The SECAM delegates who have gathered at Munyoyo Speke Resort and Conference Centre, have on 22 July, entered into study sessions in order to appreciate the emerging contextual pastoral issues affecting the Church on the continent guided by the theme: “Church-Family of God in Africa, Celebrate Your Jubilee! Proclaim Jesus Christ Your Saviour”.
As the bishops entered into the exercise, His Eminence Robert Cardinal Sarah Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments invited them to begin by appreciating their pastoral historical journey since the establishment of SECAM in July 1969.
He has further asked them to bear in mind the challenges facing Africa and the messages of Pope Paul VI on the occasion of the inauguration of SECAM; Pope John Paul II’s Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation on the Church in Africa, Ecclesia in Africa, 1995; and Pope Benedict XVI’s Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation on (Africa’s commitment to Christ, Africae Munus in 2011).
“Pope Paul VI taught us that the light of Christ must be everywhere in the world. The challenges that the Church is facing in the world are being manifested in the doctrinal confusion – the moral crisis, the erosion of values include,” he said adding, “Today, there is like an eclipse of God: the bad has become the good. These are a continuity of the philosophies of the 18th century. It is a materialistic movement. The 3rd millennium is the death of the death.”
He urged the bishops and all the delegates to ask themselves how much SECAM has moved the Church’s mission and to what direction from the time of Pope Paul VI to Pope Francis, and to measure the message of Pope Francis about the new evangelization in their own context.
“Africa has almost 200 million Christians. According to Pope Francis, this is already a big affirmation. However, as bishops of Africa we have to ask ourselves whether we are putting the Gospel in the hearts of our people so that Christ may live in us: preaching democracy, bringing out in us the culture of inter-personality and Christian transformation. Let us not abandon our vocation and indulge into politics. Rather, let us live the Christian faith that will allow ourselves to live the life of Christ in accordance with the Gospel, he said.
In a presentation, Sr Teresa Okure SHCJ, made reference to the theme and invited the Delegates to focus on Africa’s contextual issues bearing in mind Jesus’ words on John 10:10, “The thief only comes to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that you may have life, and have it to the full.”
“The theme has 3 elements: firstly, Church as family of God in Africa; secondly, celebrate your jubilee. Thirdly, proclaim Jesus Christ your Savior. This implies that we must listen to God who is Head of the family, how in the past 50 years we have become members of God’s family, the body Christ. It is a moment to ask how we have lived together in the most practical terms as a people liberated by God. Finally, let us look at how we are proclaiming the Good News as bishops, priests but all of us the baptized especially today as we celebrate the memorial of Mary Magdalene,” she said.
She further challenged the delegates to ask themselves: 1. Have we in Africa, in particular Roman Catholics, the core nucleus of God’s Family, “entrusted” from the beginning with the responsibility to proclaim God’s good news to all creation (Eph 3:10-11), practically fully understood our common identity as God’s family, called to partner with God in building this family across all human barriers and divides? 2. Can we say that we, Roman Catholics and Christians in Africa, do truly bond together in all sectors of life within our countries, across the countries, regions, language groups, dioceses, parishes, religious congregations and Christian communities, etc., as God’s Family? 3. What visible evidence have we that we are, and are seen by others to be God’s family?
Fr. José Luemba, a Theologian and University Professor, speaking on Globalisation and Ecological Challenges, raised issued on how young people should be prepared to live in the global world without losing their identity as Christians due to the challenges that come with living in a global world.
He asked the Delegates to look at ways to address the globalization and ecological challenges in Africa, looking at the economic, social and political aspects.
“Let us reflect on what is happening in the world and in Africa in particular. Let us recognize the intensification of human interaction in the society as it is relating to the environmental and ecological issues. Africa cannot ignore the impact of globalization. Rather Africa must identify itself and face the realities with courage,” he said.
“The ecological crisis is essentially a crisis between man and his environment. It is not only the production factor but also how we are taking care of our environment. There is need for our people to appreciate that nature is a gift from God and that our responsibility should be extended to the love of nature. Man must be a pastor of his own and of nature, taking it as our sister,” he continued.
Mr Kizito Tenthani, Director of the Centre for Multi-Party Democracy in Malawi challenged the Delegates to also look critically at the socio-cultural, political and economic challenges. He further provided a cursory view to what is emerging in Africa from the cultural, social, political and economic perspectives and noted that the changes also have an impact on the beliefs, values and norms of modern African people.
“The question is: what is the emerging culture? For instance, with the online presence, text messaging, social media, smartphones people are no longer appreciating physical contact; there is an information overload; the media content is forming people’s consciousness; there is an apparent decline of the sense of guilt; people want to participate in dialogue than simply to be told what to do; aught doctrines; regarding loyalty and establishment, the Church is perceived as too rigid,” he said.
Mr Tenthani pointed at some threats to family life in Africa, citing consumerism manifesting itself as social pressure among young people and parents to stage expensive weddings; materialism manifesting itself as social pressure to make quick money which is leading into problems such as corruption and young women seeking sexual relations with older men who have the money; the crisis of parenting, single mothers by choice; homosexuality; abortions and sexism; substance abuse, suicides and the HIV/ AIDS pandemic.
He pointed out illiteracy among the population and lack of leadership as the core of many problem in Africa. “Africa is experiencing political instability whereby the Church –state relationships and the role of Catholic Church in politics ought to be scrutinized as the continent is experiencing an erosion of democratic dividends, leadership deficiencies, choice-less elections and monetizing of politics.