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This Synod has identified the service of Reconciliation justice and peace as the urgent face and form of the apostolic mission of the Church-Family of God in Africa and its Islands. In so doing, this Synod has also described several agents of this apostolic mission of the Church, including various components of the laity, but including also ordained ministers, among whom permanent deacons, who “serve reconciliation, justice and peace” as dedicated ministers of God, his merciful love and his Word.
“Strengthened by sacramental grace…they serve in the diaconate of the liturgy, of the word and of charity to the people of God” (“Lumen gentium”, 29).
Therefore, this Synod recommends that these servants of the Lord receive an adequate formation, especially in the sacred sciences and the social doctrine of the Church. Since the aim of all spiritual exercises is the discovery of a better way of service, the Synod Fathers call upon deacons to seek and contemplate the face of the Lord daily, so that they might discover a more credible way of serving reconciliation, justice and peace.
The Church acknowledges the inestimable value of the Consecrated Life, a particular form of the discipleship of Christ, which plays a fundamental role in the life and mission of the Church at the service of God’s reign.
The Church particularly values the witness of consecrated persons in prayer life and community life, education, health, human promotion and pastoral service.
The prophetic role of consecrated persons must be emphasized in the process of reconciliation, justice and peace, and the fact that they are often very near to victims of oppression, repression, discrimination, violence and sufferings of all kinds. In closely collaborating with the clergy in pastoral ministry, the dignity of women in consecrated life and their religious identity and charism are to be protected and promoted. Bishops are to assist young religious congregations towards self-reliance.
The Church expects much from the witness of religious communities, characterized by racial, regional and ethnic diversity. By their life in common they proclaim that God makes no distinctions between persons and that we are all his children, members of the same family, living in harmony in diversity and peace.
To support and encourage consecrated persons, the Synod Fathers recommend that:
— a careful discernment of candidates (brothers, sisters and priests) be done in the course of their formation;
— they be given a solid human, spiritual, intellectual (biblical, theological, moral) and professional formation;
— they remain faithful to their vocation and charism; and
— their initial formation (postulancy and novitiate) normally be done in Africa.
The Synod welcomes the establishment of The Confederation of Major Superiors of Africa and Madagascar (COMSAM), which is a structure of support for the Consecrated Life in Africa and a forum for dialogue with the Bishops of the continent (SECAM).
The teaching of catechism has become the normal way of introducing people to the faith and of initiating them into the Church through Baptism, Eucharist and Confirmation. It is also the way in which people are prepared to receive the other sacraments. Therefore, it is important that the memorised catechism be vitally linked with living the catechism so as to lead to an intense, permanent conversion in life. The Synod Fathers urge that particular attention be paid to initiation in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. The challenge is to form people for an adult Christian life, so that they can face the difficulties of their social, political, economic and cultural life.
In catechesis, adequate use should be made of The Catechism of the Catholic Church.
Permanent catechists or those who act as catechists on occasion are the vital heralds of the Gospel for our Small Christian Communities, where they exercise various roles: leaders of prayer, counsellors and mediators. They require a solid formation and material support which is necessary for them effectively to assume their role as spiritual guides. They also need to be encouraged and supported in their zeal for service within these communities, especially their service to reconciliation, justice and peace.
Volunteer catechists should also be given adequate formation, supported in their training and equipped with teaching aids.
B) In Christo roborati
Eucharistic Source of Communion and Reconciliation
At the beginning of the third millennium of Christianity, our big challenge does not consist in highlighting differences in origins or culture, but in building up a unity which respects diversity. Men and women of different origins, characters, cultures and religions of origin can together build up unity to a high degree, a unity to the point of laying down one’s life for and with one another for the same person, namely, the God-made-Man, Jesus Christ, who lived among us, shed his Blood for us in the greatest of solidarity and gives us himself as Food in our daily lives. This Blood of Christ shed for us is the bond and foundation of a new fellowship which opposes every hint of tribalism, racism, ethnicity, nepotism, fetishism, etc.
The Synod expressed strong disapproval of certain deviations in sacramental practice which run counter to the Sacraments of Baptism and Eucharist.
Let us insist that the Eucharist remain the source and summit of reconciliation and the entire Christian life and that holiness is the most effective way of building up a society of reconciliation, justice and peace.
