African Theologians Organize Online Conversations ahead of Synod on Synodality Session in Rome

A poster announcing the series of online conversations bringing together African theologians, priests, and religious, as well as laity in Africa. Credit: PACTPAN

Plans are underway for a series of online conversations bringing together African theologians, priests and religious, as well as laity who seek to deepen the understanding of the Synthesis Report of the ongoing Synod on Synodality ahead of the October session in Rome.

Speaking to ACI Africa ahead of the online engagements set to run from June 7 to September 6, Fr. Stan Chu Ilo, the Coordinating Servant of the Pan-African Catholic Theology and Pastoral Network (PACTPAN) recalled that Bishops in Africa had, during a meeting of Africa’s Delegates to the Synod in Kenya “urged African theologians and pastors to continue the discussions began at the seminar.”

At the delegates meeting in Nairobi, the President of the Symposium of the Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar (SECAM), Fridolin Cardinal Ambongo also urged the theologians of Africa to work in close partnership with the Bishops in deepening an understanding of “the issues at hand” and focusing the attention of the people on the priorities of the Church in Africa “in these challenging times.”

 “PACTPAN has taken this call to heart,” read the statement that Fr. Stan shared with ACI Africa, adding that the network which provides a forum for conversation for African Christian scholars is coordinating the online synodal engagements in collaboration with the Conference of Major Superiors of Africa and Madagascar (COMSAM).

“Working with COSMAM for the last two years in designing an ongoing program on transformational servant leadership which has 382 students currently taking courses every week online, and with 120 young people in Africa who are currently studying through seven modules approved by the Dicastery for Communication on how to become digital missionary for Africa and the world, PACTPAN is launching a unique online conversation on the themes that emerged from the Synthesis Report,” read the statement.


The online synodal conversations which PACTPAN and COSMAM describe as “African palavers” bring on board top theologians, scholars, and some lay people.

Topics identified for the conversations are hinged on the next session of the Synod on Synodality which runs from Wednesday October 7 – Sunday October 27.

The palavers will be structured around one theme for each week, organizers say, adding that the text for the conversation will be chosen from the African Commentary on the Synthesis Report and sections from the Kampala Document (KD).

There will be three conversation partners: a bishop, a priest or religious, and a laity. 

Three questions will be selected for discussion for each session centered on a general understanding of the weekly theme.

More in Africa

Each question will be considered for 30 minutes with 5 minutes’ interventions from three of the conversation partners and 15 minutes’ question or insights from the participants. Each session will end with 30 minutes of open palaver to bring together key insights from the conversation.

Each session will last for 2 hours, the organizers say, and explain, “The output from each session is a two paged briefing, summarizing the key insights from the session. These briefings will be made available to the press and the people of God in Africa.”

The four conversation partners selected to set the pace for the conversations on Friday, June 7 are Bishop Edward Hiiboro Kussala of South Sudan’s Catholic Diocese of Tombura-Yambio, Sr. Sidonie Oyembo from Gabon, Sr. Leocadie Lushombo from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), and mama Rose Atieno from Kenya. These four will reflect on the theme “Listening to the cry of the poor.”

Sr. Leocadie from DRC is a professor of theological ethics at the Jesuit School of Theology, Santa Clara University, California and the author of “A Christian and African Ethic of Women’s Political Participation: Living As Risen Beings.”

Mama Rose from Kenya is a committed parishioner and grassroots women organizer and leader. She founded the Triple C Center for Carers in Mombasa which empowers women especially widows through micro-credit, training, and psycho-social support.


Sr. Sidonie is a theologian and consultor for the Dicastery of the Institute for Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life and Director of the Commission on Formation of the Confederation of Major Superiors of Africa and Madagascar (COSMAM). 

Other topics identified for the palavers include ‘The Synodal Missionary Face of the Church Family of God in Africa’ as well as some aspects of the relationship between the Eastern Catholic Churches, Pentecostals, African Independent Churches and the Roman Catholic Church in Africa.

Other topics will include how to be a Synodal Church in Mission in Africa, African synodal methods, processes, and approaches, the mission in the digital environment, and the revision of the Ratio Fundamentalis Institutionis Sacerdotalis in a missionary synodal perspective.

Participants in the conversations will also deliberate on some theological and canonical matters regarding specific ministerial forms and pastoral issues such as polygamy, permanent diaconate, female diaconate, ordained catechists. They will also have conversations on the revision of the documents touching on the relationship between bishops, consecrated life, and ecclesial associations.

Some aspects of the person and ministry of the Bishop including the criteria for selecting candidates to episcopacy will also be discussed. 

(Story continues below)

Other topics selected are the role of papal representatives in a missionary synodal perspective, theological criteria and synodal methodologies for shared discernment of controversial doctrinal, pastoral, and ethical issues, co-responsibility in pastoral ministries and leadership in a missionary and synodal church, as well as the reception of the fruits of the ecumenical journey in ecclesial practices.

Among the animators for the subsequent conversations, are Stephen Ameyu Martin Cardinal Mulla of South Sudan’s Juba Archdiocese, Bishop Gerald Mamman Musa of the Catholic Diocese of Katsina in Nigeria, Archbishop Jude Thaddeus Ruwa’ichi Tanzania’s Catholic Archdiocese of Dar-es-Salaam Archbishop Edward Tamba Charles of the Catholic Archdiocese of Freetown in Sierra Leone, and Archbishop Gabriel Charles Palmer-Buckle of Ghana’s Cape Coast Archdiocese.

Others are Bishop Emmanuel Dassi Youfang of the Catholic Diocese of Bafia in Cameroon, Archbishop Fortunatus Nwachukwu, Secretary of the Dicastery for Evangelization, John Cardinal Onaiyekan, Bishop Georges Bizimana of the Catholic Diocese of Ngozi in Burundi, and Archbishop Andrew Nkea Fuanya of the Catholic Archdiocese of Bamenda in Cameroon.

Participation in these sessions require prior registration

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.