African Students to Seek Solidarity with Pope Francis in Tackling Challenges of Youth

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The envisioned dialogue between Pope Francis and young people from Catholic institutions of higher learning in Africa is not a moment to lament about the ills of the continent, but an opportunity to seek the Holy Father’s solidarity with the African youth in their daily struggles, an official at the planned Papal engagement has said.

Speaking to ACI Africa ahead of the Wednesday, October 26 rehearsal of the dialogue that has been slated for November 1, Fr. Emmanuel Bueya, the Project Lead at the Pan-African Catholic Theology and Pastoral Network (PACTPAN), which has organized the event, said that the engagement between Holy Father and the African students is also a moment for the students to form a network that will implement ideas to tackle the challenges that the continent is facing.

“Even though we face many challenges in Africa, our goal in this dialogue with Pope Francis is not to complain to the Holy Father. Of course, the students will share with him the situation of the continent, ask him to listen to specific challenges in various African countries, but most importantly, the goal will be to beg him to accompany the young people in their daily struggles in Africa,” Fr. Bueya said during the Monday, October 24 interview.

He added, “It is a moment for the university students in Africa to come together in the spirit of Synodality, to identify what’s ailing the continent and to come up with ideas to tackle the challenges they face, be it poverty and unemployment, issues of climate change, poor leadership, and so on.”

“The students will, hopefully, come up with real solutions. They have, so far, highlighted the need to create mentorship programs in the Catholic Church, and the possibility of bridging the gap between these professionals and the young Catholics who need career mentorship,” he further said.


In his sentiments, Fr. Bueya echoed the message of Bishop Matthew Hassan Kukah who, on October 20, told the university students that their participation in the Synod on Synodality is “a time for revelation” and not a moment to lament.

“This should not be a time for lamentation, but a time for revelation,” Bishop Kukah said during the October 20 virtual Synodal conversation that saw university students from Africa share their concerns and challenges in the Church.

The virtual engagement between the Africa university students and the Catholic Bishops was part of the ongoing preparations for the November 1 dialogue between Pope Francis and the youth from African countries on the Synod that has been extended to October 2024

The aim of the planned Papal dialogue with African university students is to stir the participation of the youth in the Synodal conversations, and to inspire them to be engaged fully in the “life of the Church and society”.

Organizers at the PACTPAN project that is working with steering committees in various African countries organized two rehearsals for the Papal dialogue to prepare those who will be participating in the conversations for a seamless experience.

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The first rehearsal on Tuesday, October 25 was among the participating student cohorts from select African countries while the October 26 rehearsal will rope in Vatican coordinating team members, and Coordinating consultant, Prof. Peter Jones of Loyola University Chicago and his team from North America and Latin America.

The aim of the rehearsals, Fr. Bueya told ACI Africa, is to equip the participants with the necessary communication tools ahead of the dialogue in order to “avoid any surprises”.

“This will be a virtual interaction and we don’t rule out such challenges as getting everyone organized and playing their part well. We would like to prepare everyone presenting so that they know when to speak and at what time to intervene in case of any challenge from the speaker. We want to minimize the surprises on that day,” he said.

The Congolese Catholic Priest added, “We acknowledge that one of the challenges that African countries face is internet connectivity and even electricity. This may pose a real challenge to our interaction since we will have people speaking from different places and not from a central place. We are trying to ensure that we limit this challenge.”

Nine questions have been identified highlighting key challenges from the African countries. Pope Francis will be expected to respond to each of these challenges and offer reflections and guidance to the youth.


The November 1 listening session between Pope Francis and representatives of the cohorts from the seven countries is the sixth stage of the PACTPAN project dubbed “Building Bridges Across Africa: A Synodal Encounter Between Pope Francis and University Students”.

Also participating in the listening session will be the steering committees from the seven countries and selected Catholic Bishops in Africa. The countries in the six-month pilot project are Ivory Coast, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Kenya, Nigeria, South Sudan, and Zambia. 

In the seventh and the final stage, participants in the dialogue will be called upon to take back the fruits of this listening exercise to their respective universities for implementation as the fruits of the deliberation.

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.