Synodal Process “not about democratic speeches”: Cardinal to SECAM Assembly Delegates

Jean-Claude Cardinal Hollerich during the opening Mass of the SECAM Plenary Assembly taking place in Ethiopia’s capital city, Addis Ababa. Credit: ACI Africa

The Holy Spirit is at the center of the ongoing preparations for the Synod on Synodality, a Synod official has told delegates of the six-day Plenary Assembly of members of the Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar (SECAM) that kicked off on Wednesday, March 1 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

In his Thursday, March 2 homily during the opening Mass of the SECAM Plenary Assembly, the General Relator of the 2021-2024 Synod on Synodality underscored the need for people of God in Africa to seek the guidance of the Holy Spirit during the Continental Stage of the Synodal process.

“Without the help of the Holy Spirit, it would be a mess. Our assemblies would be about church politics,” Jean-Claude Cardinal Hollerich said.

Credit: ACI Africa

Cardinal Hollerich added, “We need the Holy Spirit and the Holy Spirit stairs up our deep desires that are deep in our hearts.”


“Conversion is necessary” for the ongoing SECAM Plenary to have an impact on the draft of the African Synod Document, the Archbishop of Luxembourg said, adding, “There is no synodal Church without a synodal conversation.”

He cautioned against possible misinterpretations of the Synodal process, saying that the ongoing preparation “is not about power; it's not about democratic speeches; it is about the Holy Spirit.”

 Credit: ACI Africa

“A Church, which is open to the world is a Church which knows how to pray. It is a Church in line with the Holy Spirit,” the member of the Society of Jesus (Jesuits) who was elevated to Cardinal in October 2019 said in his homily on March 1.

He underscored the need, during the Synodal process, to rely on God who “opens us the door for the Word because a synodal Church is always a Church on mission.”

More in Africa

“On mission means first to proclaim the gospel; to proclaim the risen Christ for us and at the same time it is also a call to act for justice, for peace, and ecology,” the 64-year-old Cardinal said, and continued, “And this acting is necessary so that people believe our preaching.”

He emphasized the need for those involved in the mission of Jesus Christ to engage with the people in a way that fosters mutual understanding and appreciation of each other. 

Credit: ACI Africa

“If we are to speak to the people of today and of tomorrow, we have to use their language,” the General Relator of the 2021-2024 Synod on Synodality said, adding, “We have to know their values, we have to know what makes their heart beat; we have to know what makes them happy, what makes them sad.”

“In a synodal Church there is an auto-correction because if we listen to lay people, if we are aware that all together, we are the people of God, then we listen, we feel with people and we can change our attitudes,” Cardinal Hollerich told delegates of the Continental Synodal Assembly that is expected to prepare the draft of the African Synod Document.


Meanwhile, addressing delegates during the opening session of the SECAM Plenary Assembly, the Secretary General of continental Symposium urged participants to share the African experience of the Synodal process. 

Fr. Rafael Simbine Junior said that the ongoing SECAM Plenary Assembly “is a festive moment of the feast for the Church in Africa and its Islands.” 

Credit: ACI Africa

“We have reached the final moment of this continental stage and have gathered here to share and bring together the experience of the African process of this ongoing synod,” Fr. Simbine said. 

Discussions during the Plenary Assembly, the SECAM Secretary General said, will allow delegates to “listen to what the Holy Spirit is saying to the Church in Africa and in the whole world.” 

(Story continues below)

The member of the Clergy of Mozambique’s Xai-Xai Diocese highlighted three key moments that will guide the discussions during the six-day Plenary Assembly. 

The first moment, he said, “will be to learn the method that will guide our work, the method of spiritual conversation; the method that will help us to listen to each other and to listen to what the Holy Spirit is saying.” 

The second moment of the Plenary Assembly, Fr. Simbine said, “will be to help us enter and understand the Document of the Continental Phase, which is one of the main elements of study and reflection in this plenary.”

Credit: ACI Africa

The Mozambican Catholic Priest further said that the third moment “will be to gather the fruits of the action of the Holy Spirit during our prayer and reflection on this Document of the Continental Stage (DCS) and to draft what we can call the African Synod Document.” 

During the SECAM Plenary Assembly that is to conclude on March 6, delegates have been invited, in prayer and reflection, to “identify the strong insights, questions, and tensions from our understanding of DCS that could be addressed to grow as a synodal missionary Church.”

Credit: ACI Africa

Fr. Simbine also invited delegates to “identify the strong insights, questions, and tensions from our understanding of DCS that could be addressed to grow as a synodal missionary Church.” 

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.