, 24 January, 2020 / 3:00 AM
The Episcopal Commission for Clergy, Seminaries and Pastoral Care of Vocations in the West African nation of Ivory Coast has announced an Extraordinary Congress on the life and ministry of priests, the first-ever, at the beginning of the second half of the year and called on well-wishers to donate toward the course viewed as “a new beginning in spiritual growth.”
Convened under the theme, “The priest in Ivory Coast in the face of situations that challenge his life,” the July 1-5 Congress is in line with the recommendations of Pope Francis’ Apostolic Exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium.
“We hope that it will be a new beginning in spiritual growth, in the realization of the priestly grace that all priests in Ivory Coast have received,” the Episcopal Chair of the Commission for Clergy, Seminaries and Pastoral Care of Vocations in Ivory Coast, Bishop Gaspard Béby Gnéba told journalists at a press conference at the headquarters of Episcopal Conference of Ivory Coast (CECCI) in Abidjan Tuesday, January 21.
For priests and religious in Ivory Coast, this congress will be an opportunity to take stock of the years of priesthood, to take up the challenges and expectations in their following of Christ, the Ivorian Bishop said.
The work of the congress will be based on the “Instrumentum Laboris” prepared by the Episcopal Commission for the Clergy, a two-point working document bringing together a set of questions on the life and ministry of the priest in the Church Family of God, the Bishop of Ivory Coast’s Man Diocese explained.
“This congress will make it possible to examine this important question of the life of (the) clergy,” the 57-year-old Prelate told journalists and added, “It is necessary to reflect together and to organize the remuneration of priests and give them everything they need to (live) their priestly ministry without great difficulty.”
As members of society, the clergy in Ivory Coast minister within the existing socio-political context with its challenges, the Ivorian Prelate noted and explained, “The difficulties that society encounters are also difficulties for priests and bishops. Many find it difficult to understand this, but we are going to help them by accompanying them.”
He added, “The social and political problems that arise also affect the Church.”
The planned five-day Congress, which will be held in a pre-election period will allow priests in the West African country to return to their fundamental mission, which is to lead people to God, Bishop Béby underscored.
“The crisis that we have experienced requires that the priest be able to reposition himself so as not to lose the relevance and effectiveness of his discourse,” the Bishop of Man told journalists in Abidjan and encouraged the clergy in his country to reflect about the social, political, religious and ecclesial situations of their respective pastoral contexts.
He probed, “How should today's Ivorian priest fit into this new Ivorian society and how should he situate himself in it?”
“It is a society that is divided, fractured, but how can and should the priest be a unifier beyond the difficulties?” Bishop Béby probed further and urged, “we must reflect and pray in relation to the universal challenges of the Church. There are also new challenges in relation to the whole of humanity.”
“The Ivorian priest is also in the world, in the Universal Church, there are new challenges in today's world,” Bishop Béby said and added, “A context such as ours strongly challenges the clergy. The Church must reposition itself in its mission which is to lead the whole Ivory Coast in love, forgiveness and reconciliation, towards God's project.”
Meanwhile, Bishops in Ivory Coast have called upon the faithful to support the course of the Congress through donations.
“Those of the Ecclesiastical Province of Abidjan should deposit their food at the secretariat of the conference, and for the provinces of Gagnoa, Bouaké and Korhogo, these donations should be deposited at the diocesan centre of Yamoussoukro which will host the event,” Bishop Béby said.
During the press conference, the Ivorian Prelate disclosed, “an estimated budget of 65 million CFA francs (USD 109,983) was envisaged to welcome the 500 priest delegates who are to take part in the congress.”
According to the Ivorian Bishop, “The Catholic Bishops' Conference of Ivory Coast (CECCI) has decided to finance up to 45 million CFA francs (USD 76,150).”
Bishop Béby announced, at the Press Conference, the plan to unveil “the five-year pastoral plan adopted by the bishops of Ivory Coast based on the aspirations of the Ivorian society.”
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