With the surprise announcement of 6 January 1989, the Holy Father communicated that, in response to the suggestions expressed in a wide consultation of the African Episcopate, he had decided to convene a Special Assembly for Africa of the Synod of Bishops. At the same time he set in motion the synodal process of preparation for this providential event. The Instrumentum laboris carries forward the process of consultation by collating and presenting in an ordered way the responses to the Lineamenta which have come from the Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar, the concerned Bodies of the Roman Curia and the other concerned organs of the Church.
The interest generated by the announcement by His Holiness of a Synod for Africa is shown by the percentage of responses, so far the highest ever recorded for a Synod. Of the 34 Episcopal Conferences in Africa and Madagascar, fully 31 sent in responses; the remaining three were under very difficult circumstances at the time. Many Particular Churches used the Lineamenta for the mobilisation of the Christian faithful, such that the Synod can be said to have already begun to bear fruit in this increased awareness and involvement of the entire Christian faithful in Africa.
The Council of the General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops for the Special Assembly for Africa met in Rome at the end of March, 1992 to consider the responses. It divided itself into five sub-commissions according to the five sub-themes of the Synod, each commission being helped in its work by one of five African theologians nominated for this. This March meeting produced a first draft of this "Working Paper". The next meeting was in Luanda, Angola, 8 - 12 June, during the papal visit there, a meeting which prepared a second draft. Then a select committee of three bishops (one from each of the three language areas) met with the General Secretary of the Synod of Bishops from 24 to 28 September and produced a third and final draft which is now being offered in English, French and Portuguese for use by the delegates of the Episcopal Conferences in Africa and Madagascar and the other concerned Bodies of the Church.
The Instrumentum laboris has an Introduction and two parts. The Introduction seeks to locate the Synod for Africa within the dynamism of the synodal process in the Church. Part I is a theological framework which highlights the central concern of the Synod, namely, the theme of evangelisation, and which shows how the five sub-themes are related to the central theme. Part II considers each of the five sub-themes: Proclamation, Inculturation, Dialogue, Justice and Peace, and Means of Social Communication. It needs to be stressed that everything in this "Working Paper" has come from the responses to the Lineamenta. An attempt has been made to arrange in each section doctrinal elements and pastoral considerations in order to facilitate reflection.
As already said, the Instrumentaum laboris constitutes a reference point for the possible agenda of the Synod. It is offered to all the Bishops' Conferences to help them prepare their participation at the Synod, to see which points they will want to examine in the Synod and which priorities to propose. As it has pleased the Holy Father to release this "Working Paper" for publication, the bishops may also wish to use it for the further animation of their Churches and the participation of the entire faithful in the Synod process.
The Instrumentum laboris is by its very nature a document of preparation. It should not be seen as in any way anticipating the conclusions of the synodal assembly, although the consensus that emerges with regard to certain points in the answers to the Lineamenta will be reflected in the results of the synod.
May Mary who was present with the disciples in the Upper Room guide us in these final stages of preparation and be with the delegates during the deliberations of the Synod, so that the Synod will bring many to Christ, confirm Christ's faithful in Africa and give fresh dynamism to evangelisation in the continent and surrounding islands as the Church moves towards her Third Millennium.
JAN P. SCHOTTE
I. The Special Assembly for Africa of the Synod of Bishops has as its theme: "The Church in Africa and her Evangelising Mission towards the Year 2000: 'You shall be My Witnesses' (Acts 1:8)". Through calling a Special Synod Assembly, His Holiness intended to promote in a particular way the proclamation of the gospel in Africa during these closing years of the twentieth century, which in many ways will mark a turning point in the history of the continent. The object of the Synod would be to assist the Church in Africa to deepen, in communion with Peter and the other Particular Churches, her commitment to the mission of evangelisation, taking into account her history and development as well as the whole cultural, social, political and economic context in which she lives.
"You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you and you shall be my witnesses" (Acts 1:8). It is the Holy Spirit who is responsible for mission, and the Synod is above all the work of the Spirit.
