One Year after Meeting with Pope Francis, Young Africans Celebrate Growth

Pope Francis during the virtual dialogue with African Catholic students on Tuesday, 1 November 2022. Credit: PACTPAN

It has been a year since young people in Africa had a virtual dialogue with Pope Francis, where the Holy Father challenged them to keep their roots intact, to never stop dreaming, and to be their own evangelizers.

The conversation that was held on 1 November 2022 brought together college and university students from nine African countries. These were Cameroon, Congo Brazzaville, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Ivory Coast, Kenya, Nigeria, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

The Pan-African Catholic Theology and Pastoral Network (PACTPAN) initiative was aimed at inspiring the youths to be engaged fully in the “life of the Church and society”.

A year later, the dialogue with Pope Francis has inspired a movement of young people from all the 54 countries who are evangelizing digital peripheries.

In an interview with ACI Africa, Sr. Leonida Katunge, the Coordinator of the African Synodal Digital Youth Influencers (ASDYI) under PACTPAN highlights the various ways in which the young Africans have grown since their meeting with the Holy Father.


The member of the Congregation of Sisters of St. Joseph of the Archdiocese of Mombasa (SSJ) spoke to ACI Africa ahead of the event, “One Year Post-Pope Francis Encounter with Africa Youths”. The anniversary celebration has been slated for Saturday, November 4. 

Representatives from Latin America where the Holy Father initiated talks with youths, and from India where he proceeded after the African dialogue, are to participate in the November 4 event.

From nine countries… to the entire continent

When the Holy Father met our young people from nine African countries, we never knew what was to come after the meeting. He told the youths to be leaders and to be firmly rooted in their own cultural values. After the meeting, we didn’t know how to move the conversation forward.  Since the preparation for the virtual conversation had been intense, we took a one-month break and reconnected in January (2023), with the determination to bring other countries on board to act on the message of Pope Francis through the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI). With the help of my networks, and also by scouring through the internet, I found young people in 20 more countries within one week.

The continental meeting of the synod in March (2023) was pivotal for us because we were able to connect with young people from all the 54 African countries except Libya and Somalia. 

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A manual and a book

After bringing thousands of African youths on board, we thought it would be helpful for us to identify some projects to keep us connected. The initial projects of BBI are two books that were written by the nine young people who represented Africa in the conversation with the Holy Father. One of the books is a manual dubbed ‘The Pastoral Accompaniment of the Youth in Africa’. The manual takes the form of the question-and-answer session we had with the Holy Father and the way forward he proposes.

The SECAM jurisdictions

Today, we have brought over 5,000 young people on board. At some point, we decided to reorganize them into groups for easy coordination of our activities. From June, we reorganized the young people following the structure of SECAM (Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar ).  Thus, we have young people in all the eight SECAM jurisdictions except Egypt. We also have the Diaspora group that brings together young Africans living outside the continent. At the regional level, the young people engage in various activities such as webinars, Bible trivia exercises, tree-planting, and other social activities such as visiting the sick. The activities have a spiritual element.

Digital Faith Influencers


The African Digital Youth Faith Influencers (ADYFI) is part of a global initiative that seeks to evangelize digital peripheries. We have been involved in this initiative since March 21. We are digital media missionaries, using all available social media platforms to connect with others spiritually. We reflect on daily Bible readings and engage on issues affecting the continent.

Participation in the World Youth Day in Lisbon

Representatives from ADYFI joined other young people as the world marked the 2023 World Youth Day (WYD) that was marked from August 1-6 in Lisbon, Portugal. On the sidelines of the main WYD celebrations, the young digital faith influencers from Africa held a get-together to exchange pleasantries and to celebrate their cultures. The meeting in Lisbon was their first face to face interaction.

Small Christian Communities

Youths meet in their Small Christian Communities (SCCs) to reflect on the word of God. SCCs (a new way of being Church have been embraced by) the Association of Member Episcopal Conferences in Eastern Africa where they have taken root. Today, our young people are making SCCs a continental initiative.

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Digital Faith Influencers Training and the African Summit

Everything is set for the January training aimed at equipping our digital faith influencers with tools to become digital disciples. The six-month training will see selected participants engage with renowned Theologians and other scholars in the Church. From the Vatican, Dr. Paolo Ruffini will be part of those who will be facilitating the training. 

The training will have seven modules including: Formation on Theology, Theories and Application of African Palaver and the Synodal Process; Christus Vivit, Social Teachings of the Church, Transformational Leadership, Spiritual Maturity, the Church as The family of God, and the Practical Implementation of the Digital Faith. 

It will be hosted by Sacred Heart University in Gulu, Uganda, Peaceland University in Enugu, Nigeria, Catholic University of Zambia, and the ITCCJ of the Jesuits in Abidjan. Others are the Dicastery for Communications and the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development. 

The instructors will be African Theologians, Tim Hogan who is deeply immersed in digital evangelization, Ruffini, and Msgr. Luchio. We wish to form the youths towards becoming mature leaders with the view of using the digital space for evangelization. We’ll then have a physical African Summit for the award of the certificates.

Anniversary: One-year post Pope-Francis Encounter with Africa Youths

This event has been slated for November 4. In Africa, every event is a moment of celebration. We will be celebrating all our achievements and the young Africans’ persistence. It is a moment to plan for the next year, for us to achieve more than the milestones we have already achieved. We’ll have representatives from Latin America, the Vatican, and delegates from Asia. Asia is the continent we handed the button for after we had our own conversations with the Holy Father.

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.