ABIDJAN, Ivory Coast, NOV. 17, 2010 (Zenit.org).- The missionary vocation is an essential part of the Church, affirmed the African and European bishops who participated in a recent seminar in Abidjan.
The prelates met Nov. 10 in a seminar that ended Sunday, and reflected on the topic “New Situations of the Mission Ad Gentes: Exchange of Priests and Pastoral Agents — Formation and Vocations.”
The seminar was a collaborative effort between the Council of European Bishops’ Conferences (CCEE) and the Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar (SECAM).
In the message published at the end of the event, the bishops highlighted the “climate of fraternal exchange of pastoral experiences” in the seminar, which made it possible to take “a step forward in the consolidation of pastoral communion and solidarity between Africa and Europe.”
In the text, the prelates affirmed that “in the course of the last thirty years the Church throughout the world has known enormous changes, which have aroused new challenges for the evangelizing mission that Jesus Christ entrusted to his Church.”
They continued, “By its origin and nature itself, the Church is missionary, and all its members, in virtue of their baptism, are called to be missionaries individually and in community in the Body of Christ.”
“To evangelize is the very mission of the Christian, whether in Africa, in Europe or any other place,” the statement noted.
The bishops addressed the topic of vocations to the consecrated life, acknowledging “the need to prepare our priests and our religious better to give them the intellectual, pastoral, psychological and spiritual competence that they need for the work of the new evangelization, as required by today’s challenges.”
Likewise, they “examined in a critical way the different ways of the presence of African priests in Europe and vice versa.”
The statement noted in particular “the presence of those engaged in higher studies and academic, ecclesiastical or secular institutions” and “those who offer pastoral services as chaplains, missionaries and ‘fidei donum’ priests in European and African communities and dioceses.”
In regard to priests sent to Europe to undertake higher studies, the prelates appealed “to our brother bishops to ensure that the priests have received an adequate preparation from every point of view before their authorized migration in Europe.”
These priests, they stressed, “must first be mature persons, culturally and spiritually well prepared to profit to the best from their stay, so that, both in Europe as well as Africa, the Church that sends them and the Church that receives them can benefit.”
Moreover, the bishops said they were “very happy” about the fact that today African priests are in Europe “not only to acquire academic diplomas, but also because, through their temporary or permanent presence as fidei donum priests or missionaries in different European institutions and dioceses, they manifest the nature of the Church, which is inter alia communion of persons, of ministries and of charisms in Christ Jesus.”
The participants in the meeting stated in their final message that “the Church in Africa is still in need of missionaries and she herself should be missionary given that there are still millions of men awaiting the good news of Jesus Christ.”
In this context, the local Churches in Africa are encouraged “to listen to their reciprocal requests as regards the need for missionaries, support for the missions” and “to help one another here in Africa as in any other part.”
The statement noted that in regard to the sending of missionaries wherever it is necessary, “a greater cooperation” is recommended between the bishops “and between the Church in Africa and in Europe in the formation and exchange of pastoral agents for different ministries.”
It continued, “This needs written agreements and contracts, carefully elaborated, which take into consideration, in so far as possible, all that is necessary for the well-being of priests in the spirit of greater communion and solidarity.”
The prelates affirmed, “At the end of this seminar, we have the hope and we formulate the prayer so that, in the very near future, our intercontinental exchanges and our celebration of communion and solidarity are open to priests, religious and laity.”
During their deliberations, the bishops also prayed for peace in the countries of the African continent that are experiencing armed conflicts, such as Sudan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
They addressed a message to the Group of 20 summit, which took place last week in Seoul, South Korea, through Nicolas Sarkozy, president of the France.
In the message, the prelates affirmed that the debates of the G20 countries should not “be limited to going to the aid of the currencies and of the financial resources of our countries, but should lead to a strong and sincere commitment to support individuals and peoples who have no way of drawing benefit from the growth of the strong economies.”
This was the third joint seminar of the CCEE and SECAM. The next event will be a symposium that will be held in Rome in 2012.