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African, European Catholic Bishops commit to a culture of fraternity
  • Describe Praedicate Evangelium as transformative reform
  • Pledge to pay more attention to youths

By Neta Nwosu

The Catholic Bishops of Africa and Europe under the auspices of the Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar (SECAM) and the Council of European Catholic Bishops’ Conferences (CCEE) have joined forces to foster a culture of fraternity that would not only bind their continents, but also engender communities firmly rooted in faith and love.

In a statement made available to The Catholic Herald weekly newspaper, the prelates voiced their concerns for harmonious relationship between African and European continents as they decried the widening conflicts in Africa, Europe and the Middle East. “As we stand at a pivotal moment in our world, we, the bishops of Africa and Europe, unite in the call to cultivate a culture of fraternity. In this spirit, we endeavour to create a more harmonious and prosperous future. “

Together, we commit to this journey, building bridges that not only connect our continents, but which also nurture the growth and flourishing of our diverse communities in faith and love. “May God bless our joint efforts as we walk together in synodality, uniting Africa and Europe in faith, hope, and love. “We acknowledge the profound changes and escalating instability in our world, including conflicts in Africa, Europe and the Middle East. Throughout these regions we also witness increasing violence against Christians and misery caused by global injustice and bad governance. “In the midst of these alarming challenges, our faith in the resurrected Lord remains unshaken. Christ is the one who brings us peace and hope, providing a beacon of light and certainty amidst the turmoil and uncertainty that characterise our times.”

The statement signed by Fridolin Cardinal Ambongo, OFM Cap, Archbishop of Kinshasa and President of SECAM; and Msgr. Gintaras Grušas, Archbishop of Vilnius and President of CCEE was issued subsequent to a 4-Day meeting of the representatives of both Conferences held in Nairobi, Kenya between January 23 and 26, 2024. SECAM and CCEE threw their weights behind Pope Francis’ reform of the Roman Curia. Describing it as a ‘transformative reform,’ the Bishops noted that it embraces the involvement of lay men and women in the functions of government and responsibility in the Church, promotes decentralisation in Church governance as well as emphasises the importance of synodality for the life of the Church in the 21st century.

Their statement read in parts, “We acknowledge the profound significance of the transformation of the Roman Curia and the entire Church as outlined in the Apostolic Constitution, “Praedicate Evangelium”. This transformative reform, guided by Pope Francis, seeks to align the Church with the challenges of the 21st century. “This instrument of the Holy Fathers’ apostolate emphasises a missionary conversion, fostering an ecclesiology of communion, and notably, incorporates the participation of the lay people, especially women, in Church governance. “

This reform advocates for decentralisation, enhanced collaboration with bishops, and addresses the diverse cultural and pastoral needs, especially pertinent to Africa. This paradigm shift marks a new era for the Curia, focusing on service and embodying the vision of a synodal Church, rooted in communion, participation, and mission.” Reflecting on the first session of the Synod in Rome, the Bishops attested to embracing both the European and African perspectives. According to them, Europe’s diverse ecclesial identity fosters a deep listening and discerning Church journey, highlighting transparency and dialogue, while Africa’s specific cultural and societal aspects emphasise communal values and inclusivity.

The Prelates of Africa and Europe at the meeting took a common position in preparation for the Second Session of the Synod of Bishops on “Synodality,” themed, “For a Synodal Church: Communion, Participation, Mission,” scheduled to hold in Vatican, Rome, Italy, October, 2024. SECAM and CCEE disclosed their stance, proposal and goals, “As we eagerly anticipate the second session of the Synod, we affirm our commitment to deepening our relationship and to implementing concrete actions that reflect our unity in Christ. We propose a healthy, missionary, and pastoral exchange between the conferences of Europe and Africa. “

We aim to integrate African values such as community-mindedness and family into parish life, and advocate for a healthy priest exchange programme between our continents. Our collaboration will extend to formation and communitarian discernment, conducted in a spirit of humility and mutual respect between our Churches. In this shared journey of faith, we recognise ourselves as learners, with both clergy and laity walking together in proclaiming Christ to the world. “

The Bishops further pledged to pay more attention to the youths, their sensitivities and their faith. They wrote, “In our collective journey, we endeavour to be particularly attentive to the voices and contributions of our young people in a world of increased digitalisation. Recognising their unique perspectives and energy, we affirm the need for their active involvement in the life and mission of the Church. By listening attentively to their experiences and insights, whilst guiding them in the faith, we commit to a deeper understanding and response to their needs.”

 


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