Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
October 19, 2009
African Church presents its issues in Rome
CATHOLIC NEWS SERVICE
VATICAN CITY - African Catholics must become the main forces to ending the continent's wars, safeguarding the family and protecting Africa's natural environment, said members of the special Synod of Bishops for Africa.
In the first week of the Oct. 4-25 synod, members of the assembly listened to almost 200 speeches on ways the Church can be a force for reconciliation, justice and peace on the continent.
The need to overcome ethnic tensions was a dominant theme of the assembly. So were concern for the family, the importance of protecting the environment, and a recognition of the dignity and contributions of women.
Bishops denounced the exploitation of tribal differences by politicians and by multinational corporations seeking control of minerals and oil.
But many bishops also urged an examination of conscience by Catholics, saying they have not always acted like members of one family.
Another major theme in synod speeches was the importance of the family in African culture.
Bishops warned that families are threatened by wars, disease and ideas about divorce, abortion, sexuality and homosexuality imported by Western media or promoted by Western organizations.
Archbishop Buti Tlhagale of Johannesburg, South Africa, said Africa's traditional cultural values "are threatened by the new global ethic which aggressively seeks to persuade African governments and communities to accept new and different meanings of the concepts of family, marriage and human sexuality."
On a cultural level, "Africa faces a second wave of colonization, both subtle and ruthless at the same time," he said.
Another frequent topic of synod speeches was the environment. Environmental degradation and exploitation of Africa's resources have increased violence and poverty on the continent and triggered flooding and desertification.
Bishop Denis Kiwanuka Lote of Tororo, Uganda, told the synod his country in the past two years has experienced alternating flooding and drought conditions leading to crop failure as a result of recklessly cutting down forests.
"Natural laws cannot be ignored, just as one cannot ignore the directives contained in the manufacturer's manual if one wishes his machine to function well," the bishop said.
Cardinal Bernard Agre, the retired archbishop of Abidjan, Ivory Coast, said many African nations had been forced to "mortgage their natural resources" in order to pay the never ending interest on development loans.
That makes it impossible for governments to adequately fund education and health care for their people, Agre said.
Bishop George Nkuo of Kumbo, Cameroon, asked the synod to adopt an extremely cautious attitude toward genetically modified food crops because the long-term impact of such new technology on human and environmental health is still not clear.
While poverty is "the single greatest cause of hunger" in Africa, the continent cannot be shortsighted in embracing genetically modified food, he said.
WOMEN WANT A ROLE
As in other parts of the world, the majority of parish members and active participants in Africa are women and their rights and needs also were repeated topics of concern at the synod.
Sister Felicia Harry, the superior general of the Missionary Sisters of Our Lady of the Apostles, asked the bishops to imagine what the Church would be like if there were no women members.
The superior general from Ghana told the synod that women are happy to "teach catechism to children, decorate parish churches, clean, mend and sew vestments," but they also want to be part of Church decision-making bodies.
Archbishop Telesphore Mpundu of Lusaka, Zambia, said women's "potential massively huge contribution to the Church" has not been recognized or "sufficiently celebrated."
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