Catholic Lay Leader in Senegal Says Synodal Process “not a forum for settling scores”

Dr. Philippe Abraham Birane Tine. Credit: Courtesy Photo

The President of the National Laity Council (CNL) in Senegal has cautioned the people of God against using the ongoing preparations for the Synod on Synodality as forums for settling scores.

Dr. Philippe Abraham Birane Tine who was speaking at the Wednesday, March 30 webinar, which the Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar (SECAM) organized described the ongoing synodal process as a “forum for dialogue” in love.

“The Synod is not a forum for settling scores, because many people may think very quickly that it is necessary to put debates and to settle scores between Priests, Religious,” said Dr. Tine who also serves as the Secretary General of the Regional Council of the Laity of West Africa.

The synodal process, he said, is “a forum for dialogue in truth, but above all in charity, because it is only at this price that we will be able to take up the real challenges, because the Church, as it has been recalled, has always been synodal, therefore it is a place of dialogue.”

“If we think that synodality is just words, just concepts, we risk wasting time; we will talk, there will be many webinars, there will be colloquiums but nothing will advance and of course, by the grace of God through the Holy Spirit, we will be able to build a strong church, a standing church, because our world needs this church, facing the multiple crises,” he said.


There is need, during the synodal process, “to redefine the notions of listening and discernment,” the research professor at the Department of Languages and Ancient Civilisations of the Cheikh Anta Diop University of Dakar said during the March 30 SECAM webinar held under the theme, “The Church in Africa on the Synodal Path: Living Synodality in Local Churches.”

Dr. Tine emphasized the need for listening saying, “It is important and we must listen to each other; we must know how to discern, how to speak, and how to be silent.”

In a statement announcing the virtual event shared with ACI Africa, SECAM leadership indicated that the session that would have the Synod of Bishops’ Secretary General, Mario Cardinal Grech, as the main speaker, was “on how synodality can be translated in local contexts.”

“In this synodal process, the Holy Spirit is inviting local Churches to discern and journey together,” the statement further indicated about the webinar that would have input from other representatives of the Catholic Church in Africa, including SECAM leadership, women Religious, and the Laity.

Dr. Tine who also serves as a lecturer at St. Augustine Centre of Philosophy and Theology of Dakar challenged the lay faithful to “take charge” of the synodal process. He said, “I am calling on all the Laity to really take charge of this process, because this process concerns everyone; it is everyone's business.”

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The Senegalese Catholic Lay leader added, “Our families need to anchor themselves, to review this synodal approach through sharing, through listening, through the smallest details of life, through Small Christian Communities.”

“The Laity must be effectively engaged and that is important. We should not say that synodality concerns Priests, Bishops, but those who are to gain the most in this process of synodality are the Laity,” Dr. Tine said. 

He explained that the Laity are expected to benefit the most from the synodal process because “there has been a lot of talk about clericalism that Priests, Religious or Bishops capitalize all the powers in their hands, but today, the laity are being involved and they too can say we are part of the Church and that we have our role to play.” 

Dr. Tine also called on Church leaders to take the concerns of the Laity seriously, saying, “As long as the Church does not really take charge of the concerns of the Laity in terms of participation, in terms of communion, it will have difficulty being a truly missionary Church.”

Magdalene Kahiu is a Kenyan journalist with passion in Church communication. She holds a Degree in Social Communications from the Catholic University of Eastern Africa (CUEA). Currently, she works as a journalist for ACI Africa.