“A very successful gathering”: African Delegate to Synod on Synodality Lauds Convention on Synodal Outcomes

Credit: ACI Africa

The first of the two-phase convention bringing together African professionals in the fields of theology and pastoral ministry to reflect on the outcomes of the first session of the multi-year Synod on Synodality that took place 4-29 October 2023 in Rome, concluding with a 42-page summary report, has been “very successful”, a participant has said.

In an interview with ACI Africa at the conclusion of the two-day convention on Friday, June 21, Fr. Agbonkhianmeghe Orobator, who is one of the delegates representing the Church in Africa at the Synod on Synodality lauded the initiative of the African Synodality Initiative (ASI) as “a synodal experience”.

Fr. Agbonkhianmeghe Orobator. Credit: ACI Africa

“It's been a very successful gathering. In fact, it's been a synodal experience. The way we have worked is not just to come and have academic papers, but to share thoughts and reflections in a prayerful manner and then to respectfully contribute our insights to enrich each person's presentations,” Fr. Orobator said. 

The Nigerian-born member of the Society of Jesus (Jesuits), who heads ASI, a partnership between the Jesuits Conference of Africa and Madagascar (JCAM), the Symposium of the Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar (SECAM), and the Association of Member Episcopal Conferences in Eastern Africa (AMECEA) highlighted the activities of the African experts during the two-day convention, including exploring the “affinity” between Synodality and the various fields of study. 


“It's been a very synodal process and so even the process of doing theology can become synodal. That's what we were experiencing and experimenting with these two days,” he told ACI Africa at Africama House, the headquarters of JCAM, where the first of the two-phase convention took place.

Credit: ACI Africa

Fr. Orobator further said, “There is a lot of affinity between the very idea of synodality and spirituality from an African perspective, but also theology, anthropology, ethics, pastoral life as it is lived and experienced in Africa.”

“Trying to bring out these alignments, these synergies, connections, is what we've been trying to do so that we are able to build what we call the foundations of synodality and on these foundations try to ground this process of becoming a more synodal Church,” he explained. 

The immediate former JCAM President, who currently serves as Dean of the Jesuit School of Theology at Santa Clara University in the U.S. went on to laud the ongoing Synodal process as important for the people of God in Africa. 

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“Synodality as a way of being church is something that's very important in the church in Africa, and it's something that has the capacity to transform how we live and how we experience and how we organize ourselves as a church in Africa,” he told ACI Africa June 21.  

Synodality, Fr. Orobator continued, is “significant not only to the Church in Africa but also to the world Church because synodality is not only something restricted or important for one particular part of the Church; it's important for the entire Church and Africa being an integral part of the Church, has a voice, has insights, has wisdom.”

“As theologians, social scientists, philosophers, pastoral agents, people of God, generally in the church, men, women, priests, religious, consecrated young and old, we want to be also contributing to this process of synodality,” he said.

Credit: ACI Africa 


The Jesuit Priest said that the planned two-phase convention is part of the Synodal process and gives African experts the opportunity to contribute “whatever insights or ideas or wisdom we think might help us to deepen not only our knowledge but also the understanding and practice of synodality.”

The ASI-initiated convention aims to have participants shed light on some of the questions that emerged during the October 2023 session of the Synod, and also provide a theological analysis of the key dynamics of the Synodal process in view of offering theological input from an authentically African perspective ahead of the 2-29 October 2024 session in Rome.

Participants in the convention are to develop and publish a volume on “Living Theology of Synodality: The Face of a Synodal Church” – from an African Perspective, as a complement to “A Pocket Companion to Synodality: Voices from Africa and Training Toolkit on Synodality.”

Credit:ACI Africa

Some of the themes that participants in the convention are working on to be part of the volume include: A Spirituality of Synodality, Theological Foundations of Synodality, Charisms of Religious Life for a Synodal Church, Gift of Authority in a Synodal Church, Scriptural Foundations of a Synodal Church, Synodality in the Local Church, Ethics of Synodality, A Synodal Church of the Young and Young at Heart, Theological Foundations of Co-responsibility, Communication and Synodality, Teachers of Synodality: The Gift of Women in a Synodal Church and Synodality and its Discontent, among others.

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Ahead of the June 20-21 convention, each participant submitted an initial draft of a working paper on an assigned theme. 

In the June 21 interview with ACI Africa, Fr. Orobator said that the second phase of the convention has been scheduled for January 2025. By then, he explained, the second session of the Synod on Synodality would have been concluded. 

Credit: ACI Africa

“The expectation is that everybody who has been part of this process will take the learnings, the outcomes, and the wisdom that comes out of the second session and use that to enrich whatever text or paper or presentation they are working on,” he said.

Insights from the June 20-21 convention, Fr. Orobator said, are to guide the participants in enriching “their own presentations for the next phase when we gather together.”

“This symposium is the idea that Africa is not a single story; there is no single African voice, and that Africa is a diversity of voices, of meaning, a diversity of personalities, a diversity of visions,” he said.

“Synodality allows us to hold all of this diversity in intention, in harmony, in balance,” Fr. Orobator further said. 

Credit: ACI Africa

“It means that as Africans, as theologians, as social scientists, as philosophers, as pastoral agents, and workers, we have different perspectives, whether it's about thorny issues, contentious issues, like how authority is exercised in the church, or about culture, how culture can be formative but also be oppressive, or about young people and the role of lay women and men and cultures within the church and society that are oppressive of women,” he added.

Synodality, the Jesuit Priest continued, “allows us to come together around the same table and recognize the tension and differences, but strive towards consensus, towards understanding, and towards mutuality.”

“I think that's been the beauty of these two days. We are not afraid to recognize the tension, the challenging, and the difficult questions, but we want to approach them in a synodal manner, that is walking together respectfully, listening, dialoguing, and hopefully discerning what God is saying to the Church here and now,” Fr. Orobator told ACI Africa on June 21.

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