These are “our priority” Issues at Ongoing Synod in Rome: African Delegate

Fr. Vitalis Anaehobi at a pre-synodal seminar in Nairobi. Credit: ACI Africa

Four issues affecting the Church in Africa stand out at the ongoing Synod on Synodality conversations. These are the issues that those representing the African continent at the Bishops’ meeting in Rome are focusing on.

According to Fr. Vitalis Anaehobi, a Nigerian Catholic Priest participating in the October 4-29 Synod, with October 5 as the first full day of work, each of the 67 African delegates at the Synod is to talk broadly about the African family, which is under threat, issues of environmental degradation affecting Africa, as well as the conflicts that he says are rife on the continent.

The delegates must also share traditions that are central to the liturgy in Africa, which the Universal Church “should not” depart from, Fr. Anaehobi tells African Catholic Voices, a project of the Pan-African Catholic Theology and Pastoral Network (PACTPAN).

Fr. Anaehobi, the Secretary General for the Reunion of Episcopal Conferences of West Africa (RECOWA) says that the four issues are part of the eight areas of priority that were identified during the March Continental Synodal Assembly that was held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

Asked what “the agenda for Africa” is at the synod, Fr. Anaehobi said that the participants had prioritized what they agreed upon during the August African pre-Synodal seminar that was held in Nairobi.


“When we met in Nairobi at the beginning of August, the Bishops asked what the priority of Africa would be. What were we going to present to the world?” he recalled, and continued, “The answer was simple. We agreed that our priority was the eight points we had submitted in our continental document.”

In the October 10 podcast, the member of the Clergy of Nigeria’s Catholic Diocese of Nnewi adds, “We are not coming to the Synod with any extraordinary issues. These are the problems that we have and which we feel the Universal Church should put into consideration.”

“These are the things we are putting on the table; every delegate from Africa is supposed to speak from these points,” Fr. Anaehobi emphasizes, and highlights the following issues:


  • The Church should not depart from the magisterium, traditions, and the scriptures

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The Church should consider African interests in elaborating any doctrines. By this, we mean that Africa is a young Church, and putting forward a doctrine because of experiences in the West can destroy the Church in Africa. African values and traditions should be considered. Liturgically, Africans are very expressive in their worship. The Church should think of that in institutionalizing reforms in the liturgy.


  • Conflicts in the World



Africa is a zone that is rife with conflicts. The Church should play a reconciliatory role in the conflicts in the world, especially in Africa. The Catholic Church should be able to constitute itself as a body that can negotiate for peace if there is conflict.


  • Family and pastoral care


In Africa, the family is central to everything we do. Here, the Church is the family of God. That is why for us, synodality is so easy to understand. The family of God in Africa is also facing challenges and the synod should be able to address these challenges. The challenges include situations of polygamous families, cases of single parents, and abuses we see in our families. We need strong pastoral care for the family.

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  • Ecology


The Church should look at the challenges of the environment, which Pope Francis is already very vocal about.

According to Fr. Anaehobi, the Church of Africa is already doing what can be done to address some of the challenges, which the Holy Father outlined in the May 2015 Encyclical Letter on “care for our common home”, Laudato Si', and in the just released Apostolic Exhortation “on the climate crisis”, Laudate Deum (“Praise God”).

He said that in the continental synodal assembly, many issues were raised and that those present agreed that not everything should be taken to Rome.

“Though Rome is there for the universal Church, there are problems that we ourselves can already start solving. Peace, reconciliation and resolution of conflicts are things we can work on,” the Catholic Theologian said.

“RECOWA for instance has been consistent in trying to promote peace and reconciliation in West Africa,” Fr. Anaehobi said, adding that regional forum of Catholic Bishops had played an advocacy role for peace in many countries in West Africa, and that recently, it had written to Niger, warning against military intervention in the country’s July coup d’état.

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.