“Remain anchored in the proper mission of the Church”. This is the exhortation delivered by Archbishop Protase Rugambwa, Secretary of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, to the participants in the 19th Plenary Assembly of the Association of Member Episcopal Conferences in Eastern Africa (AMECEA) in his opening speech, yesterday, Sunday, July 15th, as reported by Fides News Agency.
Recognizing that the Churches in the AMECEA region must face major challenges such as conflicts, divisions, violations of human dignity, Bishop Rugambwa stressed that although “addressing such challenges and looking for relevant solutions is, undoubtedly, an integral part of the Church’s evangelizing ministry”. “However, it is worth remembering that the Church should accomplish her social apostolate without straying away from her essential vocation and mission – namely, to bring the Gospel to the world and to bring people to Christ, in other words: to evangelize”.
“One of the best ways to make an impact on social life is through educating and forming mature Christians capable of effectively addressing the current challenges that our region is facing”, said Bishop Rugambwa.
“The Churches of AMACEA must be credible witnesses of the Gospel by promoting peace and harmony, first of all within them”, added Mgr. Rugambwa, recalling that “ethnic conflicts have divided not only our societies but also our presbyterates, our religious institutes, even our Episcopal conferences.
Such conflicts have caused much suffering and even public scandal in some parts of our continent.
This is why the Church in Africa feels, more than ever before, challenged by the specific responsibility of healing such divisions, starting from within the Church”. To overcome the divisions “our diversity should be acknowledged as positive and, indeed, as something to be cherished and harnessed”, he underlined.
The Secretary of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples recalled the pillars on which the Church affirms that peace must be built: respect for human dignity; promotion of integral human development; opposition to the arms race; support for international organizations; forgiveness.
Finally, Bishop Rugambwa recalled that “the canonization of Blessed Pope Paul VI is set for this coming October. Paul VI is one of the Popes who manifested great love for Africa. His canonization will take place just a few months ahead of the 50th Anniversary of SECAM, which he himself personally launched in 1969, in Kampala”.
“As we look forward to these two events, I wonder if this meeting would not be a fitting opportunity to revisit Pope Paul VI’s message to the Church in Africa. One of the valuable documents with which he expressed his concern for Africa is his 1967 Apostolic Letter Africae Terranum (The Land of Africa), in which, among other things, the Pope advocated what one could call the ‘local ownership of development’. He also invited Africans to devise new ways of becoming missionaries to themselves”, concluded the Archbishop.