Family, Media, Youth, Migrants, Corruption, among Issues Addressed by Eastern Africa Bishops
CANAA || By Father Don Bosco Onyalla, Nairobi || 23 July 2018
The Catholic Bishops belonging to the Association of Member Episcopal Conferences in Eastern Africa (AMECEA) on Sunday, July 22 concluded their ten-day Plenary Assembly held in Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa by issuing a statement highlighting various issues that touch the lives of their ministry among the people of God within the Eastern Africa region.
Family and marriage, digital media, the youth, migrants, corruption are among the issues addressed in the Bishops’ 21-point communique.
“We are cognizant of the critical position of the family as the smallest unit of the Church and society,” the Bishops stated and added with regard to family and marriage and added, “A stable family is a foundation for positive vibrant diversity, equal dignity and peaceful unity in God in the AMECEA region and beyond.”
On digital media, the Bishops expressed awareness “of the very positive steps taken towards evangelizing through mass media” and commended “efforts made to invest on creation of interactive Catholic content in diocesan and parish websites as well as social media platforms, catholic radios, televisions and newspapers.”
The Church leaders acknowledged with appreciation “young people in their dynamism and diversity as citizens of the world” who “are equally transcultural and significant members of the Church.”
On migrants, the Bishops stated, “We acknowledge that AMECEA region is a home to many migrants, internally displaced persons and refugees. This is due to the lack of the respect for diversity, human rights and inclusive economic development.”
During the Plenary Assembly, the Bishops elected Bishop Charles Kasonde of Solwezi, Zambia, to head their nine-country association, succeeding Berhaneyesus D. Cardinal Souraphiel of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
The Bishops also appointed Father Anthony Makunde of Mbeya Diocese, Tanzania as new Secretary General of their regional conference, to take over from Father Ferdinand Lugonzo of Kakamega diocese in Kenya.
Rev. Prof. Stephen Mbugua who has been serving as the Vice Chancellor of Tangaza University College was appointed Vice Chancellor of the Catholic University of Eastern Africa (CUEA), succeeding Prof. Justus Mbae.
The Plenary Assembly was held under the theme, “Vibrant Diversity, Equal Dignity, Peaceful Unity in God in the AMECEA Region”.
Below is the full text of the Bishops’ communique at the conclusion of their Plenary Assembly
19th AMECEA Plenary Assembly in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia;
(13th to 23rd July, 2018)
“There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus…..”(Galatians 3:28)
The Association of Member Episcopal Conferences in Eastern Africa (AMECEA), comprising of the Episcopal Conferences of Eritrea, Ethiopia, Malawi, Kenya, Tanzania, Sudan/South Sudan, Uganda, Zambia and the affiliate members of Djibouti and Somalia met for their regular quadrennial Plenary Assembly from 13th – 23rd July 2018 under the theme: “Vibrant Diversity, Equal Dignity, Peaceful Unity in God in the AMECEA Region.”
To the family of God in AMECEA region and all people of good will.
We, the Catholic Bishops in the AMECEA region, together with our Patrons, their Eminences the Cardinals, greet you all in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ: Peace be with you!
APPRECIATING the spirit of Pope Francis on synodality of the Church and with prayerful thanksgiving to the spiritual guidance of the Holy Father.
ENCOURAGED by the presence and solidarity of the Apostolic Nuncio to Ethiopia – His Excellency Luigi Bianco; Secretary of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples – Most Rev. Protase Rugambwa which signified our communion and solidarity with the Holy Father, Pope Francis for which we are grateful; Secretary of the Dicastery of Integral Human Development – Msgr. Bruno-Marie Duffe, and His Eminence Joseph Cardinal Tobin, the Chair of the subcommittee for solidarity fund for the Church in Africa and representative of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB).
INSPIRED by the vision of the AMECEA founding Fathers, we are determined and inspired to forge ahead with confidence and solidarity towards addressing pastoral and social issues of common concern in our region.
