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Religious in Africa, Youth Share Understanding of Synodality after Launch by Pope Francis

The Official Logo of the Synod on Synodality. Credit: Courtesy Photo

Synodality is a journey, a “reversed pyramid” and an opportunity to create more engagement among the people of God, young African Catholics and women and men Religious who shared their understanding of the synod which Pope Francis launched October 10 have said.

Still, others have described Synodality as a wakeup call that the people are not alone on their journey, according to the comments that were gathered by the Jesuit Conference of Africa and Madagascar (JCAM) and the Association of Member Episcopal Conferences in Eastern Africa (AMECEA).

The two Catholic institutions have embarked on the joint project to provide resources that will enable the local churches in the region and the entire Africa to engage fruitfully and constructively in the Synodal process.

In the report that officials of JCAM shared with ACI Africa Wednesday, October 20, Catholic Sisters from South Africa and Senegal as well as young people from South Africa and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) were asked what Synodality meant for them.

“As a young African Catholic, Synodality means an opportunity to engage the structures of the Church in a different way. One that takes into consideration lay persons and one that takes into consideration young people as well,” Noluthando Honono, a young Catholic lawyer in South Africa says in the video.

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She adds, “At a local level, it (Synodality) means being able to journey together in meaningful ways, ways that change the way we interact within the Church but also makes it a lot easier to be able to make the space one that works for all that are in it.”

According to the South African Catholic youth, the practical way of engaging in Synodality for young people is participating in youth discussions at the Church halls and in particular projects that the Church engages in, “bringing their own projects into the space as well.”

“My message to young people is you cannot be heard if you cannot speak,” she says, and adds, “Therefore, you must engage the Church in order for the Church to be representative of you.”

As for Andre Shungu Katoto, a Catholic Entrepreneur in DRC, Synodality is a “reversed pyramid” where interactions in the Church are much more inclusive.

“As a young African Catholic, I consider Synodality to be like a reversed pyramid,” Mr. Katoto says, and adds, “It represents a rethinking of the way we interact and dialogue with our different religious structures.”

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The young Catholic expresses regret that the local Church in DRC is not yet effective saying, “It lacks mechanisms to make it much more inclusive considering that each human being and each Christians has something particular to contribute.”

To make the Synodal process more effective, Mr. Katoto proposes that the people of God in the Central African nation start with the different established organizations such south ministries, Small Christian Communities (SCCs) and other Church groups and movements. 

Other ways will include organizing several training and information-sharing sessions on the Synodal process.

His message to young people as the Synodal process is rolled out is to get involved in the matters of the Church, “to enable us raise our voices together so that we can all make our contribution which will be our stone towards the construction of this great edifice that is our Church.”

Asked to describe her understanding of Synodality, Sr. Hermenegild Makoro from South Africa, who was appointed member of the Synod Commission for Methodology says, “Synodality means walking together, journeying together.”

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“We walk with one another. We help each other and share on this journey. We don’t just walk in silence,” Sr. Makoro says.

She adds, “Synodality is very important in the Church because as the body of Christ and as a Church community, it is very important that we pick up one another in our faith journey. You don’t just walk alone but we walk with our brothers and sisters who are on the same journey as us.”

The first aspect of Synodality, according to the South African Nun, is allowing the Holy Spirit to work within the people of God.

The second is for the people to listen to one another and to share their worries, joys and expectations as a community of faith, she says, and explains, “It is important that we listen to one another because each one of us has something to say.”

The third aspect, the member of the Missionary Sisters of the Precious Blood Sisters (CPS) says, is “accompanying each other on the journey”, while respecting each other as people with dignity.

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“For us as a Church in Africa there is a lot that we can contribute. Even if there are elements that have creeped in in the journey of walking together, the reality is that we are a Synodality people. We are a community of people,” she says.

As for Sr. Anne Beatrice Faye, a Member of the Synod Commission for Theology in Senegal, Synodality is a journey that the Church begins under the guidance of the Holy Spirit with all its faithful and ministries.

“During this journey, she (Church) invites us to listen to each other, dialogue and work towards common understanding,” Sr. Faye says, adding that the idea of shared responsibility should also be added to the theme of the Synod, that is, Communion, Participation and Mission, as Pope Francis announced.

According to the Catholic Nun, Synodality is important in the Church today because it expresses its “nature, form, style and mission.”

The Synod on Synodality, Sr. Faye says, is the most important event of the current reception phase of the Second Vatican Council under the Pontificate of Pope Francis.

Synodality, she says, allows the people of God to examine key issues about their faith including who they are as Christians.

She explores the identity challenge for Christians especially in Africa as the key issue to reflect upon saying, “Who is a Christian today, why, how and where? Perhaps 50 years ago the answer was simple.”

The Catholic Nun in Senegal calls upon the people of God in Africa to begin the Synodal journey by listening to the Holy Spirit and by listening to each other in open dialogue.

She describes the Synodal dialogue as “a dialogue of salvation,” adding, “This is communion. This requires walking together while involving all of God’s people for a communion mission with creativity and authenticity.”

“It is participation,” Sr. Faye says of Synodality, and explains, “To this end, we must convert, for a common understanding of our places in this mission. Some have already pointed out the richness of the Church’s experience in Africa as the ‘Family of God.’”

She exudes confidence that the youth of the Church in Africa will be “a decisive contribution” as the Synodal conversations begin on the continent.

“The youth represent creativity, enthusiasm, dynamism. There is also the cultural richness and diversity that is an asset in the life of the Church in Africa. At this point, we must ask ourselves what these cultures can bring to this common march with the universal Church,” the Nun says.