Your Cardinal Eminences, Bishops, delegates of the Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar, Sisters and Brothers in Christ,
Receive the warmest greetings of all those who make up the Catholic Biblical Federation. I bring special greetings on behalf of His Eminence Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, Archbishop of Manila and President of the Catholic Biblical Federation, on behalf of the members of the Executive Committee of the Federation, the members of the Administrative Board and in my own capacity as the General Secretary of the Catholic Biblical Federation.
As you are all aware, 27 Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar, and SECAM itself through the BICAM office, are members of the Catholic Biblical Federation. In addition, 25 other institutions – religious congregations, biblical institutes led by religious congregations or by lay Catholics, Catholic publishing houses and dioceses -on the African continent and Madagascar belong to the CBF as associate members.
The Episcopal Conferences of Morocco (and CERNA), Senegal / Mauritania / Cape Verde / Guinea Bissau, Congo Brazzaville, Guinea, Equatorial Guinea, Madagascar (and CEDOI), Gambia / Sierra Leone and Liberia have not yet joined this coordination platform of the biblical apostolate within the Roman Catholic Church that is the CBF. Hopefully they will be moved to do so someday so that we can fulfil the commitment made by the Synod on the Word of God and which was highlighted in the Apostolic Exhortation Verbum Domini of His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI: “The Synod called for a particular pastoral commitment to emphasizing the centrality of the word of God in the Church’s life, and recommended a greater “biblical apostolate”, not alongside other forms of pastoral work, but as a means of letting the Bible inspire all pastoral life”. This does not mean adding a meeting here or there in parishes or dioceses, but rather of examining the ordinary activities of Christian communities, in parishes, associations and movements, to see if they are truly concerned with fostering a personal encounter with Christ, who gives himself to us in his word. Since “ignorance of the Scriptures is ignorance of Christ”, making the Bible the inspiration of every ordinary and extraordinary pastoral outreach will lead to a greater awareness of the person of Christ, who reveals the Father and is the fullness of divine revelation.“(VD 73). Later in number 115 in the same Exhortation the Pope adds, “In particular I wish to recommend supporting the work of the Catholic Biblical Federation, with the aim of further increasing the number of translations of sacred Scripture and their wide diffusion” (VD 115). In his Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium Pope Francis writes “Not only the homily has to be nourished by the word of God. All evangelization is based on that word, listened to, meditated upon, lived, celebrated and witnessed to. The Sacred Scriptures are the very source of evangelization. Consequently, we need to be constantly trained in hearing the word. The Church does not evangelize unless she constantly lets herself be evangelized. It is indispensable that the word of God “be ever more fully at the heart of every ecclesial activity”” (EG 174). The phrase “Sacred Scripture – Source of Evangelisation”, inspired by the words of Pope Francis, was the theme of the last Plenary Assembly of the Catholic Biblical Federation held a year ago in Nemi, near Rome.
One of the fruits of this Plenary Assembly contained in the 2016-2021 Action Plan was the creation of several “pastoral commissions” for reflection, production of articles on biblical formation and biblical pastoral materials on various aspects of the pastoral life of the Church. One of these commissions is that of “Bible and Family “. It is good that you become aware that in implementing the consideration here in this Plenary Assembly of SECAM under the theme “The Family in Africa, Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow: in the Light of the Gospel” you can count on the help and support of materials and structures of the Catholic Biblical Federation.
A Plenary Assembly is also the time to make important decisions regarding structures, means and staff. Africa and Madagascar is unique in that the regional coordinator of the Catholic Biblical Federation is not elected by member institutions, as is the case in all other regions, but rather he is the BICAM director appointed by SECAM. Since February we have a vacancy covered by an acting director. It is hoped that this Assembly will appoint as the new Director of BICAM a person with extensive experience in the Biblical Animation of all Pastoral Life and with ample dynamism and openness to coordinate, encourage and extend the Biblical Animation of Pastoral Life in Africa and Madagascar, as the new director of BICAM opening.
In my meeting with the Standing Committee of SECAM, in February this year in Nairobi, I was given the opportunity to present some pending CBF matters here in Africa and Madagascar, such as the issue of the BICAM property in Karen, Nairobi (Kenya) and the need for a restructuring of the coordination of the Catholic Biblical Federation in Africa and Madagascar to give more prominence and role to associate members …
These and other issues will be addressed at this Plenary Assembly of SECAM. Do know that the interest and prayers of the members of the 335 institutions affiliated to the CBF in 127 countries around the world are with you.
I pray that the Lord will accompany you with His blessing and the power of his Spirit. I wish you a fruitful Plenary Assembly.
Thank you very much!