Interventions of Fraternal Delegate and Auditors at 8th Congregation

VATICAN CITY, OCT. 11, 2009 (Zenit.org).- Here are the English-language summaries provided by the Vatican press office of the interventions given by one fraternal delegate and four auditors Friday morning at the Eighth General Congregation of the Second Special Assembly for Africa of the Synod of Bishops.

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[The summary of the address of the fraternal delegate]

His Grace Bernhard NTAHOTURI, Archbishop of the Province of the Anglican Church of Burundi (BURUNDI)

The theme chosen for this Synod is a subject pertinent for Africa today. And through these meetings, the Catholic Church makes known the extent of her pastoral work for African society. The Church invites all its members and other Christians, as well as other believers and persons of good will, to a dynamism which reveals God the Creator and Savior of humanity; a God of Love and the source of life, to transform the situations Africa is called to live through.
When we look around us, in deepest Africa, we can see several worrisome situations, such as the generalized deterioration of the quality of life, the lack of means for the education of young peoples, the lack of the basic health and social services, dragging with it the persistence of endemic diseases, the terrible AIDS epidemic, the horror of fratricidal wars fed by unscrupulous arms trafficking, the shameful and pitiable spectacles of the refugees and displaced persons, etc…
Africa is undergoing a movement of growth, it is not a static state. Africa moves in all directions: political, economic, social and cultural, and especially spiritual. Africa is a continent of opportunities. The Church-Family of God in Africa must be marked by a deep sense of fraternity that goes beyond the boundaries of one’s family, one’s tribe or ethnic group, by the holy way it receives from Christ, fullness of life. Since he is alive, we shall live, and the members of the ecumenical family will answer that they are present at the meeting of fraternity.

[The summaries of the auditors]

Rev. Sister Felicia HARRY, N.S.A. (O.L.A.), Superior General of the Sisters of Our Lady of the Apostles (GHANA)

Collaboration is the key word here in the Church’s search for reconciliation, peace and justice in Africa today. We the religious women of Africa would like to see more collaboration between us and the Church Authorities in our collegial effort to bring Christ’ s message to our people. Collaboration not only when already made decisions are to be implemented, but that we be part of the decision making process, thus bringing our feminine «genius» of gentleness, tenderness, and openness to hearing the word and of service to others (cf. Art. 114, Instr. Lab.) to bear on the very life of the parishes where we work. As well as teach catechism to children, decorate parish churches, clean, mend and sew vestments we the women religious in Africa would like to be part of various parish councils. We do not want to remain at the periphery of the main body of the parish, we want to be an integral part of this body. We do not want to take over the responsibility of the parish priest, we just want to be equal partners in the Lord’s vineyard; we want to share in the Church’s responsibility of ensuring reconciliation, peace and justice on our continent.

The adage charity begins at home is not out of place in this context. If our Church in Africa hopes for reconciliation, peace and justice on our continent, we must begin from within. How do we facilitate this?
Few suggestions here:

— No one group should feel superior to dominate

— There should be change of mentality with regard to women especially religious women in our Church in Africa.

— There should be conversion of heart by all.

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Rev. F. Seán O’LEARY, M.Afr., Director of “Denis Hurley Peace Institute” (SOUTH AFRICA)

The Denis Hurley Peace Institute (DHPI) was set up by the Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference (SACBC) to share with others the tragic story of South Africa’s past, a past that was based on constitutionalised racism; the miracle of the transition that ushered in the dawn of a true democracy and the arduous challenges of construction, reconstruction and reconciliation, which is at the very heart of the work of the Church in South Africa today.

Experience has shown us that the enormous impact the Catholic Church has on the continent is rarely felt in conflict situations. The Church’s attempts at conflict intervention remain fragmented. We need to support more Bishops and dioceses at the coal-face of conflict. In this very room there is a wealth of experience of people from conflict areas that have kept the hearts of their people alive with hope, over long years, in situations of near despair. These are our unsung heroes!

The suggestion the Southern African Catholic Bishop Conference makes is to identify key people (Bishops, Clergy, Religious and Lay-People) who would be trained to intervene in peace monitoring, peace negotiations and sustaining fragile peace structures.

