Doctrine is not up for dispute at the synod, affirms Nigeria’s top prelate, Archbishop Ignatius Kaigama, as only the pastoral approach is up for discussion.
Speaking at the third press conference on the Synod on the family, hosted today by the director of the Vatican press office, Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, and Argentinean Archbishop Victor Fernandez, Archbishop Kaigama spoke on some of the biggest challenges and misinterpretations facing the Church in Africa.
Responding to how the Church upholds the dignity of homosexuals in Africa, Archbishop Kaigama said the Church’s position against criminalisation has been misrepresented in the media.
“We would defend any person with a homosexual orientation who is being harassed, imprisoned or punished,” he said.
“So when the media takes our story they should balance it … we try to share our point of view (but) we don’t punish [those with a homosexual orientation],” the prelate said. “The government may want to punish them but we don’t, in fact we will work to tell the government to stop punishing those who have different orientations.”
Aid from organizations
Regarding other practical problems facing African Church leaders, he elaborated on some country-specific problems, such as how to respond to pressures from international organizations linking financial aid to population control. He stressed that what is being offered to the Africans—condoms and artificial contraception—is not what they want.
“We want food, education, good roads, good health and so on … good health,” he said, adding “but we are given certain things and we are expected to accept just because we are poor.”
“Yet,” he continued, “one can be poor in spirituality, ideas, education, and many other ways. So we are not poor in that sense. We may be poor materially, but not poor in every sense.”
“We will say what we think is wrong,” the head of the Nigerian bishops’ conference argued, saying the time where Africans just accepted and didn’t question is gone.
“Now we decide, we evaluate, we ask questions. This is what we do now in Africa.”
It was also stressed how important it is, in countries with Christian minorities, that the Catholic leaders in such countries have good relations with civic and religious leaders.
It was added by Fr. Manuel Dorantes helping with remarks for Spanish-speaking journalists, that Latin American Church leaders focused at the synod today on family problems created by poverty, migration, domestic violence and the macho culture, as well as issues that are specific to their countries’ different indigenous cultures.