Synod Fathers: Too Much to Do, Too Little Time

Working Groups Point to Women’s Issues

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VATICAN CITY, OCT. 18, 2009 ( Africa and the Church on that continent face so many challenges that the hours are passing too quickly for the participants at the synod under way in Rome.

This was a generalized observation made Thursday when the initial results of the first working group discussions were presented to the Second Special Assembly for Africa of the Synod of Bishops. The working groups continued their efforts Thursday afternoon and Friday, while the 16th general congregation was held Saturday morning.

As the synod participants now begin the last week of the discussions and presentations, one theme that promises to be emphasized in the final documents is the dignity of women.

Women were mentioned repeatedly in the presentations of the working groups.


For example, according to the Vatican summaries of the discussions, the working group presented by Coadjutor Archbishop Gabriel Mbilingi of Lubango, Angola, pointed out “the role of women in the field of reconciliation from its proper feminine characteristic.”

“Women have to be given roles in the Church as full members. Renewed efforts have to be made to eliminate discrimination against women in all areas,” affirmed the group presented by Archbishop Anthony Valentine Obinna of Owerri, Nigeria.

This affirmation was echoed by the group presented by Archbishop Philippe Ouédraogo of Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso.

“Man created in the image of God must be respected above all in his fundamental rights, in particular that of women, who in Africa are the first victims of injustice,” he said.

One group recognized cultural traditions that continue to pose obstacles to the promotion of women.

“There is a problem with the hierarchical structure in African society as a result of which superiors cannot ask pardon of inferiors,” Bishop Sithembele Anton Sipuka of Umtata, South Africa. “For example, it is unthinkable that a husband would ask forgiveness of a wife or an old man of a young man.”

Other groups proposed concrete solutions. 

Discussions presented by Monsignor Obiora Francis Ike, director of the Catholic Institute for Development, Justice and Peace in Enugu, Nigeria, called for creating “commissions in each diocese in Africa to promote the dignity and role of women in the Church and in society.”

Finally, one group highlighted accomplishments already attained.

“Many interventions asked for greater attention on women,” noted Bishop Martin Igwemezie Uzoukwu of Minna, Nigeria, “as regards this we would like to recall the presence of the WUCWO — the World Union of Catholic Women’s Organization — who with its 60 million members constitutes an influential and active presence.”

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On ZENIT’s Web page:

Vatican summaries of the working group presentations:

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