VATICAN CITY, OCT. 14, 2009 (Zenit.org).- Here is the text of the “Relatio Post Disceptationem” (Report After the Discussion) delivered Tuesday afternoon at the Second Special Assembly for Africa of the Synod of Bishops.
The report, which summarizes the general discussion of the synod to date and offers guidelines for the working groups, was given by the relator-general of the synod, Cardinal Peter Turkson, the archbishop of Cape Coast, Ghana.
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The Second Special Assembly for Africa of the Synod of Bishops offers a singular opportunity for deepening the understanding of the Church as Family of God and for reflecting on her on-going mission in Africa and its Islands. In this sense, it may be desirable if reference to the “Church in Africa” in the theme of the Synod might read “Church-Family of God in Africa”.
When, in his apostolic discernment, the Servant of God, Pope John Paul II, recognized that the time was ripe to pass from implementing Ecclesia in Africa to convoking a Second Special Assembly for Africa, he referred again to the “lights and shadows” on the continent and its Islands to exhort the continent to a collaborative effort and to strengthening its faith in Christ. “…Africa”, he said, ” is always confronted by terrible scourges, such as armed conflicts, persistent poverty, disease and its devastating consequences, starting with the social drama of Aids, widespread insecurity and lastly, the corruption that exists in many regions. All this weakens Africa and exhausts her energy, decimates her young generations and mortgages her future. To build a prosperous and a stable society, Africa needs all her children to join forces … May the future special assembly for Africa of the Synod of Bishops also encourage the strengthening of faith in Christ, our Saviour, our genuine reconciliation!”.
This is that “future special assembly for Africa”, thanks to His Holiness: Pope Benedict XVI, who graciously confirmed the project of his predecessor and formulated a theme for it.
Surveying instances and reflections of these “lights and shadows”, as the Synod Fathers expressed them, we shall consider them as challenges and opportunities for conversion, in the light of our faith in Christ, whom the first Synod called “our hope and our resurrection”. The transformation of these “lights and shadows” in Christ should lead us to the strengthening of our faith in Christ, our saviour, our reconciliation, and our justice and peace (Instr. lab., 46).
GATHERED AGAIN IN A SPECIAL ASSEMBLY FOR AFRICA OF THE SYNOD OF BISHOPS
It is clear that most of the participants of our assembly are African or related to Africa; but this may not detract from and diminish the truly universally ecclesial character of our gathering and of this collegial exercise.
It is an exercise of ecclesial communion; and our assembly was reminded of this quite a few times. So, this Synod, like every Synod, celebrates the close bond/union between the Supreme Pontiff and the Bishops, assists the Bishop of Rome in his universal mission, and, together with the Holy Father, studies and reflects on problems and issues related to the Church’s activities in the world. Thus, either present to pray with the Holy Father and the Synod Fathers and to express their views, or absent, but united in thought and prayer with the Synod assembly, it is the universal Church which is gathered in Synod about her presence in Africa (Church in Africa). This is an exercise of a universal Family of God and a Mystical Body…… belonging together and sharing a common life in Christ. It is, therefore, not an exclusive African affair and assembly with non-African participants. It is rather the universal Church’s discernment about how to keep Africa’s enormous spiritual lung healthy for humanity (cf. Holy Father’s Homily), in fulfilment of her mission as salt and light.
OTHER STRUCTURES OF ECCLESIAL COMMUNION
Deriving from the nature of “Synod” as an exercise of ecclesial communion, the Synod Fathers went on to observe and to underline the necessity of the unity of Bishops (Instr. lab., 110), their living in ecclesial communion, and their witnessing to it in their various forms and organs of collaborative ministry. In this regards, many Synod Fathers mentioned SECAM, and the necessity of the continent’s Pastors to collaborate with this organ, which their predecessors founded forty years ago, to promote “Evangelization in Co-Responsibility”. CELAM, the FABC, and the CCEE look forward to establishing and continuing ties with SECAM as well as the USCBC, etc.
SECAM is expected to seek observer-status on the African Union and regional conferences are to do likewise with regional and national parliaments, as in South Africa.
A current witness of this desire to witness to and to live in active ecclesial communion is the decision of the hitherto distinct Regional Episcopal Conferences of English-speaking West Africa (AECAWA) and French-speaking West Africa (CERAO) to form a single Regional Episcopal Conference (RECOWA/CERAO).
In the same vein, Institutes of Consecrated Religious Life also confirmed their need to live in communion, and, in their various aggregated bodies (e.g. MAC, COSMAM etc.), to explore pathways of collaborative ministries within the continental, national and local Churches.
THE SETTING OF THE SECOND ASSEMBLY: AFRICA’S WOES OR CHALLENGES?
Very many positive changes have been registered both in the Church and in the larger society in Africa since the First Special Assembly for Africa. Some of these positive changes are directly attributable to the effects of the Synod. Nonetheless, there are still many shadows within the Church and in society, fifteen years after the conclusion of the First Assembly, which was otherwise described as a Synod of Resurrection and Hope, and which was expected to mark a turning point in the history of the continent.
The Synod Fathers have cited many instances and reflections of these “shadows” at various sittings of this assembly. Thus, in the
The Synod Fathers candidly recognized insufficient appreciation for the role of women and youth in their local communities, and their poor faith-formation. Politicians and other civil servants have not always enjoyed the accompaniment and formation that would have enabled them to properly witness to their faith in their life and work. The use of the media must be developed beyond the use of local Radio stations. The witness of the Church is sometimes compromised by the difficulty that some pastoral agents have in being faithful to their vows, vocations and states of life.
The Synod Fathers had a lot to decry about the African society. Over and above the lone mention of nomadism and the conflicts over water and grazing pastures, much of the unhappiness of the Synod Fathers has to do with emerging trends in society, which are divergent and oppose traditional values and are of questionable moral character and content. This occasioned the suggestion that, instead of “conflict of cultures”, the Synod might rather consider the experience as an “encounter/meeting of cultures”. Otherwise, most of the observations were about the agents in society.