2. A synod is an ecclesial meeting or assembly at which bishops, gathered cum et sub Petro, have opportunity to interact with one another and to share information and experiences in the common pursuit of pastoral solutions which have a universal validity and application. Pope John Paul II has referred to the Synod as "without doubt an instrument of collegiality and a powerful factor in communion".
The bishops are chosen from different parts of the world to meet at stated times: to foster a closer unity between them and the Roman Pontiff, to assist him with their counsel in safeguarding and increasing faith and morals and in preserving and strengthening ecclesiastical discipline, also to consider questions concerning the Church's pastoral activity in the world.
"During the preparatory stage the bishops are consulted. They bring to the meeting the faith-experiences of their Particular Churches. In the meeting itself an exchange of information and suggestions takes place, and propositions may be made in the light of the gospel and the Church's doctrine. These are submitted to the successor of St. Peter who will decide how they may best be used so that the entire Church may grow in faith while maintaining communion in a plurality of cultures and situations".
It is thus that the Synod of Bishops appears as a particular expression of the Church's reality of communion in which the Episcopal College, "insofar as it is composed of many, expresses the variety and universality of the People of God, but insofar as it is assembled under one head, expresses the unity of the flock of Christ". This collegiality is "demonstrated in a remarkable way by the collegial manner in which the Pastors of the Particular Churches express their opinion. At first, there is community preparation in the various Particular Churches; this is followed by collegial preparation in the Episcopal Conferences, always in the consciousness both of the duties of bishops towards their own communities and of their care for the whole Church".
3. From l967 to 1991, there have been eight Ordinary General Assemblies. The Ninth Ordinary General Assembly is scheduled for 1994 and will treat the theme, "The Consecrated Life and its Role in the Church and in the World". In the history of the Synod there have been two Extraordinary General Assemblies. The first Extraordinary General Assembly met in September 1969, to seek and examine ways and means of putting into practice the collegiality of the bishops with the Pope. The second met from 24 November to 8 December, 1985 on the theme: "The Twentieth Anniversary of the Conclusion of the Second Vatican Council".
The Synod of Bishops meets in Special Assembly
when the issues concern more directly a definite region or regions of the
Universal Church. Between 1980 and 1992 there have been two such assemblies,
and two are in the process of preparation. The Special Assembly for the
Netherlands, 14 - 31 January 1980, considered the pastoral situation of that
country. The Special Assembly for Europe, 28 November to l4 December, 1991
had the following theme: "So that We might be Witnesses to Christ who has
Set us Free". The next scheduled synodal gathering is the Special
Assembly for Africa which has as its theme, "The Church in Africa and
her Evangelising Mission towards the year 2000: 'You shall be my Witnesses' (Acts
1:8)". A Special Assembly for Lebanon, now in the initial stages of
preparation, has recently announced its theme: "Christ is Our Hope:
Renewed by his Spirit, in Solidarity We Bear Witness to His Love".
III. THE SPECIAL ASSEMBLY FOR AFRICA
4. As in the other Special Assemblies, the focus of the Special Assembly for Africa will be on certain pastoral concerns of the continent. As no Particular Church or group of Particular Churches is ever in isolation from the whole, the concerns of the Church in Africa interest the whole Church. Reflection on the demands of evangelisation in Africa at the present time is part of a widespread current of renewal in the proclamation of the Word of God, in older Churches as well as in the younger ones. It is thus that we find the theme of renewal expressed in various Episcopal Bodies, national and international, for example, the meeting of the Federation of Asian Bishops' Conferences at Bandung, July 1990, and in that of the Fourth General Conference of the Episcopate of Latin America which met in Santo Domingo, 12 - 28 October, 1992.
