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On SECAM Day, Catholic Bishops in Africa Appeal for “inclusive culture, rooted in Christ”

Members of SECAM Standing Committee in Accra, Ghana, in October 2019. Credit: SECAM

The leadership of the Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar (SECAM) that brings together Catholic Bishops in Africa have “passionately” appealed to the people of God on the continent to avoid divisions, striving to embrace an inclusive culture that is rooted in Christ.

In a goodwill message to the People of God on the occasion of the July 29 and August 1 celebration of 2021 SECAM Day, the leadership of SECAM says, “SECAM Day reminds us of our oneness with God and with each other in Jesus Christ, which transcends all our differences and puts them in the proper perspective.”

“We therefore, passionately appeal to all the peoples of Africa and the Islands to eschew anything that divides us, and imbibe everything that puts God first in our lives, and nurtures true brotherhood and sisterhood (see FT nos. 274 281) throughout the continent and the Islands,” SECAM leadership says on behalf of the Catholic Bishops in Africa.

In the message shared with ACI Africa on the eve of the Thursday, July 29 event, the Catholic Church leaders call for “an inclusive culture and worldview rooted in Christ, where there is neither Jew nor Greek, master nor slave.”

In this regard, SECAM members “remind all brother Bishops in Africa, Madagascar, the Islands and beyond that SECAM is an Episcopal Association and so our collective property.”

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“All Bishops are members of the Symposium and have shared responsibility for it,” they say, and add in reference to Catholic Bishops in Africa, “They are ambassadors of SECAM, with a leading role in its spiritual, financial and material welfare”

SECAM Day commemorates the official launching of the Symposium of Catholic Bishops in Africa in July 1969 by Pope Paul VI in Uganda’s capital, Kampala. This was the first visit of a Pope to Africa in modern times.

The annual event is considered important for the Church in Africa because it offers an opportunity for the faithful on the continent to contribute toward sustaining the activities of SECAM.

Established in July 2013, during SECAM’s 16th Plenary Assembly, SECAM Day is also important because it provides an opportunity for all members of the Family of God in Africa and the surrounding Islands to pray for and identify with SECAM.

In their message dated July 29 and signed by the President of the continental symposium, Philippe Cardinal Ouédraogo, Catholic Bishops in Africa note, “Our collective interests in, and sacrifices for the Symposium are necessary to achieve its goals.”

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To this end, those at the helm of the Ghana-based Bishops’ symposium encourage the Bishop members to foster “communion” and interact with the Kampala Document (KD), the 100-page publication bearing conclusions of the year-long Golden Jubilee of SECAM (July 2018 – July 2019) held in Uganda’s Archdiocese of Kampala.

The leadership of SECAM “earnestly urge each brother Bishop to strengthen our communion and commitment to SECAM and to ensure that the Kampala Document and its exhortations are reflected in the pastoral program of the local or particular Church.”

In their July 29 message, SECAM members also reflect on the challenges the people of God in Africa are grappling with, including the COVID-19 pandemic, insecurity and violence.

“We the people of Africa and the Islands (as elsewhere) are going through distressing and traumatizing experiences caused by different variants of Coronavirus (COVID-1 9),” they say.

The Catholic Bishops in Africa continue, “Ongoing wars, terrorist attacks and other violent clashes have resulted in loss of life and property in different African countries. Countless numbers of our sons and daughters have been brutally murdered and numerous others are living in dehumanizing conditions, perpetual fear and anxiety.” 

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“While we bemoan the plight of our people everywhere, we also call for renewed courage and trust in our omnipotent, loving and merciful God,” SECAM members say in their message shared with ACI Africa.

Making reference to St. Paul's counsel to the Thessalonians, the Bishops invite the people of God in Africa to “turn to God our Father today, 29th July 2021 and on 1st August 2021 to thank Him for his sustained blessings and protection, for the gift of one another, the gift of mother Africa and the gift of our Catholic faith.”

“Let us also solemnly beseech him for the end of the Coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19) so too violence, torture, kidnapping and other crimes committed by individuals and groups in Africa and beyond,” they implore.

Cardinal Ouédraogo presided over the Eucharistic celebration to mark SECAM Day July 29.

In their goodwill message, SECAM leadership appeals for “financial and material support for SECAM this year, 2021.”

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“We are also profoundly grateful to our brother Bishops, the Clergy, consecrated persons and lay members of the Church Family of God in Africa and the Islands for their commitment to Evangelization in all its forms, in spite of the prevailing trials on different fronts,” they say.

The Bishops also “recognize and appreciate the efforts that have been made since 2020 by respective governments on the continent and the Islands to contain the vicious spread of Coronavirus (COVID-19) and we encourage the leaders to continue working hard to protect the health of our population.”

“We also thank all the people, including Priests and consecrated persons who have shown extraordinary dedication to alleviating the suffering of the sick,” Catholic Bishops in Africa further say.

They also say that they “are indebted to all those within and outside Africa and the Islands who have shown solidarity with us and supported the Symposium over the past year. We are equally grateful to all those who, with dedication and diligence, keep SECAM running.” 

“To all our brothers and sisters in Africa, Madagascar, the islands and beyond, we say: your generosity broadens SECAM's mission, increases its influence, and helps us to serve the Church and society better,” the leadership of SECAM says.

“May the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God and Queen of Africa, and Saint Joseph Patron of the Universal Church, Intercede for the Symposium. Amen,” Catholic Bishops in Africa implore in their 2021 SECAM Day message shared with ACI Africa.