Advertisement

Bishops in North Africa Acknowledge Two Recent Events that “shed a new, joyful light”

CERNA members identify Pope Francis’ New Encyclical, Fratelli Tutti, and the forthcoming canonization of Blessed Charles de Foucauld as two events important for the Church in North Africa.

Members of the Regional Episcopal Conference of North Africa (CERNA) have acknowledged with appreciation two events in recent times that have had a positive impact in their region.

In their collective statement circulated Tuesday, November 3, CERNA members identify Pope Francis’ New Encyclical, Fratelli Tutti and the forthcoming canonization of Blessed Charles de Foucauld as “the two recent Church events” that “shed a new and joyful light on what we are living.”

They term the Holy Father’s Encyclical a document that sheds light on the value of fraternity in their region, challenging the people of God in North Africa “in a special way.”

They explain in reference to Fratelli Tutti, “It is a first, as a text of the Magisterium of the Church, to mention to such an extent, the role of a Muslim figure in a papal reflection. That has links to our own experience of meeting with Muslims which can help us to grow in our own faith and in the understanding of God’s calling.” 

“In line with social encyclicals, this one is aimed not only at members of the Catholic Church, but also, in a world dimension, at all people of good will. Somehow the world is given to the Church as its limit, or rather as its horizon,” CERNA members add.

Advertisement

The Church leaders who minister in the predominantly Muslim countries of Libya, Tunisia, Western Sahara, Algeria, and Morocco say, “Here in North Africa, we daily experience life in a way which would be unimaginable without those bonds of fraternity and of mission alongside those of other faiths.”

“In North Africa we experience a sense of brotherhood that is challenged by religious differences,” they further say, adding that it is evident in families whose members convert to Christianity. 

They explain, “It takes time for the new Christian convert to acknowledge the insights he or she has received from their Muslim family, and also for the family to realize that their new faith hasn’t made them any less good, any less a brother or sister, or any less a citizen.”

CERNA members further identify race as one of the challenges they experience saying, “In our countries, difference of colour is also a challenge, and many Christians, especially students, migrants and religious from sub-Saharan Africa, are well aware of this.”

“Fortunately, they are sometimes well placed to be witnesses to the fraternity that can exist at the end of their struggles and are able to put things right through their perseverance, their humility, and their forgiveness. We discover that fraternity is a fight in which the weapons used are first and foremost within ourselves,” they explain.

More in Africa

In their collective statement, the members of CERNA also acknowledge the planned canonization of Blessed Charles de Foucauld as a major recent event that sheds “a new and joyful light on what we are living.”

Blessed Charles de Foucauld was a French missionary who ministered among the Tuareg people in Algeria where he was killed in 1916. In May, after approving a second miracle attributed to his intercession, Pope Francis advanced the cause of his sainthood. 

In their collective statement, CERNA members say that Blessed Foucauld who was passionate about the Sahara and its inhabitants “wanted to entrench himself there by mysteriously offering for them his life, his knowledge, his service and his prayer.”

They add in reference to Blessed Foucauld,’s mission among the Tuareg people in Algeria, “Even though he was not of the same race, culture or religion as them, he wanted to be considered as their brother since that seemed to him to be the greatest witness to the love of God which he had known in Jesus Christ.”

“He was a man of his time. He didn’t overcome all the prejudices of his era, but he paved the way for others so that, by trying like him to become ‘universal brothers’, they could work towards a true brotherhood of human-beings and of peoples irrespective of differences,” CERNA members add.

Advertisement

They call on the people of God in their region to “rediscover Charles de Foucauld, to let yourself be challenged, transformed and converted by God, just as the Lord transformed ‘Brother Charles’. In that way we can see his life as a shining star, his conversions – be they admirable or incomplete – as a call, his example as an aid, and his canonization as a grace.”

The Church leaders in the North African region invite the people of God under their pastoral care to spare time and read the Encyclical Fratelli Tutti and to prepare for the canonization of Charles de Foucauld.

They also highlight the need for global fraternity saying, “We would also like, along with you, to renew our commitment to the building up of a universal brotherhood through communion among ourselves.”

The CERNA members further say that universal fraternity can be made possible “through ecumenical effort with other Christians, through Christian-Muslim dialogue and with all people of good will, and this with a particular emphasis on peace and on the protection of our common home.”