“Not synodal”, Archbishop in Sierra Leone against “monopolizing” Parts of Holy Mass

Archbishop Edward Tamba Charles of the Archdiocese of Freetown during an interview with ACI Africa at his office in Freetown. Credit: Caritas Freetown

The Eucharist is the centre of a synodal Church requiring the participation of all “by virtue of their common baptism”, the Archbishop of Sierra Leone’s Catholic Archdiocese of Freetown has said, and cautioned individuals and groups against monopolizing activities of Holy Mass.

Monopolizing parts of the Eucharistic celebration, Archbishop Edward Tamba Charles said, is not in accordance with the liturgical tradition of the Catholic Church and goes against the spirit of a synodal Church.

“A synodal Church is one in which the Eucharist takes central stage as the sacrament of communion with God and of unity among the members of the Church,” Archbishop Tamba Charles said in his address during the March 8-9 Pastoral Assembly that was organized under the theme, “Towards a Synodal Church in the Archdiocese of Freetown”. 

He added, “Therefore no individual or group should monopolize the activities that are part of the Eucharistic celebration.”

The Eucharist, Archbishop Tamba Charles said at the event that was held at St Joseph’s Secondary School Auditorium in Freetown, “is a sort of family celebration that involves everyone, because all the members are there by virtue of their common baptism.”


He cautioned those who sing during Holy Mass against choosing songs that exclude other members of the congregation. 

The Sierra Leonean Catholic Archbishop said, “The choir, for example, should promote the active and intelligent participation of the entire congregation … and therefore should animate the singing of the liturgical assembly and not dominate it.”

“In other words, the choir should not sing for or in spite of the rest of the congregation. They should always intone hymns and songs that all or a greater part of the congregation can join in singing, not hymns, songs and anthems that only the choristers knows how to sing,” he said. 

Archbishop Tamba Charles continued, “Dominating the singing in a liturgical assembly is not in accordance with the liturgical tradition of the Catholic Church and (is) against the spirit of a synodal Church, called synodality.”

The March 8-9 gathering was the Archdiocese of Freetown’s second Pastoral Assembly. The gathering saw the Catholic Archbishop address members of the Clergy, women and men Religious, as well as lay representatives from Parishes and institutions of his Metropolitan See. The central focus of the assembly was to impart the understanding of the church towards a more synodal approach.

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Archbishop Tamba Charles further described a synodal Church as one that appreciates all its members based on their baptismal dignity. 

A “truly synodal church”, the Archbishop who serves as the President of the Inter-Religious Council of Sierra Leone (IRCSL) said, is “a Church of equals.” He explained, “We are all baptized in Christ and the one Spirit has anointed each one of us to be a priestly, prophetic, and kingly people, each according to their vocation and state in the Church and in the world.”

Archbishop Tamba Charles noted that a synodal Church is also a Church in which the members listen attentively to each other and are willing to learn from the experiences of each other.

A synodal church is one in which leadership, in all its forms or expressions, is fundamentally a call to serve, in imitation of Jesus himself “who came not to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many”, he said, referring to Matthew 20:28 and March 10:45.

The Catholic Church leader who started his Episcopal Ministry in May 2008 as Archbishop of the then Archdiocese of Freetown and Bo said that a synodal Church opens its doors to all, not only to its members “as if it was a country club.”


He emphasized the place of the third person of the Trinity in realizing a Synodal Church, saying such a Church is possible through openness to the Holy Spirit.

“In light of all that has been said about a synodal Church, we might be tempted to think that it is an impossible task and therefore should be abandoned,” he said, and added, “A synodal Church is possible. It can become a reality, provided we are all willing to allow ourselves to be led by the Holy Spirit in favor of a conversion of hearts.”

“Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, to be able to undertake this rather daunting task that we have agreed to embark on namely, to become a synodal Church in the Archdiocese of Freetown we need to be enlightened and strengthened by the Holy Spirit, so that we may know what to do, how to do it, and have the courage and the power to do it,” he said.

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.