At the outbreak of any one conflict or potential conflict, two or three of these trained people would be invited to intervene in the country in question, primarily to support the local Church on the ground.
The idea would always be to support the local Church.

This would become our very own group of ‘Peace Elders’ and would be established as a direct consequence of this august Assembly.

Not wanting to give the·Pontifical Commission for Justice and Peace more work, but I would see them as the most competent authority in the Church to organize such an initiative.

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Rev. Sister Pauline ODIA BUKASA, F.M.S., Superior General of the Sisters “Ba-Maria”, Buta Uele (DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO)

The African woman is marginalized on all levels. She is practically excluded from the global process of development of the continent. She is the victim of the ancestral customs and traditions while she is the one who actually carries the burden of all the armed conflicts that tear apart Africa apart and especially the Dem Rep Congo. At this time when the Church in Africa commits herself to work for the reconciliation of its sons and daughters, the woman can no longer be ignored. She has a large role to play.

Today, women’s dynamism and determination in providing for the survival of their homes and the care and education of their children is a resource that should be made the most of for its complete implication in the process of reconciliation in view of a true peace.

Even while recognizing the efforts you are making in favor of the dignity of women, we, your mothers and consecrated women, ask you our Fathers, the Bishops in this Church-Family to: promote the dignity of woman by giving her the space necessary for the deployment of her talents in ecclesial and social structures; to promote the associations or female NGOs that already fight for the promotion of woman through literacy and education; Take back and create schools by the Catholic Church to ensure youth of an education with Christian, African and human values capable of consolidating the family structure; Denouncing all violations against women, children and all people and say out loud to the authors of this tragedy, at the national as well as the international levels, the serious responsibility which is theirs before God and before history. And may justice be done.

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Rev. Sister Geneviève UWAMARIYA, Sister of Saint Mary of Namur (RWANDA)

I would like to share my experience of reconciliation with the prisoners presumed to be genocides. I would also like to share the fruits of my witness with them and their surviving victims.

I am a survivor of the Tutsi genocide in Rwanda 1994.

A large part of my family was killed while in our parish church. The sight of this building used to fill me with horror and turned my stomach, just like the encounter with the prisoners filled me with disgust and rage.

It is in this mental state that something happened that would change my life and my relationships.
On August 27th 1997 at 1 p.m., a group from the Catholic association of the “Ladies of Divine Mercy” led me to two prisons in the region of Kibuye, my birthplace. They went to prepare the prisoners for the Jubilee o
f 2000. They said: “If you have killed, you commit yourself to ask for forgiveness from the surviving victim, that way you can help him free himself of the burden/weight of vengeance, hatred and rancor. If you are a victim, you commit yourself to offer forgiveness to those who harmed you and thus you free them from the weight of their crime and the evil that is in them.”

This message had an unexpected effect for me and in me…

After that, one of the prisoners rose in tears, fell to his knees before me, loudly begging: “Mercy”. I was petrified in recognizing a family friend who had grown and shared everything with us.

He admitted having killed my father and told me the details of the death of my family.

A feeling of pity and compassion invaded me: I picked him up, embraced him and told him in a tearful voice: “You are and always will be my brother”.

Then I felt a huge weight lift away from me… I had found internal peace and I thanked the person I was holding in my arms.

To my great surprise, I heard him cry out: “Justice can do its work and condemn me to death, now I am free!…”

I also wanted to cry out to who wanted to hear: “Come see what freed me, you too can find internal peace”.

From that moment on, my mission was to travel kilometers to bring mail to the prisoners asking for forgiveness from the survivors. Thus 500 letters were distributed; and I brought back mail with the answers of the survivors to the prisoners who had become my friends and my brothers… This allowed for meetings between the executioners and the victims. There have been many concrete gestures to mark this reconciliation.- A village for widows and orphans of genocide was built by the prisoners;

— As well as a memorial in front of the church of Kibuye;

— Associations of ex-prisoners and survivors were born, in different parishes and working very well.
From this experience, I deduce that reconciliation is not so much wanting to bring together two persons or two groups in conflict. It is rather the re-establishment of each in love and allowing internal healing which leads to mutual liberation.

And here is where the importance of the Church lies in our countries, since her mission is to offer the Word: a word that heals, liberates and reconciles.

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