African Synod calls for greater recognition of women in church

The  African Synod meeting in Rome has been called to recommend to all dioceses the establishment or consolidation of family apostolate and women affairs offices and make them operational and fully effective.

Archbishop Telesphore George Mpundu of Lusaka Zambia said denial of equality to women is an affront to human dignity and denial of true development to humanity

"Bishops must speak more clearly and insistently in defense of the dignity of women in the light of the Scriptures and the Social Doctrine of the Church," Archbishop Mpundu said.

He also called for promotion and respect for women and their integration into church structures of responsibility, decision making and planning.

The archbishop said: "Full and equal participation of women in all spheres of life is essential to social and economic development. There is no meaningful development if at least 50 percent of the already marginalized population known as women is systematically excluded."

The cleric said that without true justice between men and women, "development remains only a pipedream, simply a dangerous mirage."

"We sadly admit with shame that in Zambia women are too often the victims of abuse, domestic violence sometimes leading to death, discriminatory cultural or customary practices, and statutory laws clearly biased against them," Archbishop Mpundu said.

"Women religious and lay women help our Church truly to be at the service of reconciliation, justice and peace, with special concern for the poor."

Bishop Philip Sulumeti of Kakamega Kenya also added his voice saying: "We have taken things for granted and slowly we are losing out on this precious group."

Bishop Sulumeti requested the special assembly of Bishops to give women quality formation to empower them for their responsibilities and to open for them all the social careers from which traditional and modern society tend to exclude them without reason.

He also called on men to undergo a radical change and a fundamental conversion to make this a reality.

"This is moment to make an honest reflection and ask, what concrete programs have we put in place to make women participatory, responsible, authentic and actively visible in our Church," Bishop Sulumeti said.

The bishop said that it is from women that we have the image of the Church as a family God. It is here that sacraments are alive and active, it is here that vocations and careers are in offing.

"Women in Kenya are the prime collaborators in the Church's evangelizing mission, this gift of commitment must be strengthened to eradicate the suffering taking place on the continent," he said.

Sr Felicia Harry, Superior General of the Sisters of Our Lady of the Apostles, Ghana  echoed these views. She  said: "collaboration is the key word here in the Church's search for reconciliation, peace and justice in Africa today."

The sister stressed that most Catholic women are eager to collaborate with the church's clerical authorities  "not only when already made decisions are to be implemented, but also being involved in the decision making process."

"We do not want to remain at the periphery of the main body of the parish, we want to be an integral part of this body," the nun said.

"We do not want to take over the responsibility of the parish priest, we just want to be equal partners in the Lord's vineyard; we want to share in the Church's responsibility of ensuring reconciliation, peace and justice on our continent," said Sr Harry.

She added that no one group should feel superior to another, but  there should be a change of mentality with regard to women,  especially religious women in our Church in Africa and that there should be conversion of heart by all.

Sr Pauline Odia Bukasa, Superior General of the Sisters Ba-Maria, Buta Uele in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) also called on synod fathers and bishops to promote the dignity of African woman by giving her the space necessary for the deployment of her talents in ecclesial and social structures.

The nun said that this will help them to promote the associations or female NGOs that already fight for the promotion of woman through literacy and education.

Sr Bukasa said that the African woman is marginalized on all levels and practically excluded from the global process of development of the continent.

"At this time when the Church in Africa commits herself to work for the reconciliation of its sons and daughters, the woman can no longer be ignored. She has a large role to play," she said.

Sr Bukasa said the African woman "is the victim of the ancestral customs and traditions while she is the one who actually carries the burden of all the armed conflicts that tear Africa apart and especially in Congo."

Source: CISA

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