Many Synod Fathers bemoaned the fate of the family in Africa: “the destruction of an authentic idea of marriage and the notion of a sound family” (Instrumentum laboris, 31), and considered the institution under serious threat of instability and dissolution by poverty, conflicts, traditional beliefs and practices (witchcraft), and disease, principally, malaria and HIV-AIDS. There were reports of initiatives to liberate women from negative cultural practices.
But the Synod Fathers also described in various ways a ferocious onslaught on the family and the related fundamental institution of marriage from outside Africa and attributed it to diverse sources: ideological (gender ideology, a new global sexual ethic, genetic engineering) and clinical (contraception: Planned Parenthood and Reproductive Health Education, sterilization), and emerging “alternative” life styles (same-sex marriages, sexual unions). But from outside Africa too have come such noble initiatives as: Jimmy Carter Foundation against guinea worm in Africa, Tony Blair Foundation for Interfaith Action against, e.g., Malaria.
Women, referred to at the First Special Assembly for Africa as “beasts of burden”, have begun to emerge in certain countries to prominence and to leadership roles in law, politics, economics and engineering. But they are also “undeveloped resources” in certain countries, suffering exclusion from social roles, inheritance, education and decision- making places. They are defenceless victims in conflict zones: victims of polygamous marriages, abused, trafficked for prostitution, etc. But the NEPAD requires Governments to accelerate the empowerment of women.
Children, “the suffering part of the African population” (cf. Holy Father’s homily, 04/10/09), were described as abused (child-soldiers, child labour and trafficking) and denied the rights of education. Elsewhere, however, they are the beneficiaries of vigorous school-computerization programmes.
The Youth came up for mention among Africa’s problems, because of their exposure to drug abuse, HIV-AID infection, teenage pregnancies, migrations, human-trafficking and travels, which landed them in servile conditions. These woes also point to poor Government educational and employment policies and programmes, and their poor relationship with the Church, due to the poor quality of formation and on-going formation, and their drift out of Church. But the Hewlett Foundation is to establish centres of excellence in African cities to stem migrations and the “brain-drain” also there mentioned.
The issue of “migration” came up for special mention, on account of emerging legislations in Western countries, which appear designed to keep out Africans.
The Assembly was also invited to consider the issue of “ethnicity”. When it develops exclusivist traits, it destroys community living, becomes intolerant of other cultures and ethnic groups, like racism.
Apart from the lone mention of Senegal’s political stability, South Africa’s democratic governance and Ghana’s increasing success with democratic governance, most of the references to politics and governance on the continent were very critical for various reasons, and proposed that local Churches establish chaplaincies and accompany politicians with formation in the “Doctrine of the Social Teachings of the Church”. The great need was to have Governments and politicians exercise “servant leadership” in a transparent and accountable exercise of power, respect of human rights and the administration of national wealth for public welfare.
But here too, the NEPAD, subscribed to by all the member-states of the African Union, requires that there is respect for democratic governance, no tolerance of coup d’etat, and the set up of a “Peer Review Mechanism” to vet the performance of governments.
“Poor” and “poverty” were two recurrent expressions which the Synod Fathers generally used about their countries, governments, people and Churches. The poverty of the people had justified, in several interventions, development projects undertaken by the Church. It had inspired self-reliance initiatives (banks, real estate, insurance companies, etc.), and had been the occasion of generous sharing of experiences in the matter. But it was also the reason for the Synod Fathers to appeal for support.
On the national and governmental level, the Assembly criticized the incidence of corruption and bribery, and the negotiation of contracts with investors, particularly of extractive industries, which bring no profit to the people, but cause conflicts and environmental degradation.
Industrialization is low in most African countries; and their economies are agricultural and producers of raw material. Trade conditions set by the World trade Organization and Western countries mean life-and-death for many African economies.
Raw material producing economies are low income-earning economies, who need foreign assistance, from foreign Governments, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund to finance their budgets and carry out development projects. This is the common cause (“les origins calamiteuses”, as one Synod puts it), of the debt-burden that was mentioned in the Assembly.
Here too, one may observe that the primary objectives of NEPAD, as a strategic economic development framework, are to eradicate poverty, to place African countries on the path to sustainable growth and development, to halt the marginalization of Africa in the globalization process.
Certainly, Africa is not out of the woods yet. The “shadows” are still with it; but it has made some very modest gains. “While the situation of the continent, its Islands and of the Church still bears some of the ‘lights and shadows’ that occasioned the first Synod, it has changed considerably” Thus, the shadows, not withstanding, Africa’s hope, as declared at the first Synod, has never deceived it; for “our hope is not deceptive” (Rm 5:5). Indeed, it is “in hope (that) we are saved” (Rm 8:24), because we know in whom we have believed (cf. 2 Tim 1:12). It is our faith in the risen Lord that gives us this hope.
Accordingly, the Church may see the present and persistent shadows in Africa as challenges and opportunities to grow in intimacy with the Lord. The challenges above and the very many more which were mentioned in the assembly (e.g. environment, arms-trafficking, etc.), invite us to a true conversion of hearts: “wounded human hearts, the ultimate hiding place for the causes of everything destabilizing the African continent”, so that we may be effective agents of the Holy Spirit and servants of reconciliation, justice and peace.
THE STRENGTHENING OF FAITH IN CHRIST
The Assembly was reminded once that “a Synod of Bishops cannot be understood as a special session for Africa of the United Nations with its public declarations”. This was a powerful reminder to the Synodal assembly of its being a Church-gathering and a faith-Assembly that, in the power of the Holy Spirit, professes faith in God and in Christ, his Son, and has gathered to discern God’s will and direction for his family in Africa.
This was followed by another invitation from the assembly to see ourselves as “sons of God in Christ” (confiliation) with all of humanity.
The First Special Assembly, as it may be recalled, charged the Church in Africa to inculturate, understanding herself as Family of God. As a Church, however, this identity is realizable only in God, who is communion (“family”), and through Jesus who reveals it, through the proclamation of his Gospel. As the “firstborn of many brothers”, it is Jesus, the Son of God, who shares his sonship with us, constituting us all as sons (in him) and introducing us into the life of the Trinity as Family of God.