Let us watch carefully the celebration of the Eucharist and arrange times and places for Eucharistic Adoration (individual and communal) in all dioceses and parishes. Care should be taken that Churches and chapels be ordinarily reserved for the celebration of the Eucharist, avoiding as much as possible that they become merely social spaces. The Synod Fathers ask that aid organizations be willing to support Dioceses, in sincere dialogue with local bishops, in the construction of places of worship, recognizing that these are essential for the visibility of the Church, a guarantee of a sense of the holy and of authentic and integral human development.
The Power of the Word of God
“Ignorance of Scriptures is ignorance of Christ” (St. Jerome). The Synod on the Bishops, in the spirit of the Gospel, reminded Bishops, priests and deacons of their essential ministry as preachers of the Gospel to the Church-Family of God and the world. Reading and meditating on the Word of God grounds us more profoundly in Christ and guides our ministry as servants to reconciliation, justice and peace.
Therefore, this Synod recommends that the Biblical Apostolate be promoted in every Christian community, the family and ecclesial movements. The Synod also recommends that all of Christ’s faithful adopt the practice of reading the Bible each day.
C) Ecclesia agens
Women in Africa
Women in Africa make a great contribution to the family, society and the Church with their many talents and resources. However, not only are their dignity and contributions not fully recognized and appreciated, but are often deprived of their rights. In spite of the significant advances made in the education and development of women in some countries in Africa, the development of girls and women is often disproportionate to that of boys and men; girls and women are generally unjustly treated.
The Synod Fathers condemn all acts of violence against women, e.g. the battering of wives, the disinheritance of daughters, the oppression of widows in the name of tradition, forced marriages, female genital mutilation, trafficking in women and several other abuses such as sex slavery and sex tourism. All other inhumane and unjust acts against women are equally condemned.
The Synod Fathers propose:
— the integral human formation of girls and women (intellectual, professional, moral, spiritual, theological, etc.);
— the creation of “shelters” for abused girls and women to find refuge and receive counselling;
— the close collaboration among episcopal conferences to stop the trafficking of women;
— the greater integration of women into Church structures and decision-making processes;
— the setting up of commissions on the Diocesan and national levels to address women’s issues, to help them better carry out their mission in the Church and society; and
— the setting up of a study commission on women in the Church within the Pontifical Council for the Family.
In Africa today, youth constitute the majority of the population, and are a gift and treasure from God, for which all Africa is grateful. They ought to be loved, valued and respected. Furthermore, youth are the strength and hope of the Church and society. In many countries of Africa, youth are faced with many problems and challenges, making them particularly vulnerable due to an inadequate personal formation and education, unemployment, political exploitation, drug abuse, etc. Such situations leave youth feeling frustrated and rejected.
The Synod Fathers are deeply concerned about the plight of youth and recommend as follows:
— provide resources and centres to teach professional skills and human formation of youth by the local Church in collaboration with various other institutions;
— supply career counseling, entrepreneurial training and the creation of jobs for youth;
— give youth an ongoing catechetical-biblical formation to educate them to be agents of reconciliation, justice and peace among themselves and to have a proper critical spirit concerning mass media issues;
— undertake a study by diocesan and parish youth commissions of the problems and challenges facing youth;
— organize diocesan, national, regional and continental youth commissions;
— institute trauma and rehabilitation centres for traumatized youth (child-soldiers, abused young people, those suffering from drug-dependency, etc.); and
— national education systems be more open to less-gifted persons, so as to provide opportunities for all.
Children, God’s gift to humanity, should receive very special care from their families, the Church, society and governments. Children are bearers of newness of life: in their milieu, they are apostles and are the hope of their family as well as society and the Church.
Unfortunately, the following categories of children are subjected to intolerable treatment:
— aborted babies;
— street children;
— abandoned children;
— child soldiers;
— child prisoners;
— child labourers;
— physically and mentally challenged children;
— child accused of witchcraft;
— children sold as sex slaves;
— traumatized children without any Christian orientation
or human prospects;
The Synod Fathers call upon the local Churches to develop within the framework of their pastoral activity for children special attention to these children in situations where they are particularly vulnerable, and that in the Catholic Schools they receive the Word of God, psychological help, a culture of justice and peace, and learn a trade, so that they can become good and healthy members of society.
Persons with Disabilities
Many persons in our societies are mentally or physically challenged, and oftentimes, maginalized.
The Synod, remembering the right of to life of persons with disabilities, proposes that:
— every effort be made to ensure their full integration in society and our ecclesial communities, so that they can exercise their gifts, realize their potential, and fully experience the reconciling presence of Christ in the community; and
— programmes be established to encourage their integration into pastoral planning in our dioceses and our local Church communities.