1. A Word of Gratitude
As Catholic Bishops in the AMECEA region, we express our sincere appreciation to the people of Ethiopia, the ‘Land of Origins’. We acknowledge with deep gratitude the Ethiopian Catholic Church: Bishops, Clergy, Religious men and women, Lay Faithful, the Government of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia and all Ethiopians of good will for accepting to host the 19th AMECEA Plenary Assembly and for all the highly appreciated preparations to host this event.
We also appreciate the support of all partners who made enormous contributions to the success of our Plenary Assembly.
Furthermore, we thank the outgoing Chairman, His Eminence Berhaneyesus D. Cardinal Souraphiel, Archbishop of Addis Ababa, the Patrons, the outgoing members of the Executive Board, the AMECEA Secretariat, the Ethiopia Catholic Bishops Conference (ECBC) and its Secretariat, the organizing committee of this Plenary for their support and active participation. May the Almighty God bless you all.
2. Vibrant Diversity of all People of God
AMECEA region is endowed with many good things which are not always similar. As AMECEA Bishops, we acknowledge this diversity as a positive thing to be cherished and not to cause divisions. This is in line with the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which underscores that differences belong to God’s plan (Cfr. No. 1937). Differences among people should encourage mutual complementarity in the AMECEA region and beyond.
As Shepherds, we therefore, strongly condemn any form of manipulation of differences in our region that undermines the dignity of the human person. This is in line with what the Catholic Church teaches that “…all men have the same nature and the same origin. Redeemed by the sacrifice of Christ, all are called to participate in the same divine beatitude: all therefore enjoy an equal dignity” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 1934).
We call upon the family of God in AMECEA countries to bear witness to this tenet of faith we profess and promote in our society. For this reason we strongly condemn negative ethnic diversity that divides our societies.
3. Equal Dignity
In the light of the above doctrine about human dignity, we AMECEA Bishops, affirm the teaching of Vatican II Council that “… although rightful differences exist between men, the equal dignity of persons demands that a more humane and just condition of life be brought about. For excessive economic and social differences between the members of the one human family or population groups cause scandal, and militate against social justice, equity, the dignity of the human person, as well as social and international peace” (Gaudium et Spes, no. 29). We appeal to all Catholics and people of good will to promote, defend and uphold the equal human dignity of each and every person created in the image of God (Imago Dei). Consequently, soci0-economic, political and cultural development in the society is intrinsically connected to human dignity.
4. Integral Human Development
As AMECEA Bishops, we uphold that integral human development cannot be limited to mere economic growth alone. In order to be authentic, it must first focus on the human person, should be holistic and cover all aspects of life of the human person and geared towards the common good.
Therefore, grounded in the principles of the Catholic Social Teaching, we commit ourselves to promote positive vibrant diversity, equal dignity of all people, peaceful unity in God for integral human development in the region.
5. Promotion of Peaceful Unity
We uphold and endeavor to promote the Church’s basic peace building plan which has four principles: recognition and defense of equal dignity of all members of the human family, promotion of integral human development, support for international institutions and forgiveness in AMECEA region. These peace building blocks are the basis for enhancement of human dignity that must be enjoyed by every human being through respect of human rights.
6. Solidarity with our Eritrean and Ethiopian Brothers and Sisters
During our Plenary Assembly in Addis Ababa, we have witnessed the coming together of Eritrea and Ethiopia breaking the barriers that divided the two countries for two decades. It is with great joy that these two countries have accepted the new steps for peace and dialogue. The Catholic Church in both countries had been raising their voice to denounce the fraternal conflict and war, prayed together and gave hope to the people throughout by remaining firm to solve the situation peacefully and showing solidarity with the peoples of both countries. We thank the AMECEA solidarity delegation which visited Eritrea in November 2017. As this process of reconciliation continues, the Catholic Church urges the stakeholders to ensure that justice and peace are restored and let the peoples of these countries be involved in the process, their voices heard and captives return to their families. The steps taken by the leaders of Ethiopia and Eritrea show that Africans have the wisdom to solve their own problems amicably.
