Catholic Theologians Foresee Year of “good surprises” for Africa in 2023

Logo of the Pan African Catholic Theology and Pastoral Network (PACTPAN). Credit: PACTPAN

The growing population of the youth in Africa, the continent’s increasing percentage of Christians, as well as its vastness of resources, signals better days ahead for African countries, two Catholic Theologians have said.

In their conversation on African Catholic Voices, Fr. Stan Chu Ilo and Fr. Alex Ojacor have said that Africa’s resilience amid various hardships in 2022 also indicates an exponential growth in faith on the continent.

“2023 will be a year of good surprises in Africa. Despite the difficulties in our different countries, all have seen the resilience of our people amidst forces of evil and darkness,” Fr. Stan says in the podcast service of the Pan African Catholic Theology and Pastoral Network (PACTPAN).

The Nigerian-born Catholic Priest adds, “In Nigeria, for instance, you ask someone how they are doing and they tell you that they are ‘suffering and smiling’. Nigerians can find, from within, a place of peace, amid all the difficulties they face.”

In the Tuesday, January 10 podcast, Fr. Ojacor, a Ugandan theologian and humanitarian, discussed with Fr. Stan why he thinks 2023 will be a great year for Africa.


In the podcast, Fr. Ojacor describes the African population as a “Tsunamic youthful population”, and adds, “It is estimated that by 2050, a quarter of the world’s population will be from Africa. About 65 percent of Christians live in Africa. By 2030, about 70 percent of Christians will be from Africa.”

“The population is an enormous youthful population. This brings a lot of optimism for us,” he says, and continues, “Our youth can propel us into the global stage and global opportunities. This is very important to the Church.”

The Catholic Priest whose areas of interest include religion, philosophy, sociology, and theology says that the Church in Africa has “a lot of hope in 2023”, and explains, highlighting the Holy Father’s planned pastoral trip to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and ecumenical visit to South Sudan, “First of all, the Pope is coming, and there are lots of other initiatives taking place in the Church on the continent.”.

The Chaplain Assistant at the Loyola University Medical Center expresses optimism that as African countries continue to explore their abundance of resources, there would be massive investments in infrastructure and partnerships with other countries outside the continent.

Fr. Ojacor has over 10 years of experience in lecturing at universities in Kenya, Uganda, and the United States. 

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The Ugandan Priest is the Founder of the Children's educational and welfare organization that looks after destitute, orphaned, and formerly abducted children in Uganda, by providing their basic education and welfare. 

Fr. Stan Chu Ilo, who recently oversaw the planning of the meeting between Pope Francis and African college students, is a research professor of World Christianity and African Studies at the Center for World Catholicism and Intercultural Theology, DePaul University, Chicago.

He is also the founder of the Canadian Samaritans for Africa, a nonprofit that works directly with African women to help them alleviate poverty. 

Fr. Stan’s areas of interest are cross-cultural studies, African intellectual and political history, African Christianity and the world Church, equity and diversity in faith-based education and ministry, religion and social transformation, and religion and violence. 

In some of his writings, Fr. Stan has made a distinction between “the center and the margins”, arguing that God always starts with a small location as demonstrated by Abraham and the nations as well as Moses and the people of Israel. 


“Church renewal and revival, historically, has been from small groups of people,” Fr. Stan says in the January 10 podcast, and adds, “Africa which has often been seen as the periphery of the Church has become the center. Out of Africa God is speaking to the entire Church about what faith can bring out in the people.”

He echoes Fr. Ojacor’s sentiments about the exponential growth of Christianity in Africa, saying, “Africans are incurably religious.”

The Catholic Priests also discussed the role of faith and politics in turning Africa's possibilities and hopes into reality in 2023.

According to Fr. Ojacor, faith in the context of the growth of the Church in Africa is the trust that “God has been at work, is at work, and will be at work in Africa and the Church.”

“I see faith as a factor that will impact on the people, not just individuals, but to families and groups,” he says in the podcast.

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“Some people say that faith in Africa is one-mile-long and one-inch-deep, while that in the west is one-inch-long and one-mile-deep,” Fr. Ojacor says, and continues, “In 2023, we need to define our identity as the Church in Africa, and to realize that there is something we can bring to the universal Church.”

Commenting on the issue of identity, Fr. Stan highlights the need for the Church in Africa to relate to the reality of the continent, saying, “Our Church must look African to us.”

“If our people are poor, we Priests and Bishops become poor with our people. If our people are crying, we cry with them. The Synodal process should call us to our identity. What we should ask ourselves is whether we are a Church that is truly African. If we do not bridge that gap between where we are as Church leaders and where people are, then there will be a problem,” he says.

“I have seen places where Priests and the Religious have the smell of the sheep, Priests and the Religious who have died, and bear the marks of being in the trenches,” the Nigerian Catholic Priest says.

His sentiments were echoed by his Ugandan counterpart who underlines the need for the Church “to become everything to save souls.”

“St. Paul says, ‘I became all things to all people so that through the Gospel I can save some’. This is an identity that we need to be able to articulate as Africans, how to become a Church to Africa, so that we can save Africa and to bring them to the universal kingdom of God,” Fr. Ojacor says in the January 10 podcast.

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.