were aggrieved by the action of the women walking away from the marriage to receive the sacraments of Initiation, the women and their children have been denied support and compensation resulting in serious economic hardships and insecurity. Situations like these have discouraged man
y women with similar experiences from divorcing their polygamous husbands to receive the sacraments of initiation. The result is that in some parts of Africa many women attend Church regularly and actively participate in all Church activities, but are denied the Sacraments of Initiation, Reconciliation and Marriage, not counting the many denied fitting Christian burial for not being baptized.

The Church needs to address this painful and unpleasant situation in Africa by giving some special privileges to women, who have been the first wives with children and through no fault of their own have become victims of polygamous marriages, to receive the Sacraments of Initiation and others. The reception of these trying women to the Sacraments will enable them to share in the peace and reconciliation offered by the compassion and peace of Our Lord Jesus Christ who came to call sinners and not the self righteous.

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H. Exc. Mons. Francisco CHIMOIO, O.F.M. Cap., Archbishop of Maputo (MOZAMBIQUE)

In its prophetic mission, the Church should insist on practicing and exhorting acts that consolidate and dignify Peace in Africa, appealing to the political governors and to the people in favor of concrete actions.

From the security forces where the chiefs must have the ability to act over the political parties, especially during our electoral events, public demonstrations etc.

From juridical Institutions which many times indiscriminately detain the presumed organizers of opposition demonstrations, leaving unpunished and in absolute freedom the authors of ambushes made by the organizers of such peaceful demonstrations.

From the State apparatus, to make it possible for State employees to rise in their public careers, conforming to their political preferences as part of the Government.

Effective battle against all types of corruption, discrimination and oppression, especially in the public sector.

The path for building Peace, a gift from God, is a path of redemption, for the loving offering, peaceful in a new way of living.

Peace brought to us by Christ is the attitude of all those who practice the laws of justice and love, established by God for harmony in creation.

The Church must make an appeal to Africa, to have a pure conscience to work honestly towards the common good. The Church must also be the voice of those who have no say, to courageously denounce all those plans that make men slaves. We must make an effort to create internal and external peace and maintain it, fruit of victory and self-discipline.

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H. Exc. Mons. Edward HIIBORO KUSSALA, Bishop of Tombura-Yambio (SUDAN)

There is obvious failure to build trust and address key issues between the North and South prior to the referendum which may result in violence after the referendum.

Overall level of violence in the South (especially inter-tribal); LRA atrocities in WES Diocese of Tombura-Yambio, 240,000, IDPS, 31 refugees from RDC and CAR., Humanitarian crises, etc. Who is going to arrest Kony, it is a regional and international which needs similar resolution.

International community left after CPA an attended to, Continued unity / disunity of SPLM leadership and building the fragile postwar South Sudan with ministers who have military background is indeed a dilemma.

The proportion of service delivery by NGOs versus GOSS (e.g., NGOs are no longer providing a large majority of health services); This it self can provoke violence.

Reform of MDTF and assistance strategies generally and its reluctance to help Lack of making unity attractive by the North, Islamic law is still in action in the North.

Extent to which Darfur conflict is hampered by domestic and international politics.

Arms buildup on both sides; Continued lack of oil transparency; Collection of grievances by South; North re-engaging with dissident groups in the South;
Unclear or inadequate resolution of boundaries; Drop in oil prices on which south Sudan depends for its revenue. Natural resources never develop countries as history tells us.

The recent International Criminal Court indictment of President Omar Bashire, which has further legitimized hostility, and this due to some level of uncertainty over the implementation of CPA can escalate a return to open armed conflict, or unilateral declaration of independence prior to referendum. Recommendation or suggestions:

a)The hope is that this Synod will address of our quest for salvation in Africa is our perception of the future, and seek to move creatively in the direction of a cultural rebirth, economic, political and spiritual revival, as a basis for the new society in our countries.

b)We need to have think tanks for Africa at different level, both at our regional and national.

c)We need lobbying and advocacy in order to prevent the worse scenarios in the Sudan. Good examples which were carried by AMECEA, SECAM, South African Episcopal Conference, European conference including the Holy See.

Finally, it is the courage of the ‘complete story’ about ourselves the honest view of our existence, our history and our reality in its high and low points, its sad and happy moments which will bring us justice and peace. We need both Zacheous of and the Good Samaritans of the Holy Bibles

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H. Exc. Mons. John Anthony RAWSTHORNE, Bishop of Hallam, President of the «Catholic Agency for Overseas Development» (C.A.F.O.D.), from the Episcopal Conference of England and Wales (GREAT BRITAIN)

With the support of international Catholic agencies, the Church in Africa has been confronting HIV and AIDS since well before the first Synod on Africa.

Today concern seems to be waning, even if the problem remains acute for many Africans. Catholic solidarity should continue supporting the long-term commitment of the Church in Africa to raise awareness, to accompany the infected and the affected, to form the youth, and to face this great challenge.

