SECAM Bishops’ Plenary, a Moment to Renew Commitment to Evangelization: Vatican Cardinal

Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle, a Pro-Prefect of the Dicastery for Evangelization at the opening Mass of the 19th Plenary Assembly of the Symposium of Episcopal Conference of Africa and Madagascar (SECAM) in Accra, Ghana. Credit: ACI Africa

Delegates of the 19th Plenary Assembly of the Symposium of Episcopal Conference of Africa and Madagascar (SECAM) that officially started Tuesday, July 26 have been urged to seek to renew their commitment to the “mission of evangelization” in Africa.

In his homily during the opening Holy Mass of the Plenary Assembly that is bringing together over 120 Catholic Bishops in Africa in Ghana’s capital city, Accra, Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle, a Pro-Prefect of the Dicastery for Evangelization, urged members of SECAM to also use the meeting to reflect on their relationship with God.

“We thank God for gathering us as one community of faith as SECAM, and as God’s family in Africa,” Cardinal Tagle said in his homily on July 26 at Christ the King Parish of Accra Archdiocese, and added, “In this Eucharistic celebration, we ask the Lord for the grace of renewed commitment to our mission of evangelization.”

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Making reference to the disciples meeting with the risen Jesus in Galilee, the Vatican-based Cardinal said, “I want to imagine that on this 19th Plenary Assembly of SECAM we are led back to the mountain in Galilee to meet Jesus the risen one who will instruct and send his disciples. For us, the mountain in Galilee is here in Accra.”


The July 25 – August 1 SECAM Plenary Assembly follows the July 2019 that took place in Kampala, Uganda, concluding with the election of Philippe Cardinal Ouedraogo, the Archbishop of Ouagadougou in Burkina Faso, as the President of the continental symposium.

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Delegates of the 19th Plenary Assembly who are meeting under the theme, “Ownership of SECAM: Security and Migration in Africa and its Islands”, are drawn from the eight regional associations of the continental symposium, which include the Association of Episcopal Conferences of Central Africa (ACEAC), the Association of Member Episcopal Conferences in Eastern Africa (AMECEA), the Association of Episcopal Conferences of Central Africa Region (ACERAC), and the Regional Episcopal Conferences of West Africa (RECOWA/CERAO).

Other regional associations include the Assembly of the Catholic Hierarchy of Egypt (AHCE), the Regional Episcopal Conferences of North Africa (CERNA), Madagascar and Episcopal Conferences of Indian Ocean (CEDOI), and the Inter-Regional Meeting of the Bishops of Southern Africa (IMBISA).

In his homily on the second day of the Plenary, Cardinal Tagle noted that the SECAM Plenary Assembly is “a time to gather around Jesus again and to await his word.”

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“Our Assembly should be marked by adoration of Jesus, the risen one. It should be marked by contemplation of Jesus’ presence in the Church in Africa and in the world. And we must admit that we do not always understand and follow Jesus,” the Filipino Cardinal said.

He said that the meeting of Catholic Bishops in Africa in Accra is a moment for them to reflect on their relationship with Jesus and to adore the Lord together, going beyond their respective selves.

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“This Assembly is a grace moment to humbly accept our limitations and our failures. There is no room for self-homage,” Cardinal Tagle said, and added, “Homage must be paid to Jesus and not to ourselves.”


He explained, “There is no room for self-adoration in our Ecclesial Assembly. Neither should we pretend to be already fully formed as Jesus’ disciples with nothing more to learn. There is something that we do not understand, something we do not know, something to learn.”

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The Pro-Prefect of the Dicastery that has merged the former Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples and the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization   challenged Catholic Bishops in Africa to embrace Jesus’ authority of love. 

He said that without Jesus’ model of authority, evangelizers become “noisy gods”.

“Without Jesus’ authority of love and service, potential evangelizers and pastors become tyrants,” he said, and posed, “By what authority do we go on mission?”

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The 65-year-old Filipino Cardinal who started his Episcopal Ministry in Philippine’s Diocese of Imus in December 2001 said that evangelizers disseminate Jesus’ outlook on happiness and blessedness.

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“Those who are sent to make the disciples of all the nations must teach them that for Jesus, blessedness, happiness, is found in poverty of spirit, meekness, in showing mercy, in doing justice in promoting peace, and in caring for the hungry, the thirsty, the naked, the stranger, the prisoner and the homeless,” he said during his July 26 homily.

The former Archbishop of Manila Archdiocese in the Philippines added, “A disciple of Jesus loves as Jesus loved … Disciple of Jesus must learn from Jesus over and over again.”

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