Evangelisation seeks to induce interior change and true conversion through the power of the message proclaimed. The Church in Africa is called upon to renew, through the Word of God, the people's culture, their values, thought patterns and models of life. This calls for genuine inculturation. It will entail theological investigation and research in the light of Scripture and Tradition. "Thus it will be more clearly seen in what ways faith can seek for understanding in the philosophy and wisdom of these peoples. A better view will be gained as to how their customs, outlook on life, and social order can be reconciled with the manner of living taught by divine revelation".
Renewed in the Spirit, the people become true witnesses to Jesus Christ who is "the Way, the Truth and the Life" (Jn 14:6). When Christians live in conformity with the gospel this fact never fails "to stir up irresistible questions in the hearts of those who see how they live and who are impelled to ask, what or who is it that inspires them? Such a witness is already a silent proclamation of the Good News and a very powerful and effective one". Nevertheless, even the finest witness of life calls for and demands, in the words of Peter, "your answer ready for people who ask you the reason for the hope that you have" (1 Pt 3:15). "The Good News proclaimed by the witness of life sooner or later has to be proclaimed by the Word of life". Common reflection on evangelisation in Africa today will help identify the varieties of situations on the continent as well as certain common concerns. It is hoped that the Synod will be an occasion for demonstrating solidarity among the Particular Churches in Africa as well as between these Churches and the worldwide Church, and indeed between them and the other Christian Churches and Communities, and all who work for the welfare of mankind.
5. The Instrumentum laboris is a synthesis of the responses to the Lineamenta which come from the Episcopal Bodies in Africa both of the Latin and Oriental rite, from the concerned departments of the Roman Curia, and from other concerned organs of the Church. This "Working Document" has endeavoured to be faithful to the contents of these documents. It has, of course, not been possible to include everything submitted, but the essential concerns and questions raised have been represented, and are being proposed for consideration by the Synod.
There has been a real effort of reflection on evangelisation by Church communities in Africa; everywhere there is a desire to renew evangelisation on the continent and to give it dynamism, especially in view of the new challenges which the third millennium will bring. The Church in Africa is preparing herself for the new situations of humanity and of religion, and the new socio-cultural and political developments.
Document" is submitted to the Synod members in order to facilitate their
immediate preparation. It is released to the Church in Africa for its further
reflection, and in this way it can further promote the work of evangelisation
in Africa today and tomorrow.
THE EVANGELISING MISSION OF THE CHURCH
Evangelisation: Unifying Theme of the Synod
6. The Special Assembly for Africa of the
Synod of Bishops has evangelisation as its central and unifying theme. It is
the hope and prayer of His Holiness that the Synod may result in a "deep
renewal of the Church in Africa" so that Christians on that continent
may be fired with zeal to live the gospel fully and to share Christ's salvation
and liberation with all humanity.
I. EVANGELISATION: TRINITARIAN AND ECCLESIAL ASPECTS
Evangelisation is Essentially Trinitarian
7. Evangelisation draws humankind into the very life of the Trinity. It is "the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit" (2 Cor 13:13), made available in order to "make all things new" (Rev 21:5), and lead humankind in the Spirit, through the Son, back to the Father, so "that God may be everything to everyone" (1 Cor 15:28).
Jesus, the First Evangeliser
8. "Jesus himself, the Good News of God, was the very first and greatest evangeliser; he exercised this role to perfection and to the point of sacrificing his earthly life". At the centre of his Good News was the Reign of God, an expression of God's caring authority over the whole of life. The Kingdom is also salvation, that "great gift of God which is liberation from everything that oppresses man but which is above all liberation from sin and the Evil One".
The Evangelising Mission of the Church
9. Evangelisation "flows from 'the fountain of love' within God the Father. From Him, who is 'the origin without origin', the Son is begotten and the Holy Spirit proceeds through the Son". For the continuation of his mission, the Son sent the Holy Spirit upon the apostles, promising to be with them until the end of time (cf. Mt 28:20) so that they would be his "witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judaea and Samaria and to the end of the earth" (Acts 1:8).
