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Tuesday, December 6, 2016
Final message from African Synod
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The final message of the Second Special Assembly for Africa of the Synod of Bishops was presented and voted upon this morning. The president delegate on duty was Cardinal Wilfrid Fox Napier OFM, archbishop of Durban, South Africa. A first version of the concluding Message of the Synod has been published, extracts of which are given below:

"I: LOOKING AT AFRICA TODAY

Rich in human and natural resources, many of [Africa's] people are still left to wallow in poverty and misery, wars and conflicts, crisis and chaos. ... [These] are largely due to human decisions and activities by people who have no regard for the common good and this often through a tragic complicity and criminal conspiracy of local leaders and foreign interests.

There is much good news in many parts of Africa. But the modern media often tend to emphasize bad news and thus seem to focus more on our woes and defects than on the positive efforts that we are making. ... Signals abound of many initiatives seeking to bring effective solutions to our problems.

II: IN THE LIGHT OF FAITH

True pardon promotes the justice of repentance and reparation, leading to a peace that goes to the roots of conflict, making friends, brothers and sisters out of former victims and enemies. Since it is God who makes this kind of reconciliation possible, we must give adequate place for prayer and the sacraments in this ministry, especially the Sacrament of Penance".

III: TO THE WORLD CHURCH

The Church in Africa thanks God for many of her sons and daughters who are missionaries on other continents. ... Special thanks go to those who have remained with their people even in times of war and grave crisis. Some have even paid for their fidelity with their very lives.

IV: THE CHURCH IN AFRICA

We are convinced that the first and most specific contribution of the Church to the people of Africa is to proclaim the Gospel of Christ. ... In this regard, all members of the Church, clergy, religious and lay faithful, must be mobilised to work together in the unity that brings strength.

As bishops, we challenge ourselves to work in unity in our various Episcopal Conferences. ... The unity of the episcopacy is a source of great strength, while its absence wastes energies, frustrates efforts and gives room for the enemies of the Church to neutralise our witness. An important area where such national cooperation and cohesion is very useful is in the media and social communications.

Each bishop ... should ensure the establishment of a Justice and Peace Commission at all levels. We should continue to work hard on forming consciences and changing hearts, through effective catechesis at all levels.

Our dioceses must be models of good governance, transparency and good financial management. We have to continue to do our best to tackle poverty, which is a major obstacle to peace and reconciliation. Here suggestions for micro-finance schemes deserve careful attention.

In this Year for Priests, dear brothers in the priesthood, we address you in particular, who occupy a key position in the apostolate of the diocese... Catechesis, formation of the laity, the pastoral care of people in high office; none of these will go far without your full commitment in your parishes and different places of assignment. ... Your fidelity to the priestly commitment, particularly to a life of celibacy in chastity, as well as detachment from material things is an eloquent witness to the People of God.

Africa in recent years has also become very fertile ground for religious vocations: priests, brothers and sisters. We thank God for this great blessing. ... In particular, the Synod congratulates you, women religious, for your dedication and zeal in your apostolate of health, education and other areas of human development.

This Synod turns with deep affection to the lay faithful of Africa. You are the Church of God out in the market places of society. It is in and through you that the life and witness of the Church are made visible to the world. ... Allow your Christian faith to permeate every aspect and facet of your lives; in the family, at work, in the professions, in politics and public life. This is no easy task. That is why you must assiduously access the means of grace, through prayer and the Sacraments.

The Synod has a very important and special message for you, our dear African Catholics in public life. We commend the many of you who, not minding all the dangers and uncertainties of politics in Africa, have generously offered yourselves for the public service of your people, as an apostolate to promote the common good and God's kingdom. ... Africa needs saints in high political office: saintly politicians who will clean the continent of corruption, work for the good of the people, and know how to galvanize other men and women of good will from outside the Church to join hands against the common evils that beset our nations. ... Many Catholics in high office have fallen woefully short in their performance in office. The Synod calls on such people to repent, or quit the public arena and stop causing havoc to the people and giving the Catholic Church a bad name.

Dear Catholic families of Africa, we congratulate you for doggedly remaining true to the ideals of the Christian family and retaining the best values of our African family. We alert you to be on your guard against some virulent ideological poisons from abroad, claiming to be "modern" culture. You should continue to welcome children as gift from God, and train them in the knowledge and fear of God, to be people of reconciliation, justice and peace in future. ... Poverty often makes parents unable to take good care of their children, with disastrous consequence. ... Most families are asking for just what is enough for survival. They have a right to live.

The specific contribution of women, not only in the home as wife and mother but also in the social sphere should be more generally acknowledged and promoted. The Synod recommends to our local Churches to go beyond the general statement of EIA, and put in place concrete structures to ensure real participation of women "at appropriate levels".

We feel the need to pay particular attention to you, young adults. You are often neglected, left adrift as targets for all kinds of ideologies and sects. You are the ones most often recruited and used for violence. We urge all the local Churches to consider the apostolate to the youth a high priority.

V: AN APPEAL TO THE INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY

The Church is second to none in the fight against HIV/AIDS and the care of people infected and affected by it in Africa. ... This Synod, with the Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, seriously warns that the problem cannot be overcome by the distribution of prophylactics. We appeal to all who are genuinely interested in arresting the sexual transmission of HIV/AIDS to recognise the success already obtained by programs that propose abstinence among those not yet married, and fidelity among the married.

To the great powers of this world, we plead: treat Africa with respect and dignity. Africa has been calling for a change in the world economic order, with unjust structures piled heavily against her. Recent turmoil in the financial world shows the need for a radical change of rules. But it would be a tragedy if adjustments are made only in the interest of the rich and again at the expense of the poor. Many of the conflicts, wars and poverty of Africa derive mainly from these unjust structures.

A change is called for with regard to the debts burden against poor nations, which literally kills children. Multinationals have to stop their criminal devastation of the environment in their greedy exploitation of natural resources. It is short-sighted policy to foment wars in order to make fast gains from chaos, at the cost of human lives and blood. Is there no one out there able and willing to stop all these crimes against humanity?

VI: AFRICA, RISE UP!

We commend the efforts to liberate Africa from cultural alienation and political bondage. ... On the economic front, Africa has tried to fashion for herself a strategic framework for development called NEPAD, New Economic Partnership for African Development. ... The Synod commends these efforts, because these programmes clearly link economic emancipation of Africa with the installation of good governance. Here, unfortunately, is the sticking point. For most African nations the beautiful documents of NEPAD are still a dead letter.

The Synod happily congratulates the few countries in Africa which have started on the route of genuine democracy. ... The Synod is sad to note that the situation in many countries is a great shame. We think in particular about the ... situation in Somalia, ... in Northern Uganda, South Sudan, Darfur, Guinea Conakry and other places. ... Whatever may be the responsibility of foreign interests, there is always the shameful and tragic collusion of the local leaders: politicians who betray and sell out their nations.

VII: JOINING OUR SPIRITUAL FORCES

The Synod calls for ever greater ecumenical collaboration with our brothers and sisters of other Christian traditions. We also look forward to more dialogue and cooperation with Muslims, the adherents of African Traditional Religion (ATR) and people of other faiths. Religious fanaticism is ... causing havoc in many parts of Africa. From our traditional religious culture, Africans have imbibed a deep sense of God, the Creator. ... When this religious fervour is misdirected by fanatics or manipulated by politicians, conflicts are provoked that tend to engulf everyone.

The Synod heard the testimony of many Synod Fathers who have successfully walked the road of dialogue with Muslims. ... The issues of reconciliation, justice and peace generally are concerns for entire communities, irrespective of creed. Working on the many shared values between the two faiths, Christians and Muslims can contribute greatly towards restoring peace and reconciliation in our nations.

Freedom of religion includes also freedom to share one's faith, to propose, not impose it, to accept and welcome converts. Those nations which by law forbid their citizens from embracing the Christian faith are depriving their own citizens of their fundamental human right to freely decide on the creed to embrace. ... This Synod warns that such restriction of freedom subverts sincere dialogue and frustrates genuine collaboration. Since Christians who decide to change their religion are welcomed into the Muslim fold, there ought to be reciprocity in this matter. Mutual respect is the way forward".


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