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“Remain firm in faith, hope”: Bishops in Gambia, Sierra Leone to Faithful amid Challenges

Members of the Inter-Territorial Catholic Bishops' Conference of The Gambia and Sierra Leone (ITCABIC). Credit: Vatican Media

Catholic Bishops in The Gambia and Sierra Leone have encouraged the people of God in both nations to remain firm in faith, hope and charity amid numerous challenges including the “attendant consequences” of COVID-19.

In their collective statement shared with ACI Africa Tuesday, February 1, members of the Inter-Territorial Catholic Bishops' Conference of The Gambia and Sierra Leone (ITCABIC) pledge to enhance and improve pastoral activities in their respective Dioceses.

“We continue to exhort our Priests, Religious and Lay Faithful to be firm in faith, hope and charity, especially during the Covid-l9 pandemic and its attendant consequences,” ITCABIC members say in the statement issued at the end of their Plenary Assembly in The Gambia’s Banjul Diocese.

They add in reference to the people of God in the two West African countries, “We are aware of your commitment, sacrifices and contributions in diverse ways to the mission of the Church.” 

“May the Gospel message find a home in your hearts and lead to the transformation of our communities,” the Catholic Bishops in Sierra Leone and The Gambia say in the statement dated January 30.

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During their January 24-30 Plenary Assembly, the Catholic Bishops examined a number of issues in the life of the Church in two West African countries including the ongoing preparations for the Synod on Synodality, Pontifical Mission Societies (PMS), Institution of Catechists, and Seminaries, among others.

In the collective statement signed by ITCABIC President, Bishop Charles Allieu Matthew Campbell, the Catholic Bishops express their appreciation for the “rise in vocations to the Priesthood” in 2021.

They however note that the rise in the number of candidates joining Major Seminaries “increases the budgetary requirement” to run the St. Kizito's Pre-Major Seminary and St. Paul's Major Seminary.

“Rome sends directly to Seminaries 20% of the charge per Seminarian in favor of the dioceses in need of help. The Seminary staff prepares the budgets each year to cover the running cost of the two Seminaries,” the Bishops explain.

They add that the “subsidy received from Rome for that year is then deducted from the total budget of the Pre-Major and Major Seminaries and the difference is divided by the number of Seminarians of that particular academic year.”

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“It is then the responsibility of each Diocese to pay the difference,” they further say. 

The Catholic Church leaders further appeal to parishioners, individuals, families and organizations “to donate generously to the training of their future Priests.”

The Bishops further announce that they are on the verge of completing a two-storey hostel with 27 self-contained rooms at St. Paul's Major Seminary to “provide suitable accommodation for the Seminarians.” 

“The Major Seminary still needs more buildings for a library, additional classrooms, auditorium, etc. We continue to pray and to seek for more resources to build up our Major Seminary to the expected standard,” ITCABIC members say in their collective statement shared with ACI Africa February 1.

They reiterate their commitment and decision to “merge the programs for Priestly formation and administration of our Major Seminary with that of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Liberia (CABICOL).”

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“lt is hoped that the formal merger will take place by mid-2023. The School of Philosophy will be in Liberia, the School of Theology in Sierra Leone and, in the near future, the Spiritual Year in The Gambia,” the Catholic Bishops say in their statement dated January 30.

Reflecting on the safeguarding of “minors and vulnerable adults,” ITCABIC members reiterate their commitment “to continue to support the necessary structures and mechanisms already established in our Dioceses, in order to prevent and create the environment that would provide for their welfare and security.”

They encourage members of the Clergy, women and men Religious, Catechists, prayer leaders and other Laity to “fully participate in the activities of the PMS and to contribute generously to the annual special collections.”

Regarding the Synod on Synodality, the Catholic Bishops in Sierra Leone and The Gambia call on all Clergy, women and men Religious and the Laity to “fully participate in this synodal process so that nobody is left out; all opinions on this matter shall be given due consideration.”

“We invoke the intercession of Our Lady of the Assumption, the Patroness of the Diocese of Banjul, for God’s blessings and protection on our respective dioceses and pastoral agents,” ITCABIC members implore in their January 30 statement shared with ACI Africa.

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