African Delegate to Synod Attributes Gap in “discussion on mission of digital environment” to Absence of African Youths

A poster announcing the 23 May webinar that the Association of Member Episcopal Conferences for Eastern Africa (AMECEA) organized in collaboration with other regional and continental Catholic Church entities

One of the delegates representing Africa in the multi-year Synod on Synodality, which Pope Francis extended to 2024 has blamed the silence from the continent when the topic of the “mission” of digitality was being discussed during the 4-29 October 2023 session to the absence of African youths at the global gathering. 

In his presentation during the Thursday, May 23 webinar that the  Association of Member Episcopal Conferences for Eastern Africa (AMECEA) organized in collaboration with other regional and continental Catholic Church entities, Fr. Vitalis Anaehobi recalled the domination of youths from other continents when digital culture was being discussed.

“I observed that most Africans did not contribute to the plenary session discussion on the mission of digital environment,” Fr. Anaehobi said.

The lack of contribution from the delegates representing Africa, he said, “could be explained by the fact that there was no single African youth in the synodal assembly; there were young people from Europe and America, but none from Africa.”

Youths representing Europe and America during last October’s session “dominated the discussion and this may have affected the African contribution to the discussion in the plenary on the topic of the Church’s mission in the digital space,” said the Secretary General of the Regional Episcopal Conference of West Africa (RECOWA). 


AMECEA organized the May 23 virtual conference in collaboration the Association of Consecrated Women in Eastern and Central Africa (ACWECA), the Jesuits Conference of Africa and Madagascar (JCAM)), and the Pan-African Episcopal Committee for Social Communications (CEPACS), an entity of the Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar (SECAM).

Realized under the theme, “Synod and Synodality: The Mission in a Digital Environment”, the virtual event sought to explain what the Church in Africa can learn from the contextual and global experience of young people’s immersion in the digital culture. 

In his presentation, Fr. Anaehobi recalled that deliberations on digitality during the first session of the Synod on Synodality had a particular focus on young people, whose absence, he noted, “is felt more and more in the churches, especially in the western world.”

The Synod on Synodality delegates in Rome also focused “on the manipulative nature of the digital world, where fake news was seen as a menace to the integrity of information transmitted to the digital media,” the Nigerian Catholic Priest said.

Despite the youths from other continents dominating the discussion, he noted that such deliberations “needed expertise for clear intervention, which many of the members at the synodal assembly lacked.”

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The member of the Clergy of Nigeria’s Catholic Diocese of Nnewi went on to note that the “challenges of social communication in its diverse form and evolutive manner are not new to Africa.”

“Africa is not oblivion of the digital revolution that is sweeping across the globe even if our contributions were not so loud during the Synod,” he said, adding, “Today, the challenges have grown in scope and dimension. Africa is aware of this.”

As a way forward, the Synod on Synodality delegate said, “Africa is expected to provide support for those already involved in digital mission while providing more opportunities for training of others, especially the young people.”

On his part, Bishop Gerald Mamman Musa of the Catholic Diocese of Katsina attributed the lack of input on digital culture from delegates representing Africa at the first session of the Synod on Synodality to the nature of the topic, which he described as non-controversial.

“Digital environment did not gain much attention because it is not considered in some parts of the world as something controversial,” Bishop Musa said.


Earlier, in his opening remarks during the May 23 webinar, Bishop António Manuel Bogaio Constantino, the Auxiliary Bishop of the Catholic Archdiocese of Beira in Mozambique, cautioned against undermining the important place of the digital culture in the mission of the Church, especially among youths.

“There is an emerging contemporary culture ushered in by the digital world where the young men and women are creatively immersed,” Bishop Bogaio said.

He advocated for a strategic approach, noting that “for digital ministries to take a central stage in the mission of the Church in Africa some complete steps must be taken.”

“The digital culture is not so much a distinct area of mission as a crucial dimension witness in the contemporary culture,” the Mozambican member of the Comboni Missionaries of the Heart of Jesus (MCCJ), who has been Auxiliary Bishop since his Episcopal Consecration in February 2023 added.

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