The reference to the Church as Family of God is, therefore, not a mere application of some anthropological thought-reference; it is an expression of the truth of the Church and of its identity as sharing in the life of the Triune God through Christ. The mission of Christ which becomes the life and ministry of the Church derives, therefore, from the life of the Triune God; and when this is reconciliation, justice and peace, then they need to be seen as deriving from God’s life.
They belong to the Kingdom of God; and are lived through faith in Christ, through whom we become sons (and daughters) of the Kingdom.
Thus, the Synod Fathers variously affirmed in their interventions the Christ-centeredness of the Synodal theme, and the need to approach and to live it Christ-centred. The Instrumentum laboris began its discussion of the Synodal theme with a chapter on the “Theological Reflection of the Synod Topic” (pp.15-19), and followed it up with a section on “Drawing Strength from Faith in Christ” (75-86). The presentation of the Synodal theme in the Relatio ante disceptationem was also strongly both God-centred and Christ-centred. In their presentations, Synod Fathers and other participants variously called for a Christological, Eucharistic, Pneumatological, and even, Eschatological consideration of the Synod theme.
The agents of the reconcilation, justice and peace, according to the assembly, have to be evangelized, converted, formed in the faith and be living witnesses in a life of discipleship of Christ (like Charles de Foucauld); for it is our common sonship in Christ which is the basis of our justice and reconciliation.
Thus all forms of experience and practice of the Synodal theme (reconciliation, justice and peace) need to be “evangelized” by the Gospel.
CHRIST OUR RECONCILIATION
It was observed in the Assembly (Relatio ante disceptationem) that “in a Church, which is a family in communion, reconciliation becomes not a state or an act, but a dynamic process, a task to be undertaken everyday, a goal to strive after, an unending setting out to re-establish, through love and mercy, broken friendships, fraternal bonds, trust and confidence”. It is most importantly, that which is required by our nature and identity: what we are with God and before God in Christ. It is our relationship in Christ with God and with one another which requires reconciliation; and its purpose is to repair and to restore the communion that God’s covenant and our sonship in Christ establish, but which sin threatens and breaks up.
It is in Christ, therefore that we have communion with God; and it is in him that we have our reconciliation with God. Indeed, he is our reconciliation; and it is through him and in him that we give and receive reconciliation.
Thus, in the words of St. Paul,
1. “If anyone is in Christ he is a new creation”. The relationship and communion established between man and God by reason of man’s creation in the image and likeness of God, is superseded by his redemption and sonship. The relationship between God and man belongs now to the regime of grace (unmerited work of God): redemption in Christ. “We are saved by grace through faith in Christ” (Eph 2:8).
2. God, through Christ, reconciled us to himself, not counting our trespasses against us.
Reconciliation is an act of unmerited pardon; and it is an exercise of merciful love.
3. God has entrusted his message of reconciliation to us…., i.e., those who have made an experience of God’s reconciliation. “In your light, O, God, we see light”. It is in the experience of God’s reconciliation that we become ministers of reconciliation, feeling the urgency of mending relationship and ties out of mercy and love.
The Synod Fathers listened to testimonies of the above-mentioned urgency of reconciling enemies, and observed on its being an exercise in truth and merciful love. The liturgy and Sacrament of Penance offer privileged moments for their celebration.
The Synod Fathers also recounted several traditional methods of reconciliation, and wondered whether elements of these traditional celebrations could not enrich the forms of celebration of the Sacraments in the Church. In doing so, there should be no confusion about the efficacy of the celebration; for as it was said in the assembly, it is “the Good News of the Precious Blood of Christ, given for the redemption of the whole world which transforms the cup of suffering of the very many victims of bloodshed on the continent”. It requires a spirituality, and not a strategy!
CHRIST OUR JUSTICE
Reconciliation, as it was observed also in the Assembly, is the restoration of justice and the just demands of relationships (Rel. ante discept.). Paul also describes the fruit of our reconciliation to God through Christ as becoming the justice of God (2 Cor 5:21).
In the present state of human sinfulness and wounded hearts, however, the Old Testament is strong in its outlook that justice cannot come to humanity through its own strength. It can only come as a gift of God. And the New Testament develops this outlook more fully, making justice the supreme revelation of the salvific grace of God.
Again, as observed in the assembly, the sense of this justice of the kingdom is not quite retributive justice, although that is sometimes the sense of its attribution to God (Rev15:4; 19:2,11; 16:5-6; Heb 6:10; 2Thess.1:6), and several interventions in the assembly reflected this sense of justice.. It also does not have the sense of “conformity to a norm or a set of norms”. At least, this is not its primary sense; and it can never be applied to God in that sense; Again, some interventions reflected this sense.
The justice (righteousness) of God and of his kingdom is a revelation of God, which is destined to be the righteousness of human beings. It is the revelation of the justice/ righteousness of God which justifies, rendering the sinner righteous and worthy again of communion and covenant relationship with God. It is the revelation of Christ, “who while we were still sinners died for us (Rom 5:9)” to prove God’s love for us. It is, therefore, the revelation of Christ as our justice/righteousness. The justice of man, in this case, consists in his confession of sins, in admission of his failure, and the acceptance in faith of God’s offer of communion, namely salvation in Christ.
In Jesus and in his ministry, one sees the justifying grace of God at work, overlooking the just demands of the covenant relationship and re-instating humanity out of mercy and love, in a covenant relationship. One also sees the constitution of a new covenant community, the Church, endowed with the Holy Spirit and enabled, therewith, to respond to God’s righteousness in faith through the confession of sins.
The justice of Christian diakonia and the justice of our Christian living in the Church in Africa is the justice of the kingdom; and its principal characteristic is that it is justice exercised in love and mercy.
It is this sense of justice that the Synod Fathers suggested be cultivated first in the family, as a family virtue before becoming a social one. There, all that is due a person by reason of his dignity and vocation to the communion of persons is upheld and maintained in mercy and love.
The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of South Africa, the National Reconciliation Commission of Ghana and others (Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Togo), which the Synod Fathers mentioned, aim primarily at this sense of justice. Compensation is not their main purpose. They aim at healing through admission of guilt and pardon.
