The Church in Africa will highlight the relationship between the Catholic Church and the African continent at a conference this month at the Vatican. The conference, which will take place on the occasion of the upcoming canonizations of Blessed John XXIII and Blessed John Paul II, will focus on the implementation of the Second Vatican Council in Africa.
Among those presenting at the conference will be Bishop Barthélemy Adoukonou, secretary of the Pontifical Council for Culture; Archbishop Emery Kabongo Kanundowi, retired bishop of Luebo and former secretary of Blessed John Paul II; Msgr. Melchor Sánchez de Toca y Alameda, undersecretary of the Pontifical Council for Culture; and Professor Martin Nkafu, professor at the Lateran Pontifical University.
Speaking on the upcoming event, Bishop Adoukonou highlighted its significance in focusing on the Church’s role in developing “a cultural identity for the African continent.”
The meeting, he said, will reflect on “how to defend the cultural values of Africa, what has Africa become. The Church has to reflect what faith, for what culture for what development. This department of faith culture and development has the task of connecting African intellectuals.”
The African prelate highlighted the contributions to the Church in Africa made by Blessed John XXIII, who named the first cardinal from the African continent as well as being the first to receive African artists and intellectuals in the Vatican.
“The Pope wished to receive these painters, artists. For us he is a supportive figure. From this point of view he recognized the African culture, therefore Pope John XXIII, [is] ‘the Good Pope’, the Pope of peace, the Pope [who] recognized Black culture.”
The conference will also reflect on Blessed John Paul II’s contributions to African culture. “The Church has shown its universality and its openness to modern culture,” Msgr. Melchor said. As Pope, Blessed John Paul II wished to create a dialogue with contemporary culture when creating the Pontifical Council for Culture that follows the spirit of the Vatican II document, Gaudium et Spes.
Professor Nkafu reflected on the encouragement given by Blessed John Paul II during his apostolic visit to Nairobi, calling on the Church in Africa to be a part of the culture.
“The Church has done so much in Africa: how many, schools, how many hospitals, universities, people in politics…How many of these have transformed Africa thanks to the encounter with Christianity!” he exclaimed.
“I believe that there is no other continent with such a presence of the Church in society like Africa.”
The conference, entitled “The Church in Africa from the Second Vatican Council to the Third Millenium: A Tribute from Africa to Popes John XXIII and John Paul II”, will take place April 24-25 at the Pontifical Urbanian University.