Fratelli Tutti, Regional Challenges Focus of Planned Plenary of Bishops in West Africa

Fr. Zacharia Nyantiso Samjumi (center), the Secretary General of the Catholic Secretariat of Nigeria (CSN), the National Director of Social Communications (right), CSN, Fr. Dr. Michael Nsikak Umoh and Director, Pastoral Affairs, Fr. Michael Banjo (left) during the April 6 press conference. Credit: Nigeria Catholic Network

Catholic Bishops in West Africa are expected to deliberate on Pope Francis’ Encyclical Letter on human fraternity and social friendship, Fratelli Tutti and challenges facing the region during their Plenary Assembly scheduled for May in Nigeria’s capital, Abuja.

In a Wednesday, April 6 report by the Nigeria Catholic Network, the Secretary General of the Catholic Secretariat of Nigeria (CSN) provides details about the May 2-9 General Assembly of members of the Regional Episcopal Conference of West Africa (RECOWA).

“The 2022 RECOWA General Assembly will pay attention to our common humanity, appreciating those issues that speak to us more on the understanding that we all are brothers and sisters,” Fr. Zacharia Nyantiso Samjumi has been quoted as saying at a press conference April 6.

Fr. Samjumi who represented RECOWA President, Archbishop Ignatius Kaigama, at the press conference said the meeting to be held under the theme “Fratelli Tutti: Path to building human fraternity and sustainable peace in West Africa,” is expected to examine “peculiar issues” affecting the people of God in RECOWA countries. 

“RECOWA plenaries discuss peculiar issues that affect the lives of millions of people in West Africa and explore how best the Church can support governments toward improving the living conditions of the people,” the Nigerian Priest says in the April 6 report.


He adds, “RECOWA has various organs that address the issues of interfaith dialogue, security, good governance, justice and peace.” 

Fr. Samjumi notes that “as RECOWA, the Church has been able to raise concerns and work together on issues bordering on justice and peace.”

“From Senegal to Nigeria, RECOWA has been a strong voice against land grabbing, child trafficking, illegal migration, terrorism, placing the issue of climate change on the concurrent list to curb desertification and many others,” Fr. Samjumi says.

He continues, “These issues will still form part of the agenda at the 2022 plenary, which is expected to bring together over 150 Bishops.”

Reflecting on the history of RECOWA, the regional body which includes Catholic Bishops from 16 countries, CSN Secretary General explains that initially, “the Bishops of West Africa had two different organs of collegiality based on linguistic differences.”

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“The English speaking were in one group known as Association of Episcopal Conferences of Anglophone West Africa (AECAWA established in 1977) while the French speaking were known as Conférence Episcopale Régionale de l’Afrique de l’Ouest (CERAO established in 1963),” he adds.

Inspired by the geopolitical forum of the 15 countries in West Africa, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), Catholic Bishops in the region realized the need for constituting a common forum, Fr. Samjumi has said in the report.

The Catholic Church leaders were also guided by the need to join forces and pool resources together for consolidated pastoral programs, thus resolving “to form one single Episcopal Association that would bring all Bishops of West Africa on one platform,” he says.

“That resolution brought about what is today known as RECOWA/CERAO,” the Nigerian Priest adds.

Making reference to the planned Plenary Assembly of RECOWA in the April 6 report, the Secretary General of CSN appeals to the Laity to “support the entire process, in order to witness a successful hosting, and to the media personnel to give the event the needed publicity.”


“The invocation of the blessings of the Shepherds of the Church in West Africa will be part of the spiritual benefits of hosting the RECOWA General Assembly to Nigeria as a nation,” Fr. Samjumi says.

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.