A call has been made on the Catholic Church in Africa to use dialogue and identify with the downtrodden to facilitate her renewal and reformation and those of her institutions in the continent.  The call was part of the decisions taken by the participants at the first ever Pan African Catholic Congress held recently in Enugu, Nigeria. The decision was contained in the communique issued at the end of the congress and signed by the principal convener of the programme, Rev. Fr. Stan Ilo.

The Congress, according to the communique, among other things; resolved to use dialogical approach for the renewal and reform of the church and her institutions; explaining that dialogical approach included doing theology through the experience of women and other marginalized group, enculturation and being in dialogue with other religions present in Africa, social science and other disciplines.

According to the communique, dialogical approach demands reading, understanding, interpreting and responding to the signs of the times and the commitment to be with God’s people in their places of fear, pain, joy and hope. The participants agreed noted that they gathered to reflect on the future of the church in Africa and the roles of theologians and scholars in developing the prophetic role of the gospel in the continent.

The communique added that the congress created a sacred space of palaver where it celebrated and shared in the joy filled stories of their people’s faith in Christ, manifestation of love to one another, the hopes and dreams of their youth. They also expressed concern about the anxieties of the people and the groans of one another in Africa, noting that many lives are being lost through avoidable deaths, preventable wars, food insecurity, immigration, endemic diseases and poverty continued to take a huge toll on Africa.

The participants declared: “We propose a new way of pastoral praxis in Africa. This entails a vision of shared leadership, participatory ministries, pastoral solidarity, mutual sharing in each other’s talent and gifts beyond the present clerical, hierarchical and patriarchal structure and system.

“We propose a dialogical praxis between church and society; to do this, we must develop among other things, greater historical consciousness and deepen our understanding of the contemporary cultural, religious, socio-political and economic realities of our people as well as deepening our understanding of the traditions of our church.”

They continued: “We identify with the cries of God’s people in their continent, the poor, the voiceless, the marginalized, the unloved and the forgotten. “We commit ourselves to work with the church leaders and peoples in the search for concrete and transformative proposals for the renewal and reform of the church and her institutions.

In addition, the participants declared: “We identify with the plan of the church in Africa to realize the goal of missionary conversion set out by Pope Francis so that the church in Africa would truly become the spiritual lung of Catholicism on an integral mission of Africa and beyond.”

The three-day congress was attended by over 700 participants from across the continent, including priests, religious and lay persons. The theme of the congress was: What must we do to perform the works of God.” Addressing newsmen on the motive of the congress,  its President, Archbishop Charles Buckle of Ghana noted that the congress was convoked by the Catholic Church in Africa, with the goal of proposing better ways to renew and reform institutions, structures and system of the Church in the continent to actualize the missionary goal of the Holy Father, Pope Francis. The congress was an initiative of the Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar (SECAM)

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