In Synodal Process, Catholics in West African Want “Church to redefine her values”

Official logo of the Synod on Synodality. Credit: Vatican Media

A section of Catholics in West Africa who have actively participated in the ongoing preparations for the Synod on Synodality is advocating for the redefinition of Church values, the leadership of the Regional Episcopal Conference of West Africa (RECOWA) has said. 

Speaking during the Tuesday, January 17 virtual press conference on the progress of the Synodal Process that is in its Continental phase, RECOWA Secretary General presented reactions from Catholics in West Africa.

Fr. Vitalis Anaehobi said, “The people insisted that there is need for the Church to redefine her values and this redefinition of values in a changing world should be based on the word of God and the living tradition of the Church and not on feelings and sentiments.”

Those who participated in sessions in preparation for the Synod on Synodality “said sociological and societal pressure should not push the Church to put away the word of God and rely on human wisdom as criteria for discernment and working together in synodality,” Fr. Anaehobi added. 

The Nigerian Catholic Priest who was speaking during the January 17 event that was organized by the General Secretariat of the Symposium of Episcopal Conference of Africa and Madagascar (SECAM) and the Communication desk of the Vatican’s General Secretariat of the Synod said Catholics in RECOWA expressed reservations about the image of the tent that was used as the opening statement of the Document for the Continental Stage (DCS). 


Catholics in West Africa “prefer the image of the house where Jesus says ‘In my Father's house there are many mansions’; they prefer that to a tent,” the Secretary General of RECOWA said in reference to the image in DCS.

Fr. Anaehobi explained, “When we say the central idea is inclusiveness, they prefer a house where there are rules and principles and not just a tent where anybody can just come in.”

Launched in October 2022, the DCS of the 2021-2024 Synod on Synodality is a document resulting from the people of God following the first phase of the Synodal process.

The 48-page document facilitates reflections on the issues that emerged during the first phase of the Synodal process to aid Continental Synodal Assemblies that are expected to take place between January and March 2023.

In his presentation during the January 17 webinar, the Secretary General of RECOWA said Catholics in West Africa “raised the issue of formation in faith and in the word of God” as imperative in the Synodal process.

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“They remarked that the world is changing so much, so much so that the word of God is becoming like just any ordinary literary book, and they say there is need for Christians to be formed on the truth of the word of God,” Fr. Anaehobi said.

Catholics in West Africa, Fr. Anaehobi said, also want particular interest in caring for the poor.

“They remarked that a majority of Christians are in the level of the poor people, so more efforts should be concentrated on this class of people,” he said, and added, “There is also the issue of the physically challenged that should also be accompanied properly by the Church.”

Those participating in the Synodal process in West Africa, the Nigerian Catholic Priest continued, “ended by the preferential option for the youths who are leaving the Church today in groups. They feel that the Church has to devise a strategy of returning these young people who are the future of the Church.”

Based on the feedback from participants, the Secretary General of RECOWA underscored the place of basic unity of society saying, “Africans have a nostalgia for living and working as a family.”


Fr. Anaehobi said he finds it regrettable that the family spirit in Africa “is being destroyed by the realities of life in the present day, especially the economic and financial hardship that our people are going through in the present moment.”

Jude Atemanke is a Cameroonian journalist with a passion for Catholic Church communication. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism and Mass Communication from the University of Buea in Cameroon. Currently, Jude serves as a journalist for ACI Africa.