Evangelisation: Vocation Proper to the Church
10. Evangelisation is nothing but the continuation of the mission of the Son in the Spirit; for this reason the Church is referred to as the community of "those who sincerely accept the Good News ... gather together in Jesus' name in order to seek together the Kingdom, build it up and live it. They make up a community which is in its turn evangelising". Evangelisation is thus the "grace and vocation proper to the Church, her deepest identity. She exists in order to evangelise".
Evangelisation Transforms Humanity from Within
11. "For the Church, evangelising means bringing the Good News into all the strata of humanity, and through its influence transforming humanity from within and making it new... The purpose of evangelisation is precisely this interior change. If it had to be expressed in one sentence the best way of stating it would be to say that the Church evangelises when she seeks to convert, solely through the divine power of the message she proclaims, both the personal and collective consciences of people, the activities in which they engage, and the lives and concrete milieu which are theirs".
Evangelisation: A Complex Process
12. Evangelisation is a complex process made up of complementary and mutually enriching elements, such as proclamation of Christ to non-believers, inner adherence to Christ, entry into the community, witness and apostolic initiative. It also includes human promotion, and the transformation of cultures and unjust structures of society.
Evangelisation: A Task for All
13. The evangelising mission of the Church in Africa is a task incumbent on each and every one of Christ's faithful on the continent - bishops, priests, religious and the lay faithful - each according to the gift received from the Lord. To all of these, but particularly to the lay faithful, Christ addresses the challenge of spreading his Kingdom: "with even greater urgency the 'householder' repeats his invitation: `you go into my vineyard too'".
Some Tasks Which lie Ahead
14. How will the Church in Africa undertake "her Evangelising Mission Towards the Year 2000"? How will African Christians truly become "witnesses" (cf. Acts 1:8) to Christ and to his salvation in the midst of their brothers and sisters? What initiatives and tasks are called for in the troubled situation of the continent in order to bring to bear this salvation and liberation? After a process of discernment of the current situation and an identification of the new challenges, it would seem that the following tasks, among others, are deserving of special attention at this Synod:
-proclaiming the Good News of Salvation;
Each of these five sub-themes forms a part of the central, unifying theme of evangelisation which will occupy the participants at the Special Assembly.
II. EVANGELISATION AND THE SUB-THEMES OF THE SYNOD
Evangelisation as Proclamation
15. The first form of proclamation is the witness of a truly Christian life - by individual and community - in response to the demands and values of the gospel. Such Christian living is the testimony of sincere love, humble service and "solidarity with the efforts of all for whatever is noble and good". It is to be noted, as His Holiness pointed out, that "people today put more trust in witnesses than in teachers, in experience than in teaching, and in life and action than in theories".
"Evangelisation will always contain as the foundation, centre and at the same time summit of its dynamism a clear proclamation that in Jesus Christ, the Son of God made man, who died and rose from the dead, salvation is offered to all men, as a gift of God's grace and mercy". This proclamation calls non-believers to faith and baptism. It also continually nourishes the community of believers with the word and seals their adherence to Christ.
"The pilgrim Church is missionary by her very nature"; hence, as His Holiness says, "the missionary thrust belongs to the very nature of the Christian life".
16. There are still teeming millions of unevangelised peoples in Africa. Therefore the Church in the continent is faced with an enormous and urgent mission of bringing to them the saving message of Jesus Christ. Paul VI said at Kampala: "By now, you Africans are missionaries to yourselves. The Church of Christ is truly planted in this blessed soil ... Missionaries to yourselves, in other words, you Africans must now continue upon the continent the building up of the Church".
It is now generally accepted that Africa's obligation to be missionary to itself necessarily implies missionary cooperation among the Particular Churches within each African country and among different African nations. Such inter-African missionary cooperation has been a leit-motif of many of Pope John Paul II's addresses in the course of his pastoral visits to Africa.
There is a need to deepen in African major seminarians an awareness of missionary commitment as an essential component of the life and ministry of the diocesan priest. In this connection, initiation into the workings of the Pontifical Mission Societies is desirable. African diocesan priests should zealously reach out to non-Christians and unevangelised groups within their parishes, and willingly offer themselves to the bishop for missionary work in distant and abandoned areas of their own diocese or of other dioceses.