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H. Exc. Mons. Jude Thaddaeus RUWA’ICHI, O.F.M. Cap., Bishop of Dodoma, President of the Episcopal Conference (TANZANIA)

Church in Africa (whether envisaged as the family, Basic Christian Community, parish, or diocese), has a duty to respond to the challenges listed in the above section of the Instrumentum Laboris. In view of her prophetic mission, I request this Synod to rally up with the Church in Africa in order to respond to these challenges by:

— Sustaining and implementing deeper and ongoing catechesis. This will enable the received faith to become a personal experience and a profoundly lived reality capable of transforming, guiding and providing a sound anchorage for decisions and actions. It requires a sustained inculcation of Gospel values which are made to impact upon the life of the individual, the family, the Basic Christian Communities and society as a whole, enabling each to embrace Christ’s gift and call to his disciples to be Salt of the earth and Light of the world.

— Investing in consistent formation of conscience. This will render individuals and communities to be clear and consistent on issues and thus demonstrate the courage and integrity to discern and make the right decisions, whenever they encounter situations which confronts them in their prophetic calling by demanding them to take a clear and unequivocal stand without fearing the price it may entail.

— Urging and aiding individual faithful to master the courage and integrity to earnestly pursue the call to personal and communal conversion, thus helping them to offer a convinced, coherent and credible Christian witness. Such needs to be imbued with the Word of God, the Sacraments (particularly Reconciliation and the Eucharist) and the Social Teachings of the Church, whose dissemination needs to be more assiduously undertaken so that they guide and mould the thinking, action and the scale of values espoused by the faithful.

— Encouraging, supporting and sustaining initiatives in favor of the empowerment, protection and enhancement of
women, children and all those whose dignity is threatened in any form. Among the envisaged initiatives, it seems worthwhile to highlight the need for a greater resolve in the creation and support of committees for Justice, Peace and Care for the Created Order as privileged instruments of advocacy and formation.

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H. Exc. Mons. Francesco COCCOPALMERIO, Titular Archbishop of Celiana, President of the Pontificial Council for Legislative Textes (VATICAN CITY)

I am choosing a subject directly connected with the service I carry out in the Roman Curia and that is, the legislative activity of the Episcopal Conferences in the African continent.

As you well know, the 1983 Code of Canon Law chose to be by nature a legal framework, meaning that it established some rather general rules for ecclesiastical life and then left the practical decisions up to the various particular Churches, adapted to the different places and cultures.

The choice made by the Code was very wise: on one hand, indeed, the essential things must be equal for all the particular Churches while, on the other, what is not essential should not be imposed on all, so that all traditions and cultures may be enhanced.

The Code’s choice therefore presents two postulates: that of unity and that of diversification.

The postulate of unity. We are all well aware that canon law is the expression of the unity of the Church as a society. The Church is not a multinational, where the managers look for solutions according to interests at specific moments, rather, it is a community configured as a society by Christ Jesus, which through the centuries has coined its own experience of faith in doctrinal principles and in rules of conduct which express its unity.

The postulate of diversification. It is clear that new situations call for new solutions. In our case, the characteristics of the Churches in Africa require suitable legal solutions to such situations. We must not impose what is not essential upon the Churches in Africa. We must respect and enhance their culture of justice and their legal traditions.

One of the ways to implement the development of these characteristics is by canon legislation, within which the various Churches, or better, the various Episcopal Conferences are called to work.

What point are we at in this work?

A recent statistic shows us that out of 34 Episcopal Conferences 20 still need to issue executive decrees according to the indications of the Code of Canon Law.

I welcome the opportunity of this Synod to show the importance of the service of canon legislation to the Episcopal Conferences.

Dear brethren, African Bishops, implement with commitment the two postulates of unity and diversity: completely faithful to the universal law, however emphasizing the particularities of your Churches, even by wisely issuing special laws.

In this way, you will bring a qualified contribution to ecclesial communion and specifically a recognition of traditional and cultural wealth which make the Churches of Africa organisms bursting with vitality for the Body of the Universal Church.

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H. Exc. Mons. Edward Gabriel RISI, O.M.I., Bishop of Keimoes-Upington (SOUTH AFRICA)

The proclamation of the Gospel and the quest to deepen its meaning and practice in Africa faces the same challenges as does culture. The Church is therefore in a privileged position because in its quest to promote the values of the Gospel, it shares a similar struggle with Africa’s peoples in their pursuit to preserve and advance those cherished values of their cultural heritage. Creating opportunities for dialogue offers the Church opportunities to understand those who experience alienation in an increasingly secularized and globalized Africa, with its brutal memories of colonization and oppression. A commitment to open and honest dialogue is vital for forging the way forward so that the influence of the Gospel, like that of culture, is not lost in the emerging voices in Africa. In particular a re-commitment to SECAM can make it an important instrument for dialogue on our continent.

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