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Africa Given “a voice to be heard”: Catholic Archbishop in Cameroon on Synodality

Archbishop Andrew Nkea of Cameroon's Bamenda Achdiocese, addressing delegates at the 19th Plenary Assembly of SECAM in Accra , Ghana. Credit: ACI Africa

The ongoing preparations for the Synod on Synodality has finally given Africa a voice to be heard by the rest of the world, a member of the Synod Council in Rome has told delegates of the 19th Plenary Assembly of the Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar (SECAM) in Accra, Ghana.

In his presentation on the second day of the July 25 – August 1 Plenary Assembly that has brought together over 120 Catholic Bishops in Africa and Madagascar, Archbishop Andrew Nkea Fuanya of Bamenda in Cameroon said that the process leading to Synod on Synodality is also a chance for Africa “to craft out its own identity as a Church.”

“Many people often say that the future of the Church is in Africa. I don't know whether Africans themselves say this, but all I can say is that Synodality at the continental level gives Africa the opportunity to craft out its own identity as a Church,” Archbishop Nkea said in his Tuesday, July 26 address.

He added, “The continental stage of the synodal process simply means that Africa has been given a chance for her voice to be heard in the world as Africa. But better still, Africa has been given a chance to hear her own voice on her own soil about what she wants for herself.”

The Archbishop of Bamenda urged the delegates of the 19th Plenary Assembly of SECAM to hold the continental conversations on the Synod on Synodality in high esteem.

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“While we look forward to the celebration of the synod on Synodality at the level of the universal church, we should take the continental level as seriously as if that was the end,” the Cameroonian Archbishop told the delegates from the eight regional associations of the continental symposium.

He noted that the synodal conversations at the continental level provide a chance for Catholic Bishops in Africa to have the sense of direction for the “African Church of today and tomorrow.”

“The Holy Father has given us the chance and we should not lose it,” the member of the Synod Council in Rome said.

Archbishop Nkea who was voted by the Catholic Bishops in Africa as one of their representatives on the Synod council to prepare for the October 2023 Synod on Synodality said that he has been working with others in making proposals to Pope Francis about the Synod.

In his July 26 presentation, Archbishop Nkea observed that Synodality came as “an unexpected theme for the next synod of Bishops”, adding, “Although until now we are still struggling to understand it, I am passionate about it because I am convinced that it is the way the church has to go in this century.”

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He said that Synodality is not a concept to be studied, but a life to be lived.

“Synodality is a very sweet-sounding word, but it remains only a concept if it is not put into practice, and the only way to understand Synodality is by practicing Synodality,” the Local Ordinary of Bamenda who started his Episcopal Ministry in Cameroon’s Mamfe Diocese as Coadjutor Bishop in August 2013 said.

He confessed that the Synod on Synodality process is an act of the Holy Spirit, and explained, “Even those who have been working on Synodality since its inception do not adequately know how it will end.”

“We can understand the working of the Holy Spirit in the synodal process when we read John 3:8 which says: ‘The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So, it is with everyone born of the Spirit’. We have answered questionnaires; we have celebrated the Diocesan phase and we are now preparing to celebrate the continental phase; but what will come at the end of this synod on Synodality, is known only to the Holy Spirit,” Archbishop Nkea said.

He told delegates of the 19th Plenary Assembly of SECAM that Pope Francis was inspired when he decided that the Synod on Synodality “should not be like the others, but should be celebrated at all levels.”

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The approach of the Synod on Synodality, he said, enables the Synod’s theme to be contextualized at all levels, beginning from the Families, to the Small Christian Communities (SCCs), to the Mission Stations, to Parishes, to Deaneries, to Dioceses, to Ecclesiastical Provinces, to National Churches, to continental churches and to the Universal Church.

The Catholic Church leader who was appointed Archbishop in December 2019, and installed as Local Ordinary of Bamenda Archdiocese in February 2020 noted that at every level, Synodality is adapted to a specific context as long as it is situated in the backdrop of Communion, Participation and Mission.

“We are one, we are working together and we are on a mission, sent by Christ. As we have coined it in Pidgin English in the Local Church of Bamenda, we say: ‘For God He work, all man must put hand,’” Archbishop Nkea said July 26.