No less important is the active promotion of a missionary awareness among the religious and the lay faithful in every parish. Indeed each parish needs an ongoing process of such "awareness-raising" without which it could easily lose its missionary vision and drive, and become content with merely looking after those already baptised.
"As members of the Body of Bishops which succeeds the College of Apostles, all bishops are consecrated not just for one diocese, but for the salvation of the entire world. Christ's mandate to preach the gospel to every creature (cf. Mk 16:15) primarily and immediately concerns them, with Peter and under Peter. From this fact arises that communion and cooperation between Churches which is so necessary today for carrying on the work of evangelisation. In virtue of this communion individual Churches carry a responsibility for all the others".
Younger Churches embed the tradition of faith in their own cultures and enter into "a certain mutual exchange of energies" with the older Churches. The Church in Africa cannot limit herself to the horizons of the continent; she has values which she can offer to the entire Church. She can do this in part through missionary activity beyond her confines. Such a movement has already begun, but it needs to be intensified.
Evangelisation as Inculturation
17. "The seed which is the Word of God sprouts from the good ground watered by divine dew. From this ground the seed draws nourishing elements which it transforms and assimilates into itself. Finally it bears much fruit. Thus, in imitation of the plan of the incarnation, the younger Churches, rooted in Christ and built up on the foundation of the apostles, take to themselves in a wonderful exchange all the riches of the nations which were given to Christ as an inheritance (cf. Ps 2:8)... Particular traditions, together with the individual patrimony of each family of nations, can be illumined by the light of the gospel, and then be taken up into Catholic unity. Finally, the individual younger Churches, adorned with their own traditions, will have their own place in the ecclesiastical communion, without prejudice to the primacy of Peter's See, which presides over the entire assembly of charity".
The image of seed absorbing food from the ground which it transforms into itself shows that "the synthesis between culture and faith is not just a demand of culture, but also of faith. A faith which does not become culture is a faith which has not been fully received, not thought through, not fully lived out". Inculturation is the evangelisation in depth of every aspect of the individual and societal life of a people; it is - as one Particular Church put it - "Jesus leading the community in a new dance and drumming a new rhythm".
Evangelisation as Dialogue
18. Paul VI traced the "concentric circles of dialogue" with the Catholic Church herself at the innermost core. Dialogue with other Churches and Ecclesial Communities is usually called ecumenism, whereas interreligious dialogue refers to dialogue with the world's religions.
Efforts at the unity of all Christians are based on the prayer of Christ, "that they may all be one; even as thou, Father, art in me and I in thee, that they also may be one in us, so that the world may believe that thou hast sent me" (Jn 17:21). They are based also on the conviction that "whatever is truly Christian never conflicts with the genuine interests of the faith". Although "this unity... dwells in the Catholic Church as something she can never lose", nevertheless there is need for "an honest and careful appraisal of whatever needs to be renewed and achieved in the Catholic household itself, in order that its life may bear witness more loyally and luminously to the teachings and ordinances which have been handed down from Christ through the apostles".
It is for this reason that John Paul II in his very first encyclical insisted that "all of us who are Christ's followers must meet and unite around him. This unity in the various fields of the life, tradition, structures and discipline of the individual Christian Churches and Ecclesial Communities cannot be brought about without effective work aimed at getting to know each other and removing the obstacles blocking the way to perfect unity. However, we can and must immediately reach and display to the world our unity in proclaiming the mystery of Christ, in revealing the divine dimension and also the human dimension of the redemption, and in struggling with unwearying perseverance for the dignity that each human being has reached and can continually reach in Christ, namely the dignity of both the grace of divine adoption and the inner truth of humanity".
