French Catholic university encourages African bishops in self-reflection

Kenyan bishops prepare to meet with Pope Francis in Nairobi, Nov. 26, 2015.
Credit: Martha Calderon/CNA.

The Institut Catholique de Paris hosted a conference Tuesday to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the leadership organization for Catholic bishops' conferences in Africa, at which the Church in Africa was invited to reflection on inculturation and its relationship with the Church in Europe.

The Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar will hold its golden jubilee in Kampala July 26-30.

Brigitte Cholvy, a professor who directs post-graduate courses at the Institut Catholique de Paris, discussed the April 2 conference with La Croix, a French Catholic daily. 

She told the publication that the interation between African and European theology means there is a need to discuss “the task of inculturation within a globalized context.”

“We need to be careful not to lean towards exoticism, while preserving all that has meaning in a given culture at a liturgical, ecclesial and Christological level,” Cholvy told La Croix.

The professor noted that those to be evangelized must be considered, while remembering also “that even in the most remote places in Africa, globalization has already arrived.”

According to Cholvy, the Institut Catholique de Paris “welcomes 50% of all doctoral students of Sub-Saharan origin,” and La Croix noted that many African priests and religious are educated in Europe.

The conference discussed Africa's responsibility for mission; the family; and the relationships between faith and culture, and the Church and society.

According to La Croix, self-reflection on the Church in Africa is hardly a new phenomenon; it noted the 1956 publication of “Des pretres noirs s'interrogent” (“Black priests challenge us”), which has been called “the birth of African theology”. The work, which La Croix said “led to the launch of reflection on African Christianity”, is a collection of more than 10 essays, with a preface by the then-Archbishop of Dakar, Marcel Lefebvre.

In May 2018 SECAM met with representatives of the German bishops' conference to discuss integral human development, with both groups affirming their need to continue the work of evangelization. Such meetings have been occuring every four to five years since 1982.

The bishops pointed to poverty, misery, disease, and despair in Africa “caused by human greed and corruption, injustices of all kinds and violence and fratricidal wars,” and in Europe, a “dearth of spiritual values, excessive materialism and consumerism, individualism, little or no of respect for the life and rights of the unborn, of the aged and the infirm.”

“All of these evils .. point to the fact that as Church we still have a lot to do in our evangelization mission,” they affirmed.

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