7. Peace in South Sudan
Our hearts are gladdened by the progress in the South Sudan peace talks. We continue praying for the quick resolution of the conflict so as to alleviate the suffering of the people and end the loss of innocent lives. As Catholic Bishops in AMECEA region we are willing to offer any necessary help within our ability that will contribute to lasting peace in South Sudan.
We ask our Catholic faithful and people of good will to remember South Sudan in their prayers and to attend with a helping hand to their urgent needs.
8. Family and Marriage
We are cognizant of the critical position of the family as the smallest unit of the Church and society. A stable family is a foundation for positive vibrant diversity, equal dignity and peaceful unity in God in the AMECEA region and beyond. We note that the family is under siege because of various challenges including poverty, high unemployment rates, and inequalities in society.
As shepherds, we continue to support the development and implementation of pedagogy and programmes for on-going formation and catechesis for families through AMECEA institutions and National Conferences. We intend to collaborate with like-minded organizations to provide catechesis, formation and pastoral care of families at all levels.
9. Digital Media
We commend the formation of the new Dicastery of Communication at the Vatican and affirm our commitment to collaborate with it to bring the Gospel message to the region.
Aware of the very positive steps taken towards evangelizing through mass media, we commend efforts made to invest on creation of interactive Catholic content in diocesan and parish websites as well as social media platforms, catholic radios, televisions and newspapers as a means of evangelization and implementing the theme of this Plenary Assembly.
At the same time, recognizing the role of the media in the process of integral human development we exhort media practitioners to be responsible, credible and accurate in providing information to society.
10. Young People
We acknowledge and appreciate that young people in their dynamism and diversity as citizens of the world are equally transcultural and significant members of the Church. We undertake to continue developing effective youth pastoral care and programmes, focusing on faith, vocation discernment and morals, value based education and tackling challenges of youth unemployment, peaceful unity, leadership development, chaplaincy development and accompaniment.
11. Integral Ecology
In line with Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato Si, we invite the AMECEA family to recognize and respect creation as a gift of God to mankind. We agree that all human beings are equally affected by the crises of climate change, misuse of natural resources, waste and pollution, and poverty. Everything is interconnected; we cannot understand the social or natural world or their parts in isolation.
While we admit that the use of natural resources cannot be avoided, we must be truthful; let no one hide or distort facts in order to gain selfish advantage. We must engage in honest, transparent, constructive dialogue based on the principles of solidarity, subsidiarity, working for the common good, universal destination of goods, and preferential option for the poor and for the earth. Let everyone knows that the mother earth is “our common home.”
12. Collaboration with other Agencies for integral human development
We appreciate our like-minded partners and collaborators in our mission as shepherds of the Church in AMECEA Region.
As AMECEA Bishops, we endeavor to position AMECEA as a key player in relevant activities on integral human development of the Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar (SECAM), United Nations and its agencies, African Union, the East African Community (EAC) and the Inter-Governmental Authority for Development (IGAD). This is also important for the promotion of Good Governance and the realization of integral human development in our region.
We commit to strengthen Parliamentary Liaison Desks in all conferences to build capacity of Catholic Parliamentarians to champion laws that promote Integral Human Development and Preferential Option for the Poor in AMECEA countries.
13. Social Security Structures for the Clergy and Religious
As AMECEA Bishops, we appreciate the important role played by the Clergy and Religious men and women in evangelization and management of our institutions in AMECEA region. However, Catholic institutions where agents of evangelization do belong must collaborate with like-minded partners to establish social security measures and self-reliance initiatives to support the social security of the clergy and religious men and women.
14. Migrants, Internally Displaced Persons and Refugees
We acknowledge that AMECEA region is a home to many migrants, internally displaced persons and refugees. This is due to the lack of the respect for diversity, human rights and inclusive economic development.
