African Bishops Call Church to Full Involvement in Transforming Society

Pastoral Letter: “Justice That the Prophets Demanded Is Not Abstract”

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Bishops of Africa are calling their local Churches to full involvement in an “in-depth transformation of our society.”

<p>This is one of the invitations in “Governance, Common Good, and Democratic Transitions in Africa,” a pastoral letter released by SECAM.

The Symposium of Episcopal Conferences in Africa and Madagascar gathers all the Catholic bishops of the continent. The letter was presented in Accra, Ghana, by Cardinal Polycarp Pengo, archbishop of Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania and president of SECAM.

The pastoral letter, following after Benedict XVI’s post-synodal Apostolic Exhortation “Africae Munus,” emphasized that “the Church cannot remain indifferent and isolated in the face of Africa’s socio-political and economic challenges,” and notes that “the common good, the respect for human rights, and the promotion of good government are essential elements of the Gospel message.”

“The justice that the prophets demanded is not abstract; it is very practical, down-to-earth actions, which take place to ensure that the weak are protected from abuse, that the poor have what they need, and that the socially disadvantaged are cared for,” the bishops wrote. “It means giving to everyone what God has intended for them regardless of any distinction.”

Immigrants, women

The document also comments on the lack of work in many African countries, observing, “The drama of immigration, with a growing number of young people who risk their lives to leave Africa, reflects the depth of the malaise of a continent that is still dragging its feet to provide favorable conditions for the blossoming of her sons and daughters.” 

Also, “the situation of women is another cause for worry.” The bishops said they should ensure that all are given the opportunity to play their “specific role in the Church and in society at large.”

In regard to good governance in Africa, the bishops of SECAM launched an appeal to all of Africa’s political leaders and governments “to see poverty eradication as a priority by using proceeds from the continent’s sub-soil natural resources, such as land, and forestry for the development of your countries for the benefit of the whole nation and all its citizens. We implore you not to undermine the fight against corruption. Corruption is a canker destroying our nations.”

“The Church,” reads the pastoral letter, “has been at the heart of all efforts towards better governance. In many countries, during the delicate democratic transitional period of the 1990s, the Church played a clearly visible role of support. Five out of the eight National Transitional Conferences that were organized during this epoch were chaired by Catholic bishops. This intervention by the Church helped, in many cases, to ensure peaceful democratic transitional processes with a lot of success, through inclusive consultations and dialogue. Many Christians in some volatile situations helped in bringing about peace and reconciliation. The Church has to take her responsibilities in the socio-political domain. She has to be fully involved in the in-depth transformation of our society.”

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