In his incarnation Christ has united himself in a certain manner to every person thus initiating a "dialogue of salvation". Through the action of the Holy Spirit his grace is secretly at work in all men of good will, offering them in a manner known only to God the possibility of sharing in the paschal mystery of Christ. Hence a "mystery of unity" pervades all human history despite the differences in religion and practice.
The Church, as "the universal sacrament of salvation", has been entrusted with the ministry of unity and has the duty of continuing the "dialogue of salvation" with all men. She is called to continue discovering and acknowledging the signs of Christ's presence and of the working of the Spirit in history, and to cooperate with all men and women of good will for the salvation and welfare of all.
Evangelisation as Justice and Peace
19. "A commitment to peace, justice, human rights and human promotion is also a witness to the Gospel when it is a sign of concern for persons and is directed towards integral human development". This is so because "the liberation and salvation brought by the Reign of God come to the human person both in his physical and spiritual dimensions... Jesus' many healings clearly show his great compassion in the face of human distress, but they also signify that in the Kingdom there will no longer be sickness or suffering, and that his mission, from the very beginning, is meant to free people from these evils".
Hence, "it is impossible to accept that in evangelisation one could or should ignore the importance of the problems so much discussed today concerning justice, liberation, development and peace in the world. This would be to forget the lesson which comes to us from the gospel concerning love of our neighbour who is suffering and in need".
The Second Vatican Council has asserted that "the joys and the hopes, the griefs and the anxieties of the men of this age, especially those who are poor or in any way afflicted, these too are the joys and hopes, the griefs and anxieties of the followers of Christ. Indeed nothing genuinely human fails to raise an echo in their hearts".
Evangelisation as Communication
20. "In many and various ways God spoke of old to our fathers...but in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son" (Heb 1:1). Meditating on this fact, His Holiness has stated that "in him and through him, God has revealed himself fully to mankind and has definitely drawn close to it; in him and through him, man has acquired full awareness of his dignity and of the meaning of his existence".
Pentecost was a miracle of communication; the crowds which gathered could all say: "we hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God" (Acts 2:11). The Synod is an opportunity to re-examine the process of communication of the Good News to see how effectively it enables Africans to grasp, live and tell in their own manner "the mighty works of God".
Areopagus of the modern age is the 'world of communications', which is
unifying humanity and turning it into what is known as a global village".
The world of communications is both a culture to be evangelised, and a
possibly potent means of evangelisation. This world should be examined to see
how it can best be harnessed for evangelisation, and what threats it may pose
to African identity and values.
PROCLAIMING THE GOOD NEWS OF SALVATION
21. Vast and often rapid changes in the cultural, economic, social and political fields are taking place in Africa. African peoples are aspiring to attain human rights and freedoms, including the freedom of belief and worship. This is part of the context in which the Church has to proclaim the Good News of salvation in Africa. In so doing the Church bears in mind two important considerations. The first is the need for continuity, that is, the need to build on the work of the early missionaries, fathers in the faith, who planted and nurtured the Particular Churches of Africa with outstanding dedication and zeal. It is the duty of those coming after them to water what they planted, to tend the plant and by God's grace bring it to maturity. The second is the need for change, to avoid what may have been the errors of the past and to pursue unremittingly the programme of implementing the teachings of the Second Vatican Council.
The Signs of the Times
22. The responses to the Lineamenta call attention to both positive and negative elements in the "signs of the times".
The following were among the positive signs
- The Church in North Africa has borne witness to Christ in often trying circumstances and has given proof of strength and resilience. Those Particular Churches have persevered until today, often through persecution and adversity. The ancient Church of Carthage left a rich theological heritage in the African Fathers of the Church. Among the contributions of the Church in Egypt the monastic tradition stands out, and this has enriched the Universal Church.
- The missionaries showed a pioneering spirit worthy of emulation. From the 15th century onwards they brought Christianity to central and other parts of Africa in spite of all the hazards of the day.
- Christ's faithful in the Particular Churches have maintained a communal spirit and bonds of communion with the Church of Rome and the other Particular Churches.
