African Scholars Hoping for Lengthy Synodality Beyond October 2023 Synod of Bishops

Credit: ACI Africa

A working group of theologians, professionals, and academics who participated in a symposium that the African Synodality Initiative (ASI) organized on the ongoing preparations for the Synod on Synodality have exuded confidence that the synodal deliberations will live beyond the October 2023 Synod of Bishops.

ASI is a partnership between the Jesuit Conference of Africa and Madagascar (JCAM), the Symposium of the Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar (SECAM), and the Association of Member Episcopal Conferences in Eastern Africa (AMECEA).

It was established to generate creative ideas and resources that aim to support local churches in Africa and enable them to engage fruitfully and constructively in the synodal process.

In a report ASI representatives compiled following their three-day colloquium in March, which they shared with ACI Africa May 6, the team of African scholars comprising members of the Clergy, women and men Religious, and the Laity said that Synodality is supposed to be an everyday way of the Church, and therefore timeless.

“It is our hope that Synodality will not end with the synod. We believe that Synodality is an ongoing, long-term pedagogy and way of life of the Church,” the team of scholars said in their report following the ASI colloquium.


The report was signed by 18 Theologians and professionals from around Africa, including Sr. Wilhelmina Uhai Tunu, a member of the Catholic Theological Ethics in the World Church Organization, Sr. Dr. Josée Ngalula, a member of the International Theological Commission, Sr. Leonida Katunge, an Advocate of the High Court of Kenya, and Fr. Anthony Makunde, the Secretary General of AMECEA.

In the report, ASI representatives cautioned against “a mentality of rigidity”.

They said, “By building openness and systems of trust, by changing a mentality of rigidity and building a culture of listening that is open to suggestions and critiques, we believe that we can truly become a Spirit-filled Church, a living witness to Christ at the service of the marginalized and excluded in Africa and the world, and a place that welcomes all God’s people.”

The colloquium brought together scholars from across Africa who explored the element of listening to the Synod on Synodality process from an African perspective.

The purpose of the colloquium was to provide a platform for Catholics on the African continent to discuss, discern, and propose a vision of Synodality from an African perspective. 

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In an interview with ACI Africa on the sidelines of the March event, Fr. Nicholaus Segeja M’hela from Tanzania who serves as the Director of Gaba campus of Kenya-based Catholic University of Eastern Africa (CUEA) said that the journey of the Synod on Synodality is an opportunity to rethink the diverse African values.

The member of the Clergy of Tanzania’s Catholic Diocese of Mwanza who also serves at the General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops underscored the need to isolate helpful African cultures from retrogressive ones.

“Solidity implies illuminating the dark parts of our cultures. We need to critically look at what is happening around us, to promote what is useful and to leave out what is not. The Word of God will guide us in this process. The teachings of the Church and the wisdom of other people will help us in this discernment,” he told ACI Africa in the March 10 interview.

In their May 6 report, ASI representatives made reference to the story of Pentecost in the Acts of the Apostles chapter 2, saying that the story “deliberately frames this vision of Synodality”.

“It is a story of disciples still gathered, closed fearfully in on themselves, who were driven by the Holy Spirit out of themselves, out of their fears, into the marketplace, into history,” the African Catholic scholars said, and added, “We the Church are the result of this Spirit-filled act of boldness. Today, we are called to a renewal of this Pentecost event.”


They said that Synodality is not “a new catchphrase” but an invitation to thoroughly reform and renew the Church to better serve God’s people.

Synodality, according to ASI representatives, is also an invitation to respond to the multiple threats to life that characterize the daily experiences of the people of God.

In their call to the people of God to embrace an un-ending culture of Synodality, the scholars said, “We implore the Holy Spirit to accompany this Synodal journey, and we deeply believe that the Church of the third millennium should embrace the path of Synodality.”

“We commit ourselves to serve as facilitators in educating and promoting awareness of and building a culture of Synodality. We also resolve to avail ourselves for the next phases of the Synod on Synodality and beyond,” ASI representatives said in their report shared with ACI Africa May 6.

Agnes Aineah is a Kenyan journalist with a background in digital and newspaper reporting. She holds a Master of Arts in Digital Journalism from the Aga Khan University, Graduate School of Media and Communications and a Bachelor's Degree in Linguistics, Media and Communications from Kenya's Moi University. Agnes currently serves as a journalist for ACI Africa.