Women “already at the forefront of synodal practices”: Jesuit Leader in Africa, Madagascar

Delegates during the March 1-6 SECAM Plenary Assembly in Ethiopia’s capital city, Addis Ababa. Credit: ACI Africa

Women are playing an inspirational role in the practice of the Synod on Synodality, the President of the Jesuits Conference of Africa and Madagascar (JCAM) has said.

In his presentation on the third day of the Africa Synodal Continental Assembly as part of the Plenary Assembly of members of the Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar (SECAM) in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Fr Agbonkhianmeghe Orobator said that women are playing a leading role in synodal practices in “challenging social situations”.

Fr Agbonkhianmeghe Orobator. Credit: ACI Africa

“The synodal processes have revealed that women, especially women Religious, are already at the forefront of synodal practices in some of the most challenging social situations,” Fr. Orobator said on March 3. 

The JCAM President who based his presentation on the findings in the Document for the Continental Stage (DCS) added, “Women know and live synodality; women are teachers of synodality within wider Church processes.”


Fr. Orobator found it regrettable that women, despite their deep love for the Church, experience sadness because “their lives are often not well understood, and their contributions and charisms not always valued.”

Credit: ACI Africa

He Nigerian-born Jesuit said that most decisions in the Church are made by men, and that “there are few spaces where women can make their voices heard.”


Making reference to DCS, he explained, “Women remain the majority of those who attend liturgy and participate in activities, men a minority; yet most decision-making and governance roles are held by men.”

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In his March 3 address to some 200 delegates of the Africa Synodal Continental Assembly who are expected to prepare the draft of the African Synod Document, Fr. Orobator also underlined the need to have women participate in the activities of the Church given their sharing in “baptismal dignity”.

Baptismal dignity, the Nairobi-based Jesuit leader said, “is our founding identity, which qualifies us to participate in the life and mission of the Church, in communion, sharing and dialogue with people of all denominations.”

Fr. Orobator also spoke about the relationship that exists between Synodality and the liturgical life of the Church, saying, “A synodal style of liturgical celebration allows for the active participation of all the faithful in welcoming all differences, valuing all ministries, and recognizing all charisms.”

A synodal style of liturgical celebration, he continued, “is not concentrated on the Priest; it promotes active lay participation and women have access to ministerial roles.”

The Jesuit Priest went on to caution against clericalism, describing it as the greatest obstacle to Synodality, and explained, “clericalism is seen as a form of spiritual impoverishment, a deprivation of the true goods of ordained ministry, and a culture that isolates clergy and harms the laity.”


Fr. Orobator also emphasized the need to value all vocations in the Church, which can be achieved by imitating “Jesus’ style and way of exercising power and authority as a means of offering healing, reconciliation, and liberation."

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