Planned Pan-African Congress on Theology to Focus “on what it means to be a vital church”

A poster announcing the Pan-African Congress on Theology that members of the Pan-African Catholic Theology and Pastoral Network (PACTPAN) have organized. Credit: Courtesy Photo

The Pan-African Congress on Theology that members of the Pan-African Catholic Theology and Pastoral Network (PACTPAN) have organized this month is set to focus on the meaning of being “vital church” and Synodality among other issues in Africa and the whole world, an official of the entity involved in convening the Congress has said.

In an interview with ACI Africa, the organizing secretary of PACTPAN and the co-convener of the Pan-African Congress on Theology said that the four-day event that is scheduled to start on July 19 in Nairobi will also dwell on children and women issues in the African context.

“We are trying to focus on what it means to be a vital Church,” Sr. Mūmbi Kīgūtha said during the Thursday, July 14 interview, and explained, “A vital Church goes beyond our pews and the altar; it is how we care for the poor; it is how we address the social injustices.”

Sr. Mūmbi underlined the need for and what a vital Church entails, saying that baptized Catholics are sent to evangelize not just by preaching good news but also by their acts of social justice manifested in their respective engagement with others in society.

“A vital Church does not exist by itself through just vertical relationship with God,” the member of the Sisters of the Precious Blood (CPPS) said, adding that a vital Church “is also about the horizontal relationship that extends to the beggars on the streets and engaging with people on how they can sustain their families.”


The vision of PACTPAN is to “bridge the gap between pastoral practice and multi-disciplinary scholarly work on the African continent by collaboratively listening to both God and our people, in order to inspire hope and transformational faith and promote and curate best practices for the betterment of Church and society.” 

During the July 14 interview, Sr. Mūmbi told ACI Africa that through engagement with others in society, the people of God that are part of a vital Church can transform the population in a positive way.

In a July 5 press release, the organizers of the Pan-African Congress on Theology indicated that the second Biannual Congress is to bring together more than 100 international participants representing four continents, four African prelates and some representatives from the Vatican.

“The Board of Editors for Concilium, the prestigious and oldest theological journal in the world, will also be holding their first ever Africa based meeting in Nairobi in order to also participate at the Congress,” the organizers say in the press release.

The July 19-22 Congress that is to be held at the Catholic University of Eastern Africa (CUEA) in Nairobi is not restricted to “any particular qualifications but anybody who is interested in the Church teachings in Africa can attend,” Sr. Mūmbi said.

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The Kenyan Catholic Nun further said that in organizing for the Congress, PACTAN partnered with the African Catholicism Project at the Center for World Catholicism and Intercultural Theology (CWCIT), Chicago-based DePaul University, and CUEA, among other partners.

The Congress that is organized under the theme, “walking together for a vital Church in Africa and in the world” will also explore the ongoing preparations for the Synod on Synodality as well as women and children who, she said, are among the most marginalized groups in society, Sr. Mūmbi said.

Pope Francis’ Encyclical Letters such as Laudato Si’, Fratelli Tutti, and Amoris Laetitia will inspire discussions during the Congress, Sr. Mūmbi told ACI Africa during the July 14 interview.

Among the participants in the Congress “are those who have collaborated on African commentaries in the latest Encyclicals,” she said, and added, “We have collaborations on Amoris Laetitia; we have collaborations on Fratelli Tutti; we have collaborations on Laudato Si’”.

During the Congress, she said, “the biggest handbook of African Catholicism that has collaborative projects of many of our participants and members” will be launched.


Going beyond the Congress event, Sr. Mūmbi said she foresees “a manual” that can be used to to “inspire conversation and action” among the people at the grassroots in Parishes and learning institutions.

“We are hoping that apart from the presented information, a manual can be produced that will be used at Parish level, high school and family level to inspire conversation and action plan,” she said, and added, “When an Encyclical comes out, many people do not get the details, but if we create a study guide that can be used at the mentioned levels, we can make the message available to everyone.”

The co-convener of the Pan-African Congress on Theology also said that participants should expect a message from Pope Francis. 

“All I know is that it is going to be a message of encouragement,” she told ACI Africa in reference to the anticipated message of the Holy Father, and added, “It is going to be a surprise for all of us; so, we are all anticipating.”

Silas Mwale Isenjia is a Kenyan journalist with a great zeal and interest for Catholic Church related communication. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Linguistics, Media and Communication from Moi University in Kenya. Silas has vast experience in the Media production industry. He currently works as a Journalist for ACI Africa.