- The number of African Fidei Donum missionaries is increasing.
- There are many dynamic apostolic movements and a greater lay involvement in the life of the Church.
- The African is in search of truth and spiritual awakening. African men and women hunger for the fundamental values of existence and aspire towards religious experience and commitment.
- The African continent is witnessing the awakening of a profound cultural, social, economic and political consciousness. With the collapse of totalitarian regimes there are new hopes of revival everywhere.
- There is genuine effort at true conversion of the total person and at inculturating the Christian faith. This includes liturgy, bible translation, etc.. Genuine inculturation is here taken to be an integral evangelisation process leading to maturity in faith, integration of faith and culture, doctrine and life, worship and daily living.
- Fidelity to the gospel message is exemplified by current centenary celebrations marked in many parts of Africa.
- Africa too is experiencing the biblical and catechetical renewal.
- Serious attempts are being made to implement the Second Vatican Council. Scientific research is being carried out in the theological, spiritual and pastoral domains.
23. In addition to the many positive signs
mentioned above are the following concerns:
- Some Christians seem to have a faith that is still fragile. The various currents of the moment seem to leave them perplexed and confused, sometimes looking for salvation elsewhere.
- Church personnel in most places is insufficient and this leads in some places to lack of pastoral initiatives or insufficient follow-up of those initiatives that have been taken.
- In some places lack of trust still persists between the clergy and the lay faithful, in spite of the option of many Episcopal Conferences to promote the involvement of the laity.
- In some countries Islam seems to be becoming more politicised and intolerant in its attitude towards the other religions.
- Everywhere on the continent the proliferation of sects is of great concern.
- Certain aspects of western culture seem to put people off balance and to lead to individual moral laxity, widespread corruption and materialism. Money is becoming an idol and social advancement a myth.
- Many Christians seem indifferent in matters of religion.
- Some negative foreign influences are leading to a general social malaise and the growth in society of secularism.
- The continent as a whole is witnessing an alarming increase of poverty. The gap between the "haves" and "have-nots" is growing wider. A class of helpless and uprooted people is being created.
- Family values, once the strength of Africa, are being eroded; family uprooting disturbs both the moral sense and the sense of identity.
24. It is in an African world with these signs of grace and of human sinfulness that the gospel of salvation has to be proclaimed anew today. An "hour of Africa" appears to have come, a favourable "hour" which calls on Christ's messengers to launch out into the deep in order to haul in an abundant yield for Christ. Since there are millions of unevangelised people in Africa, it is absolutely necessary and urgent for the Church in Africa to engage in the task of initial proclamation because "to reveal Jesus Christ and his gospel to those who do not know him has been, ever since the morning of Pentecost, the fundamental programme which the Church has taken on as received from her Founder".
To the above-mentioned task of initial proclamation must be added an indispensable renewed evangelisation of those already baptised. Such "formation in the faith" is essential if Christians are to remain firm amid the contemporary social, political and religious currents, which include family uprooting, urbanisation, unemployment, materialism and the clash of cultures. There are challenges emanating from "intellectual perturbation accentuated by an avalanche of ideas insufficiently scrutinised, and by the influence of the media". These new challenges demand new approaches. They render renewed evangelisation even more indispensable in Africa.
The gospel message encounters deeply-rooted cultural and religious values in the traditional life of the people of Africa. This traditional religious heritage has to be taken into account as well as the different political and economic contexts, without neglecting the particular local history of Christianity.
For these reasons, the Church in Africa must examine its missionary activity. Methods of evangelisation need to be renewed; there must be improved training for the agents of the gospel. There is need to generate greater awareness among lay people and to involve them more actively in the mission of evangelisation. Not only must any mistakes of the past be remedied but the Church in Africa must programme itself to face the challenges of the present and seize the opportunities of the future.
