African Catholic Journalists Urged to First “deal with Synodality personally” Then Report

A poster announcing the March 26 webinar. Credit: Courtesy Photo

Catholic journalists in Africa need to “personally” engage in the ongoing preparations for the Synod on Synodality in their respective Christian communities before taking up the task of reporting about the process as media “professionals”, a Synod official has said.

Speaking at a virtual session Saturday, March 26, the Communication Manager of the General Secretariat of the Synod of the Bishops at the Vatican further highlighted the role of African Catholic journalists in bringing the message of the Synod closer to the people of God in Africa.

“As Christian, you are called to deal with Synodality personally. By experiencing personally the beauty of this listening session, you will better understand and then better be able to report on the synodal process,” Thierry Bonaventura said during the virtual session organized to take “stock of how African journalists continue to journey in Synodality”.

Thierry Bonaventura, Communication Manager of the General Secretariat of the Synod of the Bishops at the Vatican. Credit: Courtesy Photo

Making reference to the purpose of the webinar that was organized under the theme, “How African Journalists Journey in Synodality,” Mr. Bonaventura said, “You may ask yourself, how are you journeying at work, how do you live and walk together today as a faithful and as a journalist.”


“As Christian journalists, you don't have only the duty to inform your public through the media you are working for, but as (a) Christian, you have also the huge responsibility to present to the faithful through the local contact person or the local Bishops the material that they might not be aware of,” the Communication Manager said.

“As professionals, we do know that you have to cover a lot of issues and maybe the risk is to deal with Synodality as a simple thing,” he further said, and added, “We are journalists with the professional duty to cover, to report, to inform; but as Christians, we need to understand and do synodality.”

In the preparatory document issued ahead of the celebration of the XVI Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops in October 2023, Synodality has been described as “the form, the style, and the structure of the Church.” 

In September 2021, the Vatican released a preparatory document and handbook for the 2023 Synod to be reviewed by all Catholic Dioceses in the world over the next six months.

The handbook includes prayers, a description of Synodality, the objectives of the Synodal process, and the main questions to which the local Catholic communities are asked to give feedback. It underlines that Dioceses across the globe should focus on “maximum inclusion and participation” among baptized Catholics in the Diocesan Synod process.

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Addressing participants during the March 26 webinar, Mr. Bonaventura made reference to Pope Francis’ message for the 56th World Day of Social Communications saying, “We are losing the ability to listen to those in front of us, both in the normal course of everyday relationships and when debating the most important issues of civil life.”

He added in reference to Pope Francis, “At the same time, listening is undergoing an important new development in the field of communication and information through the various podcasts and audio messages available that serve to confirm that listening is still essential in human communication.”

According to the Synod official, journalists in Africa have a particular task in the Synodal process “because a listening Church is also a healing Church.”

“Unfortunately, Africa is known for its civil war and is not known to be a land of reconciliation,” Mr. Bonaventura lamented, and urged Catholic journalists in Africa to become “experts of this listening to be able to share and teach about these healing processes of the Church.”

He further urged African journalists to “consider having a listening session also in your newsroom.”


Catholic journalists in Africa need to give voice to the voiceless, the Vatican-based Synod official also said.

“Everybody in Africa needs to know that he/she is able to speak freely and that Pope Francis will hear his/her voice,” he said, and continued, “There will be no good work done, good process, or good report if we fail in this, no matter the results.”

Mr. Bonaventura said, “The synod process should be a process of evangelization in a certain way, a new evangelization also of those who already belong to the church, and so it is clear that the participation of African journalists is important.”

In his opening remarks at the March 26 virtual meeting, the immediate former president of the Union of the African Catholic Press (UCAP), George Sunguh, said, “Pope Francis has declared that synodality is what God expects of the Church in the 21st century. He has put his transformative stamp on the meaning and conduct of synods, saying that a synod involves mutual listening in which everyone has something to learn.”

George Sunguh, former president of the Union of the African Catholic Press (UCAP). Credit: George Sunguh

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Pope Francis, Mr. Sunguh added, “warned that a Synod can run the risk of being a mere formal external event, instead of being – a process of authentic spiritual discernment that we undertake, not to project a good image of ourselves, but to cooperate more effectively with the work of God in history.”

“For this, we need content, means, and structures that can facilitate dialogue and interaction within the People of God, especially between Priests and Laity,” the Kenya-based member of the Vatican’s Communication Commission of the Synod of Bishops, said.

On his part, EWTN’s regional marketing manager for Africa, George Wirnkar, said, “The synodal journey is meant for us to ask ourselves how we ought to prepare in such a way that our Church can be a church that reflects all the people that constitute it.”

George Wirnkar, EWTN’s regional marketing manager for Africa. Credit: Courtesy Photo

“Pope Francis is asking us to talk to each other about how we share the Gospel of Christ amongst us,” Mr. Wirnkar said, and posed, “How do we bring this to people who Are not in our fold?”

In disseminating information about the synodal journey, the Cameroonian EWTN official said, “Africa is very short on media outlets. And which means we might end up just preaching to the same people who already know what we're talking about.”

“No matter how rich our conversation is as a Church, if we don't have the right and appropriate resources in human beings and institutions, it will be hard to bring this to the world,” he said.

Mr. Wirnkar also said Catholic journalists in Africa “need to bring this message of our sharing and our discussions beyond the people who had these conversations and to bring the good news to young people who are either outside the Church or on the edges.”

Jude Atemanke is a Cameroonian journalist with a passion for Catholic Church communication. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism and Mass Communication from the University of Buea in Cameroon. Currently, Jude serves as a journalist for ACI Africa.