By Luca Marcolivio

ROME, FEB. 13, 2012 ( The second symposium of European and African Bishops opened today at the Pontifical Athenaeum Regina Apostolorum, in anticipation of the forthcoming synod on the new evangelization, scheduled for October.

The symposium theme is "Evangelization Today: Communion and Pastoral Collaboration between Africa and Europe." It is promoted by the Council of European Bishops' Conferences (CCEE) and the Symposium of the Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar (SECAM).

On opening the event, Cardinal Policarp Pengo of SECAM stressed the commitment of the Church in Africa "to become increasingly a blessing" for the continent and the whole world.

The greetings of Cardinal Peter Erdo, president of the CCEE, were expressed by Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, president of the Italian Episcopal Conference (CEI) and vice-president of the CCEE. The New Evangelization is necessary to protect both Europe and Africa from "individualist and nihilist deviations, which wither all personal and community living," said Cardinal Bagnasco.

The president of the Italian bishops warned about the danger that eventual material progress might have in Africa, as the reverse of the coin, "the invasion of unbridled consumerism," with the result of corroding "the way of thinking, the expectations and hence the great traditions, the truest values, the sense of belonging to a community and a people, fraternal solidarity."

In this connection, the "active dialogue" between Europe and Africa must not be limited to the "plane of material solidarity" but must also be concerned with "cultural and ecclesial reciprocity."

In the course of the introductory report, Cardinal Theodore Adrien Sarr, archbishop of Dakar, recalled in synthesis the progress made to date. The first symposium, held in Rome in 2004, was followed by a congress on slavery in Ghana in 2008, and a third colloquium was dedicated to the situation of the mission ad gentes, which took place at Abidjan, in the Ivory Coast.

What European and African bishops must do is "join their forces and means to proclaim the Gospel better to the men and women of today, in all countries and continents," said the African cardinal.

The next speaker was Cardinal Josip Bozanic, archbishop of Zagreb. "We want to talk of evangelization from our experience of life, our communion, and in view of a specific mission, that of the pastor," said the Croatian prelate.

To this end, the archbishop of Zagreb added that the pastoral concerns are "social and spiritual," and the latter are not opposed or separated but seen as "dimensions of one same integral development of persons and of human society."

Cardinal Bozanic quoted the encyclical Caritas in Veritate, where Pope Benedict XVI recalls that a humanism that excludes God is an inhuman humanism, and that only an open attitude to transcendence can help in the promotion and realization of ways of social and civil life (cf CV 78).

Cardinal Bozanic suggested to "look on man," not so much as a sociological character, but as a "look of faith that understands man."

A second stage of the symposium will address what the Church can offer man and the world, "to focus on the only true and complete answer: Jesus Christ." There will be discussions in particular on present evangelization in Europe and Africa and on the current challenges.

The third stage of discussions will have as its object the future and the concrete actions that can be developed together, between the African and European communities.