Did Pan-Amazonian Synod Opportunities Evade First Missionaries in Africa?

An indigenous woman from the Amazon region hands Pope Francis a plant during the closing Mass of the Synod

Days after the three-week Pan-Amazonian Synod concluded at the Vatican, an Ivorian religious missionary priest is of the opinion that the kind of opportunities utilized by the fathers of the recently concluded Synod were missed out by the Church in Africa, particularly at the time of implanting the Catholic faith gospel on the African continent.

“When we read the final message about the synod of the Amazonia, we say that if such a missionary vision had been favored for Africa, if the prophetic voice of many of our theologians had been heard, we would have today a more authentic African Christianity and our people would not find themselves living their faith in a constantly syncretic dynamic,” Fr. Donald Zagore, a member of the Society of African Missions (SMA) has stated in a reflection shared with ACI Africa.

For the Togo-based missionary, the just concluded Synod is a new beginning for the people of the Amazon as they seem to have made good use of the opportunity to recover from an “inglorious missionary past.”

“Today with the Amazon, we feel a Church that is redeemed, that is recovering, that is converted from its inglorious missionary past as in Africa working to promote an evangelizing approach, which far from imposing a European vision of the Church in the Amazon, wants to build and promote a vision specific to the Amazonian people, taking into account all the socio-cultural dynamics of this people,” Fr. Zagore reflects.

He notes that that since evangelization started in the 19th century, “The church implanted was somehow the reproduction of the European Church from which came the missionaries.”


While appreciating that in Africa, the “process of reconnecting with the cultural roots such as inculturation is ongoing but with a lot of difficulties,” the missionary priest views the Amazon Synod as “a missionary revolution; that (what) for a long time (was) elaborated in theories, takes real shape in the concrete.”

While noting that “God does not reveal himself in the same way to all people”, the Ivorian religious missionary particularly criticizes the “Europeanization” of Christianity in Africa by the first European missionaries on the continent and expresses preference for a common ground between the gospel of Christ and the values of indigenous people.

“Instead of promoting African socio-cultural values ​​for a purely African Church, we were content in our dynamic missionaries to Europeanize the African Christian by imposing a vision of God born of European categories,” Fr. Zagore laments.

According to the Society of African Missions cleric, missionary work should be an opportunity to allow indigenous people to experience God in their own unique way rather than have “foreign” Christian ideologies imposed on them.

“The truth is that missionary activity must not be a channel through which God, enclosed in categories, is imported and imposed,” Fr. Zagore argues and adds with regard to missionary work in general, “but rather it must allow to discover and to welcome God already present in the heart of people to whom we are sent, since God is indeed present in the midst of the people long before the missionaries.”

More in Africa

On some specifics that might have evaded the Church in Africa, Fr. Zagore refers to the proposal by the Amazon Synod fathers to have an Amazonian Rite meant “to express the liturgical, theological, disciplinary and spiritual heritage of the Amazon.”

For Fr. Zagore, the consideration of a Rite for the Amazonian people is a “missionary conversion” that moves away from imposing foreign Church structures to developing local structures.

“With the report of the Synod on Amazon, I find implemented the missionary conversion that the new evangelization advocates,” he says in his reflection and explains, “to move from ... the reproduction of Roman ecclesial structures everywhere, to ... where the ecclesial structure is put in place starting from Jesus Christ meeting concrete people.”

Through the Amazon Synod, which took place from October 6-27 at the Vatican under the theme “Amazonia, new paths for the Church and for an integral ecology” the Church offered a listening ear to the people of the Amazon on the challenges that they face.

Among the proposals in the 33-paged final document on the Synod is the ordination of married men of good standing to priesthood (viri probati) and an increased role of women in the Amazonian Church consisting of nine countries, that is, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, French Guiana, Guyana, Peru, Suriname, and Venezuela.


As the Catholic News Agency reported, “In its own right, the final synodal document has no teaching or binding authority of its own. Synods are merely consultative assemblies, convened by the pope or a bishop, to advise on some particular topic. Typically, after a meeting of the Synod of Bishops in Rome, the pope issues a post synodal apostolic exhortation.”