Synodal Process “a gift from God” to Church in Southern Africa: Catholic Official

Some participants during the January 17 virtual event. Credit: Courtesy Photo

The Director of the Inter-Regional Meeting of the Bishops of Southern Africa (IMBISA) has said that the people of God in the region have welcomed the ongoing preparations for the Synod on Synodality that is at the consultation phase at the level of the continent as “a gift from God”.

Speaking at a Tuesday, January 17 virtual press conference on the progress of the Continental phase of the Synodal Process, Fr. Rafael Baciano Sapato said the encounters have brought to the fore challenges that Catholics in the  IMBISA region face. 

“As IMBISA, we welcome this synodal process as a gift from God to our Church,” Fr. Sapato  said during the event that was organized by the General Secretariat of the Symposium of Episcopal Conference of Africa and Madagascar (SECAM) and the Communication desk of the Vatican’s General Secretariat of the Synod.

He added, “We are so thankful to the Holy Father for giving us the chance to share, to talk and to deepen our faith.”

“The image we have in our region is still the Church as a family,” the member of the Clergy of Mozambique’s Lichinga Diocese said, and added, “We are hopeful that this process is going to reinforce the image of families, since everybody is taking synodality into account.”


However, the Mozambican Priest who has previously served as the Coordinator of IMBISA Pastoral Department noted that “some adults are anxious about what will come up after this synodal process.”

“Some people are worried; but the most important thing for us is that we see this opportunity as a gift from God,” Fr. Sapato who was appointed IMBISA Director in September 2022 said.

He went on to highlight some of the challenges the people of God in IMBISA have shared, which he said need to be addressed, saying, “The main challenge for our region is first of all family. We have cases of single mothers, polygamy, broken marriages amongst others.”

“The other challenge is our culture,” Fr. Sapato said, and added, “We need to move forward in terms of inculturation. Until now we realize that inculturation is above all related to liturgy, but there are other aspects of our faith which are rooted in our culture,”.

Launched by Pope Francis in October 2021 as a worldwide undertaking during which Catholics were encouraged to submit feedback to their respective Dioceses, the Synod on Synodality had been scheduled to conclude in 2023.

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On October 16, the Holy Father said the Synod on Synodality will be extended to 2024.  

The process that began with consultations at the level of Dioceses is currently at the continental stage, which is expected to last through March 2023. 

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.