, 20 November, 2019 / 2:31 AM
Some 900 delegates from across the African continent are gathering in the capital of Burkina Faso, Ouagadougou, for the Africa and Madagascar Congress on Divine Mercy, the fourth such spiritual meeting to be organized in Africa, with various African Church leaders including the Papal delegate setting the tone and outlining the value and significance of the weeklong spiritual exercise Tuesday, November 19.
“Where there is misery, God’s mercy comes to announce a message,” the Papal delegate to the Congress, Dieudonné Cardinal Nzapalainga, Archbishop of Bangui in Central African Republic (CAR) told the hundreds of delegates who gathered at the opening ceremony.
The Cardinal, a member of the religious Congregation of the Holy Ghost Fathers (Spiritans), announced the immediately purpose of the spiritual Congress saying, “We are called upon during this congress to pray and implore God’s mercy for our beloved continent so that God may end the violence and bloodshed noted in Africa in recent times.”
The host of the Congress, the Archbishop of Ouagadougou, Philippe Cardinal Ouédraogo expressed joy at the choice of Burkina Faso as the venue of the continental event.
“Our country Burkina Faso and the Church family of God rejoice in the honor bestowed on them to host the 4th Pan-African Congress of Divine Mercy, which is a great reason for joy, thanksgiving and hope.”
“This 4th Congress is above all a gathering of believers in their diversity to celebrate, promote and live fraternity under the sign of divine mercy,” Cardinal Ouédraogo told close to 900 delegates gathered at the Ouagadougou Congress hall for the official opening ceremony.
According the Burkinabe Cardinal, the Congress offers an opportunity for the people of God in Africa “to address the burning challenges of Africa and Madagascar such as poverty, war, terrorism, tribalism, bad governance, corruption and the various evils that undermine and afflict the African continent.”
Cardinal Ouédraogo who is also the President of the Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar (SECAM) prayed that the days of prayer and reflection during the Congress “be for each African nation a grace to install peace, justice and reconciliation.”
“Where Divine Mercy has lost all its value, violence, wars, inter-tribal conflict, injustices will crop in,” the Burkinabe Prelate cautioned.
The President of the Bishops’ Conference for Niger and Burkina Faso, Bishop Laurent Birfuoré Dabiré viewed the Congress as an opportunity for spelling out hope in Africa.
“By this Congress, we can all give to our world new signs of hope by taking action to promote justice and solidarity and a new culture of human life for the edification of an authentic civilization of truth and love,” Bishop Dabiré said.
He added, “Divine Mercy calls us to have understanding and compassion on humanity as a whole in order to resolve divisions, wars, conflicts, corruption and poverty so that a new era of justice and peace, fraternity and love will return to our beloved continent.”
At the Tuesday event, Burkina Faso’s Minister for Territorial Administration, decentralization and social cohesion, Simeone Sawadogo expressed gratitude to the Catholic Church in his West African landlocked country for spearheading initiatives toward peace and reconciliation.
“Our country has always benefited from the message of peace and reconciliation preached by the Catholic Church. The Catholic Church a true partner of government in these challenging moments of our country has continuously supported victims of violence in our country,” Mr Sawadogo said.
He continued, “In deciding to hold this congress on the theme “Divine Mercy a grace for our time,” the Church in Africa and Madagascar wants to place our continent plagued with multiple challenges on the auspices of love, forgiveness and peace.”d
Convened under the theme, “Divine Mercy, a grace for our time,” the Congress has brought together Cardinals, Archbishops, Bishops, priests, religious men and women, parish leaders and representatives of Small Christian communities, among other guests from across Africa, Madagascar and other parts of the globe.
The next days of the Congress will see delegates prayerfully reflect in conferences and panel discussions, plenary sessions as well as workshops.
In its liturgical dimension, the Congress will include Eucharistic celebrations, adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, the sacrament of reconciliation, the hour of mercy and a pilgrimage to the shrine of Our Lady of Yagma, a village in the Zam Department of Ganzourgou Province in central Burkina Faso.
The Congress will conclude November 24 with a Eucharistic celebration to be presided over by the Papal delegate to the event, Cardinal Nzapalainga at the Our Lady of Immaculate Conception Cathedral Ouagadougou.
From the 2019 Divine Mercy Congress website, “It was after the birth of Pope John Paul II in heaven that the idea of organizing, at the international, continental and local levels, conference on Divine Mercy was born to deepen the knowledge and experience of the Divine Mercy, a mystery which is at the heart of the revelation of the identity of God and which is a powerful leaven of transformation of human relations as well as social structures.”
During the last Pan-African Congress held in Rwanda’s capital, Kigali in 2016 with some 600 participants drawn from 22 countries, DR Congo’s Laurent Cardinal Monsengwo who was the Papal Special Envoy dedicated Africa and Madagascar to Divine Mercy.
The organizers of the ongoing Ouagadougou Congress have described it as “a gathering of believers in their diversity to celebrate, promote and live the brotherhood under the sign of Divine Mercy, close to the burning challenges of Africa and Madagascar.”
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