The Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar (SECAM) was born out of the wish of African Bishops during the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965) to establish a forum in which they could speak with one voice on matters pertaining to the Church in Africa. The establishment of SECAM is therefore the result of the Bishops’ resolve to build a continental structure in order to bring forth the African vision to the whole Church.
Seeing the importance of such an Association for Africa, the Congregation for the Evangelisation of the Peoples invited the Presidents of the Regional Episcopal Conferences for consultations in 1968.
Consequently, the first visit of a Pope to Africa, in modern times, was seen as a very opportune occasion for the launch of the Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar. This was therefore done during the visit of His Holiness Pope Paul VI in Kampala (Uganda) in July, 1969.
Thereafter, it was agreed to establish the Headquarters / Secretariat of SECAM in Accra, Ghana. There are three official languages of SECAM, namely, English, French and Portuguese.
The Church in Africa, fully engaged in its mission of evangelization and the emergence of a fully evangelized Family of God in Africa.
To promote the Church’s role as a sign and instrument of salvation and to build the Church as a Family of God in Africa by fostering communion, collaboration and joint action among all the Episcopal Conferences of Africa and the Islands through:
- Propagation of Faith
- Human Development
Aims and Objectives of SECAM
SECAM aims at preserving, fostering and promoting communion, joint action and collaboration among all the Episcopal Conferences of the entire Africa and Madagascar, through the Regional Conferences especially in the following domains:
- The continuation of the primary apostolate of first evangelization of those who have not yet received the message of Christ;
- The in-depth evangelization of the African in his culture and in his socio-political life;
- The promotion of integral human development;
- Ecumenism and inter-religious dialogue in Africa;
- The promotion of Institutes of research and of pastoral and theological formation;
- Regular consultations on the major problems facing the Church in Africa and in the world;
- Promoting The organic pastoral solidarity on the continental Africa and its nearby Islands (Ecclesia in Africa, 5)
Why SECAM uses “Symposium” and not “Conference”
As one will observe, most, if not all other Catholic Bishops’ Associations use the word Conference or Council to describe themselves. This, however, is not the case with SECAM who chose to use the word SYMPOSIUM. The Founding Fathers of SECAM chose the word “Symposium”, because they wanted to emphasize their desire for communion, solidarity, and fellowship.
The word symposium in Greek, signifies meal or banquet. In a speech, the late Cardinal Paul ZOUNGRANA of Burkina Faso, gave an explanation of the concept of Symposium by using the image of the Eucharistic table, around which gathers, the community of brothers.
Composition of SECAM
SECAM, as a Symposium, is an organ of liaison, of study and of consultation for a fruitful collaboration among the Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar through the regional Conferences. It comprises all juridically established Episcopal Conferences of the entire Africa and Madagascar, grouped under Regional Conferences.
The highest body of SECAM is the Plenary Assembly which unites all members, through their delegated representatives, once every three years. In between the Plenary Assemblies, the SECAM Standing Committee runs the affairs of SECAM through its bi-annual meetings. It is composed of a President and two Vice Presidents, all elected by the Plenary Assembly. Other members include a Treasurer, appointed by the Standing Committee, and 8 members, nominated by, and representing each Regional Conferences. Other members maybe coopted, on an ex-officio basis, by the Standing Committee.
Regional Conferences of SECAM
- Association of Episcopal Conferences of Central Africa (ACEAC),
- Association of Episcopal Conferences of Central Africa Region (ACERAC),
- Regional Episcopal Conference of West Africa (RECOWA/CERAO);
- Assembly of the Catholic Hierarchy of Egypt – (AHCE);
- Regional Episcopal Conference of North Africa (CERNA);
- Association of Member Episcopal Conferences of Eastern Africa (AMECEA);
- Inter-Regional Meeting of the Bishops of Southern Africa (IMBISA)
- Episcopal Conferences of the Indian Ocean (CEDOI)
SECAM has two main commissions
In order to attain its stated vision of evangelizing the whole of Africa, SECAM fulfils its mission through two commissions, namely, Commission for Evangelization and the Peace Justice and Development Commission (JPDC).
Commission for Evangelization: Coordinates and animates the propagation of the Christian faith in Africa and fosters networking and collaboration among the agents of Evangelization on the continent. It is responsible for matters of doctrinal, moral and pastoral nature which are studied and acted upon in the light of divine revelation and the traditions of the Universal Church, from an African perspective.
Justice, Peace and Development Commission: Responsible for issues pertaining to social justice and integral human development. It is also responsible for addressing all socio-economic, political and cultural issues, which are studied and acted upon in the light of the social doctrine of the Church.
SECAM’S GOLDEN JUBILEE
At the 17th Plenary Assembly of SECAM which took place in July, 2016, in Luanda (Angola), the Bishops of Africa decided to the celebrate the Golden Jubilee (1969-2019) with a view of reflecting on the Church over the past 50 years and the way forward.
The celebration will be on the theme: “Church-Family of God in Africa, Celebrate your Jubilee! Proclaim Jesus Christ your Saviour.” Every Catholic believer in Jesus Christ, every Christian community and Church in Africa, Madagascar and the Islands, is invited to give thanks to God for his goodness and for the gift of the Church in Africa.
The celebration will last a whole year, from 29th July, 2018 to 28th July, 2019.
Objective for Celebrating SECAM at 50
Celebrating SECAM, 50 years on, is very crucial as it will serve as a special opportunity to thank God for his wonders and marvelous deeds and for the gift of baptism and of the Church.
The celebrations will also be an occasion to ponder on the progress made so far by the Church in Africa whilst deepening roots in Jesus Christ and proclaiming the mission of the gospel in words and actions.
To achieve this, every Christian and every community is invited to fully enter into the celebration of the Jubilee with thanksgiving, reflecting on the progress made, repenting for omissions made, and be open to conversion with a rewed commitment to witness to Jesus Christ in Africa, Madagascar and the Islands.