, 27 July, 2020 / 11:31 PM
The leadership of the Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar (SECAM) has announced that the usual annual collection of funds to support the symposium activities on the continent will not happen this year due to COVID-19 challenges.
In a goodwill message to the People of God ahead of the July 29 and August 2 celebration of the SECAM Day, the President of the continental symposium, Philippe Cardinal Ouédraogo, appeals for prayers on behalf of the Bishops and notes that COVID-19 challenges has made it difficult for Bishops on the continent to rally for funds.
“SECAM day is an important event for the Church-Family of God in Africa and Madagascar. We earnestly urge you to pray for SECAM on Wednesday 29th July and 2nd August 2020,” Cardinal Ouédraogo says in a letter that was penned ahead of the celebration.
He adds, “Following the challenges posed by the coronavirus pandemic at the moment, we have opted to defer the special SECAM collection for this year. But if any person or group of people are moved by the Holy Spirit to support SECAM financially or materially, you are welcome to do so.”
The Archbishop of Ouagadougou bemoans the fact that SECAM had found it difficult to implement the resolutions made during last year’s celebration of the Golden Jubilee of the symposium held in Kampala, Uganda where the common forum of Catholic Bishops in Africa was founded 51 years ago.
“This year 2020 marks one year since the impressive celebration of the Golden Jubilee of SECAM in Kampala, Uganda, the land of heroic African Martyrs,” Cardinal Ouédraogo says, and adds that during the plenary sessions in Kampala, members of SECAM reflected on how far the symposium had gone with its evangelizing mission and where Bishops needed to go in order to make the future of the Church in Africa better.
Unfortunately, according to the Burkinabe Prelate, one year after the Golden Jubilee, “the situation in Africa and the surrounding Islands had remained the same, within and outside the Church.”
“Indeed, it is compounded by the coronavirus pandemic that has wreaked havoc everywhere. COVID-19 has so far killed millions around the world including Africans. It has affected the Clergy, religious and lay faithful alike,” says Cardinal Ouédraogo.
Among a variety of resolutions arrived at during their Plenary sessions in Uganda last year, and challenged by the example of Ugandan martyrs, in particular, and other African saints and martyrs, in general, the heads of the Catholic Church in Africa and Madagascar committed to “make the Golden Jubilee a springboard for more profound Evangelization on the Continent and its Islands.”
“The Golden Jubilee celebration evidently raised hopes that SECAM would more visibly play its role and exert a positive influence on areas that touch the daily life of the people, both within and outside Africa,” the Cardinal says.
SECAM members also resolved to step up their obligation to the organization and to be more proactive in their prophetic mission.
Founded by African Bishops on 29 July 1969 and formally launched by Saint Paul VI on 31 July 1969 in Kampala, Uganda, SECAM provides a common forum for Bishops in Africa and in Madagascar to bring together their respective voices on matters of the Church on the continent.
To keep alive this historic and memorable event and to thank God for the gift of mother Africa, 29th July of every year is commemorated as SECAM Day. When 29th July falls on a weekday, SECAM Day is celebrated on the following Sunday.
The day also provides an opportunity to pray for the well-being of SECAM, for the spirit of unity, communion and solidarity amongst the Bishops, the Clergy, the Religious and lay faithful, according to leadership of the Church entity that is headquartered in Ghana’s capital, Accra.
One key activity of this day is a collection, which is usually made to support the mission of SECAM.
“It is a symbol of ownership of every Catholic in Africa and the islands that SECAM is our association here in Africa and Madagascar,” the Secretary General of the Association of Member Episcopal Conferences in Eastern Africa (AMECEA), one of the eight regional Bishops’ Conferences that constitute SECAM, Fr. Anthony Makunde told AMECEA Online News referencing the annual collection.
But owing to the COVID-19 pandemic, the SECAM Day will not be celebrated as usual even as members of the symposium continue to pray for an end to the pandemic.
“We have (also) been praying for an end to the pandemic but new cases continue to soar in many African countries as elsewhere,” Cardinal Ouédraogo says, and adds, “A recent report from the Caritas International indicates that Africa is the worst affected of all continents in terms of Covid-19 effects. There are cases of food shortages, due to the lockdowns.”
“Thousands have lost jobs, small businesses destroyed. The diversity of pre-existing disasters such as floods, drought, locust invasion, poor harvest are real and constitute serious challenges,” the President of SECAM says.
According to the Burkinabe Prelate, the COVID-19 situation has given rise to several questions and agitations.
“For those in the grip of anguish and misery, it is easy to conclude that God has abandoned us and the pandemic is punishment for our sins, individual and communal. But as we already said in our Pentecost message, if, we experience pain or if we suffer, God participates in it in order to overcome it,” the Cardinal says in his message of solace.
He expresses the regret that social evils continued to be reported in many African countries even in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It is shameful and regretful that not even the deadly COVID-19 has deterred violence and terrorism in some countries in Africa. We continue to kill ourselves on a daily basis. We join our voice with the Holy Father, Pope Francis and other world leaders to call for an immediate end to violence everywhere in Africa and elsewhere in the world,” the 75-year-old Cardinal says.
But not all has been gloom for the Heads of the Church in Africa and Madagascar, according to SECAM President.
“We certainly have had moments of sorrow but there were also joyful moments in the last one year. We, therefore, thank God for his blessings and magnanimity,” the Cardinal says and goes ahead to express gratitude to Bishops, Clergy, Religious and Lay members of the Church across the continent “for their commitment to Evangelization in spite of the current challenges.”
“Be assured of our continued closeness to you and our daily prayers for you, especially, those of you who are sick or experiencing different challenges in your daily life,” the President of SECAM says.
ACI Africa was officially inaugurated on August 17, 2019 as a continental Catholic news agency at the service of the Church in Africa. Headquartered in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, this media apostolate will strive to facilitate the telling of Africa’s story by providing media coverage of Catholic events on the African continent, giving visibility to the activities of the Church across Africa where statistics show significant growth in numbers and the continent gradually becoming the axis of Catholicism. This is expected to contribute to an awareness of and appreciation for the significant role of the Church in Africa and over time, the realization of a realistic image of Africa that often receives negative media framing.
Father Don Bosco Onyalla
Editor-in-Chief, ACI Africa