, 04 December, 2019 / 12:50 AM
Ten years after the Second Special Assembly for Africa of the Synod of Bishops on the theme “The Church in Africa at the Service of Reconciliation, Justice and Peace” during which Church leaders on the continent deliberated on, among other themes, transforming “theology into pastoral care,” a four-day Pan-African Catholic Congress on Theology, Society and Pastoral Life is set to take place in Enugu, Nigeria, under the theme, “What must we do to perform the works of God.”
“The overall goal of this important assembly is to reflect on the faith and fate of our people, evaluate different pastoral and theological approaches and jointly develop some best pastoral practices for the renewal and reform of the Catholic Church in Africa,” the organizers of the December 5-8, 2019 convention have stated in an online post.
The Congress will bring “together 80 prominent African clerics, laity, religious and scholars to develop best practices and new approaches for doing theology and pastoral ministries in the changing faces of faith and life in Africa,” the organizers have disclosed.
Among the conveners of the Congress set to employ the African Palaver method are the African Catholicism Project at the Centre for World Catholicism and Intercultural Theology (CWCIT), Chicago-based DePaul University, the Association of African Theologians in collaboration with the Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar (SECAM), Bigard Memorial Seminary, Enugu and various Catholic Seminaries and Universities across Africa.
Besides providing a forum for strengthening and expanding the CWCIT network of African scholars, the convention will contribute content toward the publication of three books, which “will serve as a guide for theological education, pastoral life, formation of pastoral agents, and training of the laity in social justice, faith formation, and active participation in political and civic life in African countries at all levels.”
According to the organizers, potential beneficiaries of the continental forum include “theologians, Church leaders and pastors, students under formation for priestly and religious life, lay members of Christ’s faithful, African Catholics and other Christians and the Universal Church.”
With “a short statement of commitment” envisaged at the end of the Congress Sunday, December 8, those spearheading the plans for the convention think that “the new ideas, practices, proposals and (the) final statement of commitment will hopefully be a guide on pastoral and theological work in Africa as well as in other contexts of faith and life in the Universal Church.”
While aiming to make the conference biannual, the Congress conveners are hoping to launch and “maintain an online data base on African theological and pastoral research and publications to support the work of formation and theological education in Africa.”
The Congress is also set to celebrate 50 years since the establishment of the Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar (SECAM), 25 years since the First Special Assembly of the Synod of Bishops for Africa, and 10 years since the Second Special Assembly of the Synod of Bishops for Africa were held.
Some of the key documents to inspire deliberations during the Congress include SECAM’s “Pastoral Letter” issued at the end of the Bishops’ plenary in July 2019, Pope St. John Paul II’s 1995 Post Synodal Apostolic Exhortation “Ecclesia in Africa”, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI’s 2011 Post Synodal Apostolic Exhortation “Africae Munus”, Pope Francis’ 2016 Apostolic Exhortation “Evangelii Gaudium” as well as documents from the Second Vatican Council.
“At the end of the congress,” the organizers have noted, “interested participants and speakers will be invited to join a strong cohort of African bishops, priests, scholars, practitioners, activists, laity and religious who through critical and creative research, dialogue and reflection on the implementation of the proposals of the two African synods and Africa’s commitments through her church leaders in realizing the teachings of Vatican II will continue this exchange through other channels which will be discussed during the Congress.”
Having such a network, the organizers are convinced, will see the Congress “continue beyond the presentation of papers and discussion in the Congress halls.”
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