In our collegiality, we support Pope Francis’ pastoral initiatives and ministry to migrants and refugees and their concerns. We commit to support the global compact on migrants and refugees as proposed by the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development. We call upon all people of the AMECEA family to exercise this moral obligation in the spirit of charity.
15. Catholic Universities and Institutions of Higher Learning
We are encouraged by the growth of Catholic institutions of higher learning in the AMECEA region. We recognize the pivotal role these institutions play in promotion of vibrant diversity. Catholic universities should be universities for integral human development through teaching the Social Teaching of the Church, through dialogues in research, exchange programmes among students, faculty and staff, continuous dialogue about the social teaching of the Church.
In this regard, we call upon all Catholic institutions of higher learning in AMECEA region to mainstream Social Teaching of the Church in their curricula. The curricula must integrate topics on human dignity, integral human development, integral ecology, unity in peace, justice, conflict resolution and good governance.
We urge Catholic universities and Theologians in AMECEA region to re-think about new academic areas in Theology that focus on issues of diversity, equal dignity, peaceful unity, integral human development and traditional African cultures that promote cohesion among the people in AMECEA region.
16. Accountable Management of Church Institutions
Our responsibility of stewardship requires us to demonstrate values of integrity, accountability and transparency in the management of all our Church institutions in AMECEA Region. Our intention is to have policies that promote proper governance of our institutions in the AMECEA Region.
In the spirit of collaboration with the laity and to tap from their valued talents, we commit to work towards building a regional network of Catholic professionals for sharing best practices in integrity, auditing, inclusion of the laity in governance and leadership of church institutions.
17. Religious Extremism, Radicalization and Terrorism
Aware of the continuous threat that faces the youth in relation to radicalization and terrorism and the effects it has on peace and security in the region, we commit to build capacity of pastoral agents to respond and care for these categories of young people.
While respecting human dignity and human rights, we will continue to support as well as collaborate with governments’ efforts on counter-violent extremism and deradicalization.
The society continues to be disturbed by the rampant corruption in AMECEA countries. The vice of corruption undermines integral human development and peaceful unity. To foster increased integrity and accountability as ways of combating corruption in, we urge Pastoral agents to focus on formation of its Christians anchored on Catholic Social Teaching and formation of conscience to prepare them to become leaders of integrity in the society.
19. Synodality of the Church
We acknowledge Pope Francis’ magisterium on the synodality of the Church; a central theme of his pontificate, which he says is “a constitutive element of the Church”.
As shepherds, we undertake to be a listening Church in the AMECEA region because we believe in the contribution of every one of the faithful in attainment of the prophetic mission of the church. We remind the faithful that Synodality does not mean decentralization of the Church, but rather, must always be interpreted as being in full communion with Peter.
20. Safeguarding of Minors
We affirm the dignity of every human person and all minors. We strongly condemn abuses against minors and vulnerable persons. In conformity with the church’s policy on protection of minors and vulnerable persons, we appeal to all responsible persons and institutions under the leadership of the church to mainstream guidelines for protection of minors. The Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors and AMECEA Pastoral Office are reference institutions to support the development of National Bishops Conferences policies for this regard.
21. New Evangelization
As AMECEA Bishops, we are saddened by the reality of the dissonance of the Christian faith and Gospel values among our Christians vis a vis all actions that undermine vibrant diversity, equal dignity, peaceful unity and integral human development. Mindful of the negative response to the gospel values we see the need of re-evangelization. The re-evangelization must be based on communion with God, must purify and evangelize culture and hence requires new methods and digital means.
We thank Almighty God, for bringing us together to share and experience vibrant diversity, equal dignity, peaceful unity in God in the AMECEA Region. As your shepherds, we assure you of our prayers and reiterate the words of St. Paul to the Philippians, “I constantly pray with you in every one of my prayers for all of you … because I hold you in my heart” (Phil 1:4, 7). We entrust you to the intercession and maternal care of our Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God and Our Lady of Africa.
Signed: Rt Rev. Charles Kasonde Date: 22 July 2018, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia