Interventions From Synod’s 9th Congregation

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VATICAN CITY, OCT. 11, 2009 (Zenit.org).- Here are the English-language summaries provided by the Vatican press office of the interventions given Friday afternoon at the Ninth General Congregation of the Second Special Assembly for Africa of the Synod of Bishops.

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H. Em. Card. Leonardo SANDRI, Prefect of the Congregation for Oriental Churches (VATICAN CITY)

I give thanks to the Lord who permits us to draw near to the Church of God that is in Africa. In its unique ecclesial variety Africa can also count the Patriarchal Catholic Coptic Church of Alexandria and the Alexandrine Catholic Church of Ge’ez rite of Ethiopia and Eritrea. Egypt, along with the Latin Church, boasts the presence of the Armenian, Chaldean, Greek-Melkite, Maronite and Syrian communities. I offer my greeting to the Oriental brethren present here, and I extend this to all the Oriental and Latin pastors of Africa, spiritually united at this assembly to begin with His Beatitude Antonios Naguib, Patriarch of Alexandria of the Catholic Copts: I would like to thank you all for the immeasurable apostolic commitments. It is a Church experiencing growth.

The social merit of her religious mission may be measured in the faith that is particular to her: to heal man completely, whose vocation goes beyond the earthly. The first impulse by Bishops, priests, religious and faithful men and women is that of promoting reconciliation, thanks to personal conversion because also in Africa God continues to accomplish that “divinization” of all people and of everything, placed in the light by the Greek Fathers.

The Synod intends to re-propose the theme “service of reconciliation, of justice and of peace”. The proposal is urgent. Its effectiveness, however, will always be measured by the theological and pastoral vision that cannot be renounced which will accompany it. Without fear the Churches in Africa, sensing themselves in communion with the Successor of Peter and with the universal Church, should continue to profess the holy name of Christ God, the work of salvation, that he carried out once and for all, and its grace flows over us unceasingly, witnessing that the true name of reconciliation, of justice and of peace coincides with the name of Jesus Christ, the Risen Crucified, giver of the Spirit, Cornerstone and Bridegroom of the Church. Only with a strong Christological and ecclesial conscience may the Synodal reflection proceed profitably.

Without ever renouncing this, steps must be taken to make it possible to redesign ecumenical and interreligious strategies more harmonious with the spiritual and social progress of Africa. The situation is different now in respect to that of the 1994 Synod, but serious problems linger from the past. It is most important that African Christians, pastors and faithful, have a true conscience that Africa has given much blood, sweat and tears, in witness of faith, hope and love, that is a lot to say in response to holiness.

I would like to highlight an Ethiopian/Eritrean characteristic: indeed, amongst the Saints mentioned in No. 36 of the Instrumentum laboris, Giustino De Jacobis (1800-1860) does not appear, the Lazarist that understood the importance of the Ge’ez liturgy for Christianity in the Horn of Africa and that was “inculturated” (cfr. § 73). Indeed, Africa must not tire of working for an inculturation adjusted to the Christian message. It is the Apostolic Exhortation Orientale lumen that presents the Oriental Churches as an “authoritative example” of “successful inculturation” (O.L. cfr n. 7). A healthy and balanced relationship between the “African Religions and Traditions” will allow the Church with the civil community to heal the wounds of Africa. Health, education, socio-economic development, watching over human rights, recovery from the wounds of tribalism, the battle against emigration using economic programs in place that limit the flight of young persons (§ 25; § 65); exploitation and neo-colonialism (§§ 12, 64, 72, 140), illiteracy (§ 31), corruption (§ 57), the situation of the subjection of women, all require answers of industrious charity and formation in all areas (cfr. §§ 54, 60, 85,93,97, 111, 116, 123, 126-128, 129, 133-136).

Sincere cohabitation and collaboration between all Catholics of various rites is necessary. Without this understanding, ecumenical dialogue will be prevented, that will give strength to Christians in the defense of personal and community freedoms and in the public profession of faith, allowing the Church to be free and missionary and for Africa to be a “plural society”. Far from being an obstacle to unity, inserted as they are into local situations and mentalities, the Oriental Catholic Churches may “build bridges” (cfr. § 90) in view of the reconciliation, of justice and of peace and of the encounter with Islam that is already underway in some countries. This is also my wish, while with the communities of Ethiopia and Eritrea I consider the symbolic gate of that “strip of African land” that they may boast about within the Vatican walls: the Church of Saint Stephen of the Abyssinians and the Ethiopian Pontifical College.

I see in this the image of the Church which, at the end of the Synod, will launch itself with strength and hope on the path of reconciliation, of hope and of peace in Africa, joyfully feeling herself to be “sub umbra Petri”.

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H. Exc. Mons. Jean-Pierre BASSÈNE, Bishop of Kolda, President for the Foundation John Paul II for Sahel (SENEGAL)

Nine countries are members of the John Paul II Foundation for the Sahel: Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, Gambia, Guinea Bissau, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Senegal, and Chad.

This Foundation, created in 1984, is twenty-five years old today. Its goal is to promote the formation of persons for service to their countries and for their brothers, without any discrimination, in a spirit of integral and solid human promotion, to fight against the aridity of its consequences.

Born of the concern for the well-being and development of the populations of the Sahel, the John Paul II Foundation registered early its actions in the intervention in favor of ecology and the safe-keeping of the environment. In doing this, it makes its contribution to the emergence of a more rational management of natural resources, and participates in the fight against poverty.

A work of the Church, the John Paul II Foundation supports, through the financing of projects, states, associations, groups or cooperatives, whatever the religious beliefs of the promoters in the Sahel region. For this, she contributes effectively to the culture of peace and reconciliation between peoples.

The John Paul II Foundation always counts on the fraternal aid from the outside to pursue its mission., However, she is now resolutely committed to promote a spirit of co-responsibility and solidarity in the people of Sahel.

The positive responses, already seen in this sense, make us hope that, parallel to the fight against aridity, a true civilization of love inspired by the Gospel could find its place in the hearts of the people in Sahel.

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H. Exc. Mons. Henryk HOSER, S.A.C., Archbishop-Bishop of Warsaw-Prague (POLAND)

The teaching of family values is an urgent necessity in the world and especially in Africa, at a time when growing external pressures dismiss responsible parenthood to a merely health and hospital domain, and in doing this denying its dual nature, spiritual and sensitive, of conjugal love. Family pastoral care and in particular the transmission of life have been almost completely abandoned by the medical and technical world.

And yet some programs are already in existence: twenty-six African countries benefit from the programs teaching about family life and natural planning (IVF and NFP) at the embryonic or structural stage. But we are too weak to allow progress to occur in a scattered way. The Federation for African Family Action created in Cotonou in 2001 offers, at the request of the bishops, sessions for the formation for teachers and for couples.

The preceding Synod “considers evangelization of the African family as a major priority, if we want it to take up its role as the active subject in the perspective of evangelization of families for families.

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H. Em. Card. Bernard AGRÉ, Archbishop Emeritus of Abidjan (IVORY COAST)

Like many organized countries, the young nations of Africa, South America, etc… had to call on international banks and other financial bodies to realize the many projects on the way to their development. Very often the inept directors were not careful enough. They fell into the traps of those that the people in the know call “financial assassins”, the jackals ordered by severed organisms in the markets of ruses aimed at enriching international financial organizations deftly supported by their states or other instances drowning in the plot of silence and lies.

The staggering profits go to the financial assassins, to the multinationals as well as to some powerful nationals who act as screens with the foreign negotiators. Thus the majority of nationals continues to drown in poverty and the frustrations it generates.

The “financial assassins” bearers of plethoric financing manage with their local partners so that large loans using the system of complex interest can never be reimbursed quickly or entirely. The contracts of execution and maintenance are regularly assigned, under the form of monopoly, to the loaners nationals.

The beneficiary countries mortgage their natural resources. The inhabitants, from generation to generation, are locked in, prisoners for many long years.

To reimburse these always threatening inexhaustible debts, like the sword of Damocles over the heads of the states, the “service of the debt” weighs heavily on the national budget, in the order of 40 to 50% of the Gross National Product.

Thus tied up, the country has trouble breathing, it must tighten their belts to investments, the necessary costs for Education, Health, and general development.

This debt further becomes a political screen to not fulfil legitimate requests, with their parade of frustrations, social problems, etc… The national debt appears like a sickness programmed by specialists worthy of courts who judge crimes against humanity, evil conspiring to suppress entire populations. John Perkins (Al Terre Editions) described the underpinnings of international aid very well: never effective in terms of lasting development.

The key problem today is the desire, the will to abolish all slavery.

Upright generations, young boys and girls in certain developed countries and those in countries of the Third World, have become conscious that to change the world, its myths and is ghosts, is a realistic project and is possible. Some NGOs emerge to protect the material environment and defend the rights of oppressed peoples.

For the Church, light of the world, to play her prophetic role she should concretely commit herself in this fight with a view to finding the truth.

The experts have known for years that most of the debts have been effectively reimbursed. To purely and simply suppress them is no longer an act of charity but one of justice.

Thus today’s Synod should have the ability to take into consideration this problem of annulling the debts that weigh too heavily on the population.

For this not to be a merely sentimental, my proposition would be for an international commission made up of experts from the high finances, notified pastors, men and women of the North and South to take the dossier. This Commission would be entrusted with the triple mission:

— To study the feasability of the operation because it is obvious that all, everywhere is not the same.

— To take all possible steps to not fall into the same situation again.

— To solidly watch over the transparent use of sums, saved to be used effectively for all the elements of the entire social pyramid: rural and city. To avoid falling again into this juicy manna of the century, being beneficial for both local and foreign peoples.

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Rev. Pierre Noël NIAVA, National Military Chapelain (IVORY COAST)

Within the framework of searching for the solution to the crisis in the Ivory Coast, several meetings have been organized under the aegis of the economic community of West Africa and the international community. Meetings have been organized, initiated by the warring forces.

On March 4th 2007, new agreements were signed at Ouagadougou (Burkina Faso). Direct dialogue was established between the two warring factions. Since then, the process has progressed enormously with many positive effects such as disarmament, demobilization of former fighters, the integration of rebels into the army, the suppression of trust areas, etc.. and especially the setting of the date for the presidential elections to next November 29th.

The Episcopal Conference has worked enormously for reconciliation. The bishops had several meetings with the political leaders and the warring forces to make them see reason. They also addressed, since the beginning of the crisis, several messages for the peoples. We will only mention four (4) of these messages with their great ideas:

— 1st message: a call for calm: this is a plea to stop the popular protests and the acts of vandalism, to end the paralysis of public services and never-ending marches. Each must stay calm and work towards the return of peace.

— 2nd message: a plea of conscience: the bishops invite each Ivorian to take conscience that the country needs to be built; therefore we must avoid falling into error and lies to avoid catastrophes to the country.

— 3rd message: Exhortation to the inhabitants of the Ivory Coast and the international community, the bishops exhort the Ivorians to avoid hatred, vengeance and lies and to make an effort to live in love, justice, truth and mutual trust. They also exhort the international community to work openly in its participation in the search for peace.

— 4th message: message of reconciliation and peace: the bishops say this and I quote: “Today, peace is possible and within our reach… There is no more time for accusations and condemnations. In soiling this country with human blood, we all have failed, acted badly. We should humbly and sincerely ask for forgiveness to God and to each other, publically; and for this we propose the organization of a national day of mourning, of fasting, of prayer for all, without distinction for religion or beliefs. All of us, in the pure African and religious tradition of the fear of God and respect for life, must beg forgiveness for the human blood shed.”

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H. Exc. Mons. Denis Komivi AMUZU-DZAKPAH, Archbishop of Lomé (TOGO)

Chapter II of the Instrumentum laboris puts us at the heart of the problem of reconciliation, justice and peace, which constitutes the true urgent need for Africa. It goes without saying that truth should be added to this imperious trinomial.

The need for faithfulness to the Lord calls its disciples, which we are, to be ambassadors of reconciliation, understood as gifts from God and proclamation of salvation He gives us starting now (cf. Cor V, 11-21).

Achieving this mission is inscribed in the duration and requires a certain number of conditions that we must keep in mind throughout all our work:

1. The elaboration of a realistic plan for education to the culture of peace for all of our structures of education and formation in Africa.

2. The creation of a databank of socio-cultural and economic elements capable of helping the promotion of reconciliation, justice and peace in love and truth.

3. The creation of an observatory for the prevention, the management and the resolution of conflicts, implicating more deeply the Church-Family of God in Africa.

4. Ensuring a very large and judicious spreading of the social doctrine of the Church, a mark of the creation of a new socio-cultural, economic and political order that is more just, more human and more fraternal; propitious to the establishment in Africa of the Kingdom of God; Reign of justice, of reconciliation, of truth, of love and of peace.

5. Very obviously the Bible, the Word of God, in the sense is presented everywhere as the inexhaustible source of reconciliation, justice and peace; welcomed and lived with coherence, it can become the surest means and the most effective one for the establishment of the Kingdom of God in Africa and in the world.
In this optic, the Conference of Bishops of Togo would have loved that the theme of our second Special Assembly for Africa of the Synod of Bishops was formulated as follows: “The Church – Family of God in Africa, at the service of reconciliation, justice and peace.”

Nevertheless, this is not serious, since we understand each other and we hear each other perfectly, even with the “underlying innuendoes”.

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H. Exc. Mons. Ignatius CHAMA, Bishop of Mpika (ZAMBIA)

I want to emphasize here the local economic crisis that I and my people experience in our rural diocese in northeastern Zambia. This is the crisis when crops our local hardworking farmers have grown fail to reach markets or fail to get just prices. It is the crisis felt when foreign investors supply their commercial supermarkets with crops imported from outside Zambia. It is the crisis caused by trade practices, both domestic and international, that mean subsidized goods brought in from Europe curtail fair competition with local goods.

Moreover, in Zambia today our rural areas also face the campaign to move toward a genetically engineered model of farming, something rightly criticized in # 58 of the Instrumentum Laboris.
These unfair dynamics are signs of the deeper urban-rural split that threatens overall integral and sustainable development in Zambia today. Our own Government tells us that while urban poverty has declined in recent years, rural poverty has significantly increased.

But what can a Synod do about all this? I want simply to remind my brother Bishops that it was the 1994 Synod which heard a similar plea for economic justice in the call for the Synod to support the Jubilee Campaign to cancel the debts of struggling African countries. The Church heeded the call and spoke for debt cancellation, which became a significant step in Zambia and elsewhere toward the humanization of the economic order. We need some similar call for justice today, for example, in addressing issues of trade policies such as the Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) between Africa and Europe and environmental concerns such as global warming.

So I ask that our Assembly support the calls for a more just economic order that protects the rights and future of our rural populations.

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H. Exc. Mons. Benedito Beni DOS SANTOS, Bishop of Lorena (BRAZIL)

The theme of this Synodal Assembly “The Church in Africa at the Service of Reconciliation, Justice and Peace” in some respect pertains to Brazil. Because of a past marked by injustice towards to those who left Africa to come to Brazil.

We need a “purification of memory” expressed by concrete acts especially in the areas of education, jobs and politics. Some governmental measures have been taken for this. They need to be deepened and broadened.

In the ecclesial area, we have an African pastoral ministry, organized at a national level by the National Conference of Bishops of Brazil.

Also in the ecclesial area, a special sensitivity exists for the image of the Church “Family of God”. That approaches the ecclesial experience of the Church in Africa. This image of the Church speaks not only to our intelligence, but also to our emotions, to our heart and our imagination.

This understanding of the Church has a Eucharistic centrality and a Trinitarian dimension. In fact, the Eucharist and the meal that the Father prepared for his Family, which is the Church. Above all it is in the celebration of the Eucharist that the Church recognizes itself as the “Family of God”. In turn, the bread and the wine become a Eucharistic nourishment by the power of the Holy Spirit, invoked in the Epiclesis.

Because of all the things I have mentioned above, I believe that the fruits of this Synodal Assembly will nourish the life and the mission of the Church not only in Africa but also in Brazil. This Synod will help to give a new impetus to missionary collaboration, which the Church in Brazil already offers to different dioceses of Africa.

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H. Exc. Mons. Peter J. KAIRO, Archbishop of Nyeri (KENYA)

Nomads have been alive and active for centuries in 52 dioceses within AMECEA countries; they are also present in both West and North Africa.

Sometimes they provoke and start armed conflict because of water and grazing pasture shortage especially during drought.

The Church has to promote dialogue between these different tribes where the role of elders is very important because the warriors cannot go to raid without the blessings of the elders.

The government should also be involved in providing boreholes, dams in arid areas. Health facilities and education should also be provided and promoted within pastoralist. The justice and peace commission should provide education on human rights to the Nomadic people. Parents should be encouraged to educate the girl child.

Within these parishes it becomes extremely difficult for a priest to give the people proper pastoral attention. Hence the nomads who are moving about often remain beyond the ordinary, traditional parish activities. There is needed for the church to put in place new forms of evangelization and of pastoral attention to the nomadic population. This should include appointing nomadic priests, nomadic pastoral coordinators, nomadic catechists, mobile schools, clinics herdsmen and mobile church centers.

It is also proposed that in our Catholic Church there can also be engagement in supra diocesan structures and cross border relationships in order to implement peace initiatives from both sides of the borders and beyond the limit of the dioceses. Regular meetings of pastoral coordinators for the nomadic apostolate from the neighboring dioceses and countries can also help, as well as putting common strategies and showing human solidarity and Christian unity.

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H. Exc. Mons. Boniface LELE, Archbishop of Mombasa (KENYA)

The stigma associated with AIDS is too heavy for people as individuals or as communities to carry alone. I have seen fear and despair in the eyes of our people. They should find courage and hope from us. They hear from religious leaders, their families that in one way or another, that they are responsible for their illness.

We need to help our people to know that HIV AIDS is a sickness and that it is wrong to blame themselves. They may have not been prudent with their lifestyles but illness calls us to have compassion.

I have seen where families send away their daughters -in law and children because of their suspicion. Family rejection of children is an abomination. It is a grave sin in the eyes of God. It is a distortion of the Gospel message of Jesus which is love, forgiveness, reconciliation, the return to the family of God.
We should be with our young and old people to help them avoid being infected by HIV/AIDS. We should help families to know that children who are left without parental love and guidance will be much more vulnerable to infection than those who have family support.

HIV AIDS is a Kairos to challenge us to reveal how deep some of our sins are. There was a man who was dying from AIDS and I was honoured to be with him during his last days. I watched him struggle with his life decisions and with the shame of his illness; the stigma that society had given him. I began to understand my own humanness and sinfulness when he reached up to touch the Cross I was wearing. I felt his acceptance of himself and God’s forgiveness and healing. It was at this moment that he asked me to take care of his children that he could no longer do. I felt his trust in me, as his brother and shepherd. God challenged me to accept myself, to be reconciled to myself.

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