CHRIST OUR PEACE
Peace is the one term whose definition (as “education”, as “development” and as “justice”) was popularly cited by the Synod Fathers. Recognizing, that both respect for and the development of human life require it, and that it is the “necessary condition for the true progress of men and society” Synod Fathers and other participants passionately called for the cultivation of a “peace culture” in Churches, homes, communities and nations. A particular mention was made of such institutional structures for peace in nations as “The National Peace Council” of Ghana and the “Peace and Reconciliation Commission” of Liberia and Togo; and their diffusion advocated for.
In women and children, who are the easy victims of domestic violence and the deprivation of peace, due to conflicts, Synod participants saw material for organization into formidable peace advocacy groups all over the continent and its Islands. And where the absence of peace is due to oppressive traditional customs and practices, the assembly called for the set up of “Culture Study Centres” to spearhead their review and their reform.
But Peace, which emerged from the Synod assembly as the most cherished condition of human life and activity on the continent and its Islands, is ironically beyond the reach of man and his world. The Instrumentum Laboris, therefore, asks the Synod assembly about the peace it seeks! (46).
Its own view is that “the peace which the world gives is fragile and unsure”; for peace is not primarily the fruit of structures and it does not take place outside the person.
Peace is primarily born from within, in the interior of individuals, and from within the communities they build.
Peace, then would seem to be the fruit of the “spiritual disposition” of a person; and if it thrives where there is justice, then, like both justice and reconciliation, it is also the fruit of love.
When St. Thomas Aquinas taught that peace and harmony are preserved by justice, he also held that in order to preserve peace and justice among men, the prescriptions of justice do not suffice. It is fundamental that there is love between them. Accordingly, the “Catechism of the Catholic Church”, drawing on Scripture and on the rich tradition of the Church, also teaches that “peace is the work of justice and the effect of charity”; and it is in this sense that Christ is identified by Scripture as our peace.
The “peace” that is Christ does not have just a secular sense, it being the absence of conflict (Gen34:21; Jos 9:15; 10:1,4; Lk 14:32), the presence of harmony in the home and within the family (Is 38:17; Ps 37:11; 1 Cor 7:15; Mt 10:34; Lk12:51), individual and communal (national) security and prosperity (Judg18:6; 2 Kg 20:19; Is 32:18). “Peace”, is not just when human beings and their societies fulfil their respective duties and recognize the rights of other persons and societies”; and it is not just one of the results of working for justice. “Peace” essentially transcends the world and human efforts. It is a wholeness determined by God and bestowed on the man/woman of justice. It is a gift of God (Is 45:7; Num 6:26) for the “righteous/just”: “those on whom his favour rests” (Lk 2:14).
It is as such righteous bearers on earth of Christ’s peace that Paul exhorts us in his Christian communities to pursue peace (Rm14:19; Eph 4:3; Heb 12:14) and to be at peace with each other (Rm12:18; 2 Cor13:11). But it is also as such righteous bearers on earth of the peace of Christ that we need to recall, as we did with “justice”, that “peace” is an activity that goes beyond strict justice and requires love. It derives from communion with God and is aimed at the well-being of man (humanity).
The first Synod invited the Church in Africa and on the Islands to live in the communion of Church-family of God. This second Synod now invites the Church-family of God, in all the details of her composition, to make an experience of those virtues which establish our communion with God and to witness and live the same (reconciliation, justice, peace) out of love and mercy on the continent and its Islands.
What follows is the presentation of some of the components of the Church-family of God as they serve reconciliation, justice and peace on the continent, as the Synod Fathers envisaged them; and the implications of their ministry are what is set out in the symbolisms of salt and light: salt of the earth and light of the world.
DISCIPLES, SERVANTS OF RECONCILIATION, JUSTICE AND PEACE
Illuminated and transformed by the paschal mystery of Christ and filled with the Holy Spirit, the community of disciples is sent everywhere and missioned to announce to everyone everything that they have seen, heard and touched of the Word of Life (cf. 1 Jn 1:1). This mission consists in making Christ visible in every place and circumstance where the “Spirit” prompts them (cf. Acts 13:2). They are aware of being a community which shares material and spiritual goods without taking account of ethnicity or culture.
Impelled by “the Spirit of the Lord”, the deacon Philip converted an Ethiopian functionary who himself became a missionary to his own people (cf. Acts 8:26-39). This confirms that Africa is a homeland for Christ who continuously remained present in the ecclesial community born there and recounted by the Patriarch to the Synod Fathers. The Church-Family of God in Africa is proud of its apostolic roots and its ancestors in the faith whose example instills courage to continue proclaiming the Gospel of reconciliation, justice and peace.
The Church grounds her action in the contemplation of Christ her Master “the way, the truth and the life” (Jn 14:6), “who came not to be served but to serve and give his life in ransom for many” (Mc 10:45). His self-emptying raises us up into the Family of God, in a renewed humanity, reconciled and animated by his Spirit (cf. Phil 2:6-11).
To ensure its mission of reconciliation, justice and peace, the Church- Family of God in Africa should become aware of her identity, ponder her being and act attentively to the truth and faithfully to her mission. Her members should themselves be reconciled within her and be a model of Christ the Servant. The communion among pastors, the witness of their life, their relationships with co-workers and their treatment of employees, are several areas which deserve consideration.
The Synod Fathers took the time to listen to one other and became aware of different aspects of this mission and the different agents who are involved: individuals, the family, children, youth, Small Christian Communities, lay people, religious, the clergy….
Besides the social issues identified for careful examination in the Instrumentum laboris (the family, the dignity of women, the prophetic mission, the media and new technologies of information and communication, self-sufficiency), a new sector emerged from several interventions of Synod Fathers: the socio-religious.
The Synod Fathers saw the first task of the Church-Family of God in Africa to be the rehabilitation of the African family in its dignity and its vocation, for it is threatened by dangerous ideologies (gender ideology). All African cultures hold the family in great esteem and so, for good reason, the Church in Africa defines herself as “Church-Family of God”, an expression consecrated by the previous Synod but which would be further enriched in giving the “Family” a solid Christian anthropological foundation, better able to manifest its identity and open itself to the dimension of the universal Church.