25. Among the biblical images of the Church enumerated in the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, Lumen gentium, that of the Church as the House of God (cf. 1 Tm 3:15) the Household of God in the Spirit (cf. Eph 2:19-22) is particularly relevant for Africa. Paul VI called the family a "domestic Church" and considered that "there should be found in every Christian family the various aspects of the entire Church. Furthermore, the family, like the Church, ought to be a place where the gospel is transmitted and from which the gospel radiates. In a family which is conscious of this mission, all the members evangelise and are evangelised".
In many answers to the Lineamenta, there is a strong emphasis on the notion of the Church as the Family of God among human beings. It is felt that Africans can be more easily enabled to experience and to live the mystery of the Church as communion by utilising to good advantage the African's understanding of the family, especially as regards the values of family unity and solidarity.
26. The Church is a living family made up of bishops, priests, men and women religious and lay persons. Through baptism every Christian becomes co-responsible for the proclamation of the gospel. The responses to the Lineamenta insist on the importance of the life and witness given by the agents of evangelisation. This implies deep spiritual formation.
The Church gives to bishops, as successors of the apostles, the leading role in proclaiming the Gospel (cf. Mk 1:15; Lk 4:43; Jn 18:37). They are to preach the Gospel wholeheartedly, putting aside other preoccupations (cf. Acts 6:2-4). The apostolic mission of the bishops is shared by priests, men and women religious and lay persons, each within his or her own sphere. Proclamation is made both by the silent witness of a life lived in conformity with the gospel and by explicit preaching of the name of Jesus and of his teaching, life and promises.
27. The Church in Africa is well aware that, if there is to be an effective witness to the gospel, priests should themselves be men who are well-formed, who lead truly Christian and priestly lives and who are dedicated to the pastoral needs of the faithful. The priest is called above all to give the witness of a holy life. A deep spiritual life is a necessary condition. In choosing candidates to the priesthood quality must not be sacrificed for the sake of numbers. Adequate human and intellectual formation must also be given, and this formation must be adapted to the demands and conditions of the times. For, as His Holiness has said, "the whole work of priestly formation would be deprived of its necessary foundation if it lacked a suitable human formation".
Continuing formation after ordination enables the priest to remain in tune with developing times and new pastoral challenges. This formation can be gained, not only by formal courses of further studies but also through private study and through seminars and workshops.
Continuous spiritual renewal can be promoted by such exercises as days of recollection and annual retreats. The Higher Catholic Institutes, such as those in Abidjan (Ivory Coast), Kinshasa (Zaire), Nairobi (Kenya), Port Harcourt (Nigeria) and Yaounde (Cameroon), should be further developed so as to provide more facilities for forming apostolic personnel within the African ambience.
28. Many of the respondents to the Lineamenta stressed the need for adequate formation in both minor and major seminaries. Many dioceses have minor seminaries; these should be true seminaries with their own specific aim. For this reason there must be careful selection of candidates.
The answers to the Lineamenta note the existence of different categories of major seminaries: diocesan, inter-diocesan, regional, national and seminaries belonging to religious. Great emphasis is placed on the need for the pastoral care of vocations. All Christian people have a responsibility in this matter: bishops, diocesan vocations directors, priests at every level, lay persons, families and Small Christian Communities.
As far as major seminaries are concerned, the bishops of Africa lay great emphasis on the importance of careful selection and on the continuous assessment of candidates. This same point was made at a seminar organised by the Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples in 1988 at Yaounde (Cameroun) for the Rectors and Spiritual Directors of major seminaries of West and Central Africa.
The participants in this Seminar insisted that the current abundance of vocations in Africa was a grace of God to be welcomed with joy and gratitude. Nevertheless, it is to be remembered that today's seminarian is tomorrow's priest. It is therefore imperative to establish firm procedures and criteria for the selection of candidates at all levels so that those candidates not adapted to the ministry might be directed beforehand to seek their vocation in other areas of Church life. These procedures and criteria should be observed without compromise, fear or favour. It is imperative to have a national Ratio Institutionis Sacerdotalis which can help those concerned to avoid ambiguities and errors by giving a clear profile