(Bishop of Edéa, Cameroon)
Since the Second Vatican Council and especially after the Post Synodal Exhortation Christifideles laici, the lay people have taken into consideration the role that they must play in the Church. Today, their participation in the life of Christian communities has become effective in the domain of Christian education of the young and of adults, of socio-charitable works, of movements of the apostolate and in the heart of the pastoral and economic advice. Their discrete and anonymous help supports the material life of the clergy and contributes to the realisation of certain projects.
This lay participation is to encourage and promote through integrated formation: doctrinal, human, catechetic, moral and spiritual. Their movements of apostolate should be followed with pastoral vigilance to verify that they conform to the mission of the Church, if they favour ecclesial communion and if they are, by nature, to sanctify their members, all this to avoid deviations, overflowings and arguments over the spheres of influence.
The thrust in the lay people in our African Church encounters some difficulties:
a) Christian commitment is not supported, certain lay people prefer sporadic outbursts, not always disinterested;
b) there are some among them, in effect, who let themselves be taken over by the search of promotion within the Church;
c) Others let themselves be taken in by the bad influence of sects, and hide and seek with the Church, if they don't distance themselves from it;
d) from another side, the crisis of trust between the clergy and the lay people in certain Christian communities do not ease the tasks of the laity. A frank and constructive dialogue should help all to find a basis for concentration.
Even with the problems which we have underlined, the laity feel at ease today in the Church; they would feel this even more, if we would take into account their wishes.
The first concern is traditional marriage. The African revendicates the possibility of acknowledgement of customary marriage by the Church. The African revendicates the possibility of acknowledgement of customary marriage by the Church. It is difficult for him to admit that this marriage celebrated according to a rite full of richness is devaluated and unknown.
The second wish consists in liberating the African from a specific conception of the world. According to this, the world is populated by good and bad spirits, the permanence of an animose and irrational mentality makes him a prisoner of his environment to which he submits as a veritable tyrant. The African Christian is fearful: fear of the environment, fear of the neighbours, fear of the sorcerers. Only Jesus Christ can free him.
This liberation will come with the frequenting, the familiarity with the Holy Scriptures upon which the African may nourish himself. That is why the third and last desire is that the clergy put the Bible at his level, while explaining it and in teaching him to read and use it for his prayer and meditation.
On the other hand, one must recall what the specific mission of the laity is in the Churches of Africa today: the renewal of temporal norms. This dimension of their mission has not been perceived yet. However, they are the first to be concerned with the problems of justice and charity, especially in that Africa where the wounds are many, wounds linked to under-development. The numerous movements of the apostolate created here and there, should have among other objectives, the dimension of social pastoral. It would be completely normal when the laity take new stock of their mission in the African Churches, that the pastors be at their sides:
a) to double the attention and the charitable comprehension towards them;
b) to help them overcome difficulties encountered;
c) to encourage support for their efforts and to better assume their evangelising mission;
d) to create a specific dynamic which would open to a new and in depth way for evangelisation.
Original text: French