The Synod Fathers vigorously denounced the ideology and international programmes which are imposed on African countries under false pretexts or as conditions for development assistance. They are harmful for the family. Competent persons must be trained and enabled, when necessary, to form Catholic family associations and other lay movements which defend the interests of the family and engage in public discussion (conferences, radio programmes…). A contextualized socio-pastoral analyses should be introduced in seminaries, novitiates and other houses of formation in order to discover, evaluate and prevent whatever risk or danger which could threaten the family institution. Finally, there is the urgent need to re-define the family as the “Domestic Church” and the primary place for education in love, reconciliation, justice and peace. In this way, Christian families would become the solid foundation of vibrant Eccelsial Communities that would in turn form “family communities” into true schools of evangelization. The apostolate of the family must integrate and embrace these elements.
THE DIGNITY OF WOMAN AND HER ROLE IN SERVICE TO RECONCILIATION, JUSTICE AND PEACE
Women engender life and train other members of the family to be truly human. But her personal growth and development remains thwarted, frustrated by cultural traditions (genital mutilation) and her dignity wounded by modern situations (pornography, prostitution, violence and many kinds of humiliations in society).
The Synod Fathers have heard the cry of women which has been echoed by some of their own members. . . The Church-Family of God is invited to do something about the grave injustices which have been meted out to them. Women need to be recognized in society as well as in the Church as active members engaged in the life of the Church. Their contribution to the development and the protection of the human family, even in times of conflicts, must be recognized and appreciated.
As mothers, they are the first teachers of their children about love and social life. As wives, they are the trusted partners of their husbands . . . The Synod Fathers are called upon to give serious consideration and thought to women and to courageously highlight the potentialities of women already demonstrated in the management of their family life . . . they are certainly capable of doing a lot for the Church.
Consequently, an in-depth evangelization of traditional culture will help free them from certain customs and practices that are contrary to the Gospel, but which are still very much in vogue in certain societies today (polygamy/polygyny, domestic violence, discrimination with regard to inheritance, forced marriage…women as the first victims of HIV and AIDS . .. .).
Their self-development (love, respect and the recognition of their rights . . . ) will make their contributions more effective and sure, especially in engendering and sustaining a culture of peace. They are naturally well-disposed to this by their own “genius”: their gifts of patience, hospitality and the ability to listen as educators.
THE SOCIO-RELIGIOUS SECTOR
Fear and insecurity characterize the life of faith among many of the peoples of Africa (doubt, suspicion, self-defence, aggression, fear of evil spirits, divination, occultism, syncretism . . .). An in-depth analysis reveals an insatiable desire to amass wealth selfishly, which is the root of all conflicts present in various regions of Africa. The Catholic faithful find the sects appealing, because of problems in society that they may have, and because of their desire for quick solutions to their physical and psychological problems. The sects abuse the weaknesses or ignorance of the faithful. Certain groups attack the Church through occult practices.
The Synod Fathers were invited by some speakers to return to teaching basic elements of the Christian faith in order to help the faithful to live their daily lives in coherence with their faith. A balanced spirituality can help Christians to resist the pressures of the sects.
As for injustices suffered (armed conflicts, violence…), the Synod Father heard moving testimonies by persons who have experienced Pardon – which show that Justice-Forgiveness-Truth are inseparable. What has been an injury inflicted cannot be repaired, unless the evil is recognized and confessed. Upon confession, forgiveness, requested and granted, frees both victim and perpetrator to establish a new and stronger relationship. This power to love and to forgive is a gift of God (testimony given in the synod hall).
The faithful will learn to base their relationships and their behaviour upon:
— the assurance which Christ gives of his permanent presence in their heart: “I am with you always until the end of time” (Mt 28:20);
— the fullness of life which He alone can give by sacrificing his own (cf. Jn 17:2-3);
— peace which Christ alone can give, not as the world gives it (Jn 14:27); and
— Christ’s justice which surpasses all human justice (Mt 5:38).
The sacraments, particularly the Eucharist and Penance, are inexhaustible sources of strength to build the Church-Family of God. God is the only source of life, “Christ, … first-born from among the dead, has reconciled us with God by his blood on his Cross… (cf. Col 1:15ff). We are linked by a blood-tie with Christ who inducts us into the great brotherhood of which he is the eldest.
It is crucial to convince the Christian faithful that the fraternal bonds established by Christ through the waters of baptism and through his blood which are stronger than blood ties. He is the eldest of a multitude of brothers and sisters, thus establishing a shared sonship, which restores the dignity to every person in Africa, reconciles him within himself and with others, heals him personally, socially, culturally, politically and economically.
Consequently, the sacred character and dignity of each person are recognized and respected no matter who a person is and whatever the situation in which he finds himself. This requires solidarity, sharing, respect for one another, hospitality, gathering-together (assembly) and reconciliation for a restorative justice…
The Eucharist as source and summit of Christian life should be where reconciliation and peace are best expressed (cf. Eucharistic Prayer III). The same Body of Christ feeds us and the same Blood of Christ flows in our veins.
A more thorough catechesis on the sacraments can help the faithful live the Eucharist with greater depth and benefit — for in many communities, the “Mass” remains a parenthesis in the day or the week. The Eucharist has not yet penetrated the daily life and activity of many of the faithful…as we see at the kiss of peace which is overlooked or void of meaning. At the Eucharist each participant is sent on a special mission of reconciliation, healing, justice and peace to others.
The celebration of the sacrament of reconciliation (Penance) should vividly manifest its double aspects: personal and communitarian. In certain cases everything points to the communitarian celebration of reconciliation in order to dress and heal the wounds of families and societies ripped apart by situations of violence, conflict and war. As sin has a social dimension, so reconciliation should also engage the whole community.
THE PROPHETIC MISSION OF THE CHURCH FAMILY OF GOD IN AFRICA
The Church-Family of God, by her nature, her coherent social doctrine, her geographical extension and her solicitude for the good of the human person is in a better position than other organizations to assume the work of reconciliation, justice and peace in Africa.
The Synod Fathers recognized the great need for the Church’s active presence, at forums, at the national, regional and continental levels, where decisions and questions are made, which affect human development (socio-economic), the establishment of harmonious relations between conflicting parties (mediation) and the re-establishment of relations guaranteeing peace in the future.
To speak of reconciliation, justice and peace and to guarantee a more sensible and better coordinated engagement between conflicting parties, bishops must speak with one voice within their Episcopal Conferences (national, regional or continental). It is necessary to create a synergy between all ecclesiastical institutions (SECAM, COSMAM, continental associations and organizations of lay people) in order to engage the Church’s many aspects of life and activities in the service to reconciliation, justice and peace on the continent.
Some specialized offices (watch posts) are to be created, if it is necessary, to be able to deal with new challenges, to develop actions or to follow the evolution of certain situations or issues such as foreign interference, greed, ethnicism…all potential causes of ethnic conflicts. All the root causes of ethnic conflicts in Africa must be confronted without fear or favour and ought to be objects of a continental, pastoral plan of action or some precise pastoral directive.
The Bishops of Africa should also show a great interest in reinforcing their presence at continental organizations (AU), in harmony with the Holy See (Vatican Diplomatic Corp), with a view to stimulating, encouraging and guaranteeing initiatives which promote reconciliation, justice, and peace.
<br>The tragedy of the pandemic of HIV-AIDS was not overlooked by the Synod Fathers, who encouraged those who work in this matter to continue in their work in order to bring hope to persons infected by this disease and to encourage them to resist the temptation of losing hope. The mission of the Church-Family of God in Africa, in living fidelity to the Gospel of Christ, is committed to the fight for the reduction of the social stigmatization of the persons affected by HIV/AIDS, as it is in the effort to replace violence through building bridges of reconciliation, justice and peace and as it is committed to engaging public authorities in order to speak in the name of and on behalf of those who have no voice. An appeal was made for synergy and solidarity among all, so that diseases in Africa receive the same attention (treatment) as those of Europe
In the struggle to preserve human life and for the ensure greater peace among all human beings, more voices were raised to demand the closure of factories which make arms and exacerbate conflicts in Africa. Besides conflicts over space and territory and those concerning the exploitation of minerals in Africa, a conflict over water is looming large on the horizon. Consqeuently, it is necessary to remain vigilant concerning the degradation of the environment and its effect on climate change.
The Synod Fathers are also aware that the causes of armed conflicts in Africa are not only tribalism but the lust of some multinational corporations in their desire for exclusive rights over strategic resources (Petroleum, uranium, coltan, etc.) which engender conflicts. The Synod Fathers ask that there be put in place an international judicial system which would aim at controlling the activities of multinational and transnational mining companies.
The conflicts in Africa force a look at their recent history (the danger of exaggerated nationalism and the concept of race which are anti-Christian). Many Christians are in public offices, in political life and in places where decisions are taken (the Parliament). Despite this, however, some laws contrary to Christian morals have been passed, especially concerning the family.
Consequently, there is the need to train Christian men and women politicians and to provide them with a solid Christian formation (the Bible, moral theology, the social teachings of the Church, Church History…) and with juridical tools that will enable them to defend Christian values (especially the family) and thus contribute positively to the formulation of legislative texts which respect Christian moral values. The Synod Fathers recognized that it is not enough to train the lay faithful in political leadership in various countries on the continent, but it is also necessary to support them in their work… in order to make them agents of change in the society (good management of families, social responsibility and political organizations).
Some lay apostolic movements can contribute to the service of reconciliation, justice and peace. Through her specialized institutions, the Church can cooperate with the civil society and serious NGO’s or other religious confessions, to face the common challenge of the integral promotion of human rights.
The coverage of African conflicts and their instrumentalization by the media constitute a challenge to the Church-Family of God in Africa. The Synod Fathers were informed of the efforts being made by many Dioceses to establish diocesan radio stations. These stations help promote the ideal of fraternity and peaceful coexistence, reconciliation, justice and peace among the people. The power of the media can also be useful in spreading the Good News in a continent that is still largely characterized by the oral tradition and culture.
A good technical and religious formation of Catholic agents of communication (especially in the social teachings of the Church) is a priority. At the same time, it is necessary to train the Pastors themselves and all pastoral agents in the language of the media and its good use. Generally speaking, the lay faithful ought to learn to exercise discernment and a critical spirit, when faced with the ideologies propagated by the media.
Particular attention is to be given to youth. They are the first to be victimized by the devastating effects of globalization on their moral standards and value system. Consequently, an integral, complete education is needed at all levels (children, youth and adults) in the practice of those social values which are indispensable for harmoniously living together, namely, the promotion of human life, the unity of the human race, the equal dignity of the persons and respect for the common good and the rights which all enjoy.
This begins in the family and continues in Catholic schools and institutions, which are still the best places for forming the values of Christian life, especially a culture of tolerance, harmonious co-existence, service to others, reconciliation, justice and peace.
The formation of seminarians ought to be taken care of. A good blending of philosophy and theology will ensure an adequate response to the questions posed by the world. It is necessary to create a ratio nationalis institutionis sacerdotalis, to help favour discernment and spiritual and affective formation, adapted to circumstances and persons. This rigorous discernment and a spiritual, affective formation adapted to situations will make of priests persons firmly rooted in their cultures and faithful to the teaching of the Church.
The concern for competent and well-trained formators should be a priority. The involvement of the family and the Christian community, faithful to the evangelical counsels, will assist them to base their life on their belonging to Christ alone.
THE CONSECRATED LIFE
The consecrated life is rapidly growing in the Church-Family of God in Africa. As in the case of the clergy and priestly vocations, there are shortcomings in the area of discernment and formators. The Synodal Fathers are called upon to help religious life remain faithful to its prophetic mission by supporting it to carry out its mission ad Gentes and to encourage it through a witness of communion. They were made aware of the practice of young African girls sent to Europe to be trained in religious life, sometimes with a disappointing outcome: some refuse to return and end up in troubles. This subject needs to be addressed by the Synod Fathers.
The COSMAM has become a reality on the continent as a supporting structure for religious life in Africa and a forum for dialogue with the Bishops on the continent (SECAM).
ONE CHURCH-FAMILY OF GOD WITH MANY FACES
The Church-Family of God, either north or south of the Sahara, has the same mission of service. The Church-Family of God in the north of the Sahara has the same mission of service as the Church south of the Sahara. However, it is still not entirely integrated in the Church-Family of God in Africa. It is a “crossroad” Church (with many paths coming together), which, however, is called to be the «Church of the Pentecost», because it becomes a multicultural Church on account of the increasing number of sub-Saharian students. They learn how to live their faith in a new context and to face the future with courage, despite various injustices.
Despite its situation of being a Christian minority in the midst of Muslims, the Church has good dialogue rapport with Islam and is involved in different services to society: social, cultural and educational. The Synod Fathers from these Churches invited their brother-bishops to engage and to dialogue with other religions without “complexes”: to overcome their fears and past burdens (relationships between the Arab world and black Africa), and to establish partnerships with Muslims of good will, so as to reduce tensions.
— as a Christian minority in a Muslim milieu, to be associated to the Synod of Bishops of 2010 (Middle East);
— the organisation of a continental workshop for the exchange of experiences concerning different kinds of relationships with Islam (from Tunisia to Johannesburg).
— the Saints, Blesseds and Martyrs of the Church-Family of God in Africa need to be remembered.
Apart from the Saints and Blesseds of Africa, whom the Holy Father never forgets to mention, the Synod Fathers have recalled the memory of bishops, priests, religious, sisters, lay faithful and seminarians who remained faithful to their service until the end, to the point of giving their life, like Christ.
Other people have also died tragically in the service of the common good. They must be remembered along with the Church’s members. All these heroes of service and reconciliation should be presented to young people as role-models.
The attention of the international community should be drawn to the injustices and violence committed in Africa each day, inviting it to a stronger solidarity.
The international community needs to be invited to commit itself to the reconstruction of the countries destroyed by war.
“Salt” and “Light” are the metaphors/images with which the Servant of God, Pope John Paul II, once described the mission of Christ’s faithful, in the multiplicity and diversity of their identities and roles, in Africa and on its Islands. He said: “In the pluralistic society of our day, it is especially due to the commitment of Catholics in public life that the Church can exercise a positive influence. Whether they be professionals or teachers, businessmen or civil servants, law enforcement agents or politicians, Catholics are expected to bear witness to goodness, truth and justice and love of God in their daily life. The task of the faithful lay person is to be salt of the earth and light of the world, especially in those places where only the lay person is able to render the Church present”.
The reference in the theme of this Synod to the invitation of Christ to his disciples to be “salt of the earth and light of the world” does not only refer to the witness that the Church-family of God in Africa, like the disciples of Jesus (Acts 1:8), must give on the continent, its Islands and in the world. It is also a reference to a method for credible evangelization and apostolic mission, prescribed by the Lord after the manner of his own mission.
“God so loved the world that he gave his only Son” (Jn.3::16); and the mission of the incarnate Son of God in the world was described by Paul as the self-emptying of the Son of God to become man: “Though he was in the form of God….. (he) emptied himself, taking the form of a slave” (Phil.2:6-7). As such, Jesus carried out his mission on earth, bringing his self-emptying to its highest expression in his suffering and death on the cross, in fulfilment of the servant God prophecies in the Old Testament (Is.52-53 etc.).
This is the character of the servant role that the Synod theme evokes for bringing reconciliation, justice and peace on the continent and on its Islands.. “Servant (in the service) of Reconciliation, Justice and Peace”, as the theme of our Synod, invites the Church-family of God in Africa to a paschal life in being agents of reconciliation, justice and peace; and that is what the metaphors of salt and light stand for. It is the rooting of our method of apostolic action of serving reconciliation, justice and peace in the sacrifice we make of our lives and in that of Christ. For, the same must be in us that was in Christ Jesus (cfr. Phil.2:5).
In this Synod, the sense has been variously expressed that the Church-family of God in Africa must be transformed from within; and that she must transform the continent, its Islands and the world like salt and like light. She envisages an apostolic mission, which her pastors and other pastoral workers have variously articulated in this assembly as:
— Liberating the continent’s people from fear of all sorts;
— Ensuring a conversion that is deep and permanent, and a “solid” formation of all kinds (faith, catechetical, moral, media, culture of love, peace, justice, reconciliation, good governance, stewardship, etc.);
— Dialogue on all levels, including the environment;
— Advocacy roles for various social concerns and needs, especially the place of women in society, the education of the children and the youth;
— Migration and various forms of population movement and the which require our pastoral care;
— The challenging ministry of changing attitudes and mentalities, freeing them from effects of of a past of colonialism, exploitation, etc.;
— Positioning the continent and its people to resist the onslaught of globalization and the attendant challenges of a global ethic, unjust trade conditions, ethnocentrism, fundamentalisms, etc.
The polyvalent symbol, salt, expresses the very many forms of paschal existence, under which the Church-family of God in Africa must serve reconciliation, justice and peace (and now also truth, which this assembly has closely associated with them); and the light of the Gospel leads us on. Emphasis is mine. Cf. Letter of Pope John Paul II to Archbishop Nikola Eterovic on the occasion of the Meeting of the Special Council for Africa of the General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops, Vatican, 23 Feb., 2005.  On 26 June 2006, at a Press Conference in the Vatican, addressed by Cardinal Francis Arinze, the Special Council for Africa of the General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops made public the Lineamenta of the Second Special Assembly for Africa; and on 19 March 2009, at Yaoundé, the Holy Father presented the Instrumentum laboris of the Second Special Assembly for Africa.  FIRST SPECIAL ASSEMBLY FOR AFRICA, Instrumentum Laboris, 1993, 1. SECOND SPECIAL ASSEMBLY FOR AFRICA, Lineamenta, “Preface”.  JOHN PAUL II, Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Reconciliatio et Poenitentia, 2. The “wicked” )רשע) is the opposite of the righteous. He destroys communion and community by failing to fulfil the demands of community relations. (The Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible, vol.4, 81).  Pope John Paul II defines “mercy” as “a special power of love, which prevails over sin and infidelity of the chosen people” (Dives in Misericordia , 4.3). Thus, Pope John Paul II teaches that in relationships between individuals and social groups etc., “justice is not enough”. There is need for that “deeper power, which is love” (cf. Dives in Misericordia, 12).  The Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, 3, 63. THE CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH, 2304.  BENEDICT XVI, Homily, St. Peter’s Basilica, Sunday 4/10/09. ST. THOMAS AQUINAS, Contra Gentes, 1, III, c. 128. Ibidem.  JOHN XXIII, Pacem in Terris, 72. SECOND VATICAN ECUMENICAL COUNCIL, Gaudium et Spes, 84.  Although it is a task, something to work for, “peace” is a gift of God, something our earthly peace only dimly anticipates. SECOND VATICAN ECUMENICAL COUNCIL, Gaudium et Spes, 78.  JOHN PAUL II, Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia in Africa, 108.
1. How aware is the Church-Family of God in Africa and its Islands, and the rest of Catholic world of the incidence of this Synod? What could been done; and what needs to be done?
GATHERED AGAIN IN A SPECIAL ASSEMBLY FOR AFRICA OF THE SYNOD OF BISHOPS
2. What is your appreciation of this Synod as an “exercise of ecclesial communion” of the universal Church? Is there room for improvement of this sense of the Synod?
OTHER STRUCTURES OF ECCLESIAL COMMUNION
3. Pope John Paul II said: “….. To build a prosperous and a stable society, Africa needs all her children to join forces…”. How do you evaluate the various forms of collegial and collaborative ministry in the Church-family of God in Africa and its Islands?
THE SETTING OF THE SECOND ASSEMBLY: AFRICA’S WOES OR CHALLENGES?
4. Pope John Paul II said: “Wounded human hearts (are) the ultimate hiding place for the cause of everything destabilizing the African continent”. What is your assessment of this statement? Can you adduce examples and evidence?
5. The Instrumentum laboris, 66 says: “Some think that a more basic reason for the instability of societies on the continent is linked to cultural alienation and racial discrimination, which have engendered along the course of African history an inferiority complex, fatalism and fear”. What is you view on this? How does the Synod theme help you deal with this?
6. Do you agree with the characterization of the wrongs and problems Synod Fathers observed about Africa and its Islands as “challenges”? How real have you found the description of the First Special Assembly of Bishops for Africa as “Synod of hope and of the resurrection”?
7. How true is it that Synod Fathers tended to generalize, amplifying local Church and National issues to apply to all of Africa? What specific situations in your local church and Country are resonate with the Synod theme or find solutions therein?
THE STRENGTHENING OF FAITH IN CHRIST
8. To what extent would you agree that the Synod theme is first and foremost a “programme of spirituality”, and then an activity?
9. Several interventions in the assembly deplored the quality of Christian witness and the commitment of people to their faith (before sects, witchcraft etc.). How do you evaluate our existing methods for bringing people to faith and into the Church? What would do to ensure a conversion that is deep and permanent?
CHRIST OUR RECONCILIATION
10. What positive aspects of African tradition and culture can be useful in the Christian catechesis on reconciliation, justice and peace? Can the Sacrament of reconciliation be made meaningful to our faithful through the adoption of such aspects?
11. What elements in our tradition and culture constitute obstacles to the Christian understanding and celebration of reconciliation?
12. “Bien des Chrétiens ont temoigner jusqu’au martyre en faveur de l’évangile de la fraternité générée par l’eau du baptême’’. What is your experience of the opposition between ethnic ties and ecclesial bond in your local Church?
CHRIST OUR JUSTICE
13. Whom would you identify as victims of injustice in your local Church area and country? How can you bring them justice? Is it possible to set up structures in the grass-root levels for co-operation with other religions in conflicts prevention and resolution and in the formation of a culture of justice and peace?
14. What practical steps ought to be taken in order to form our lay faithful for the apostolate of Christian leadership within the Society?
15. In what ways can women be allowed to apply their various talents in conflict prevention, conflict resolution and reconciliation within the Church and in the larger society?
CHRIST OUR PEACE
16. “In truth is peace” (Pope Benedict XVI). This teaching of the Holy Father was echoed several times in the assembly and related to justice and the rule of law. How will you teach this to the rank an file of your local church?
17. “Christ is our peace!” How can we make this faith assertion real in our lives? How can it be celebrated ordinarily in our Christian communities and lives?
18. What strategic plan should be put in place on the continental level to safeguard and protect the African Family? The Church-Family of God would in this way make its own contribution to the universal Church to help other Churches where the process of the decline of the family is already well underway.
THE DIGNITY OF WOMAN AND HER ROLE IN SERVICE TO RECONCILIATION, JUSTICE AND PEACE
19. How should a plan of action be put in place to return dignity to African women and strengthen their capabilities so that they can be more consciously engaged in the building up the Church-Family of God in Africa? What concrete programmes should be put in place in order to make women more active participants and responsible agents of guidance in the life of the Church?
THE SOCIO-RELIGIOUS SECTOR
20. Why are blood-ties (human alliances) taken into account more than the Blood of Christ (the new and eternal Covenant)? How to develop the spirituality of the Eucharist lived in daily life? (A continental Eucharistic congress?)
21. How can “Reconciliation” be celebrated in the Eucharist and the Sacrament of Penance that it can lead to genuine mending of relationships and transform us into ambassadors of reconciliation?
THE PROPHETIC MISSION OF THE CHURCH FAMILY OF GOD IN AFRICA
22. How do we build on the positive experiences of justice and peace commisions or other similar intiative to search for a pedagogy of reconciliation, which can respond to the traumatisation of often-forgotten communities and can assist those responsible for these traumas to positively repent of their actions? A pastoral plan of action has been proposed by the Episcopal Conference of Senegal-Gunea Bissau-Mauritania.
23. Why do Christians have so little influence in political life? Has the Gospel anything to say to these Christian leaders in their political activities?
24. How do we re-establish the positive power of the WORD as a medium of formation in reconciliation, justice and peace, given that the WORD has been disfigured and devalued by abuse, lies and hate or derogatory propaganda by some media agents?
25. How are our pastors “servant leaders” in our Churches and communities? How do they, as agents of evangelization, consider themselves as servants of reconciliation, justice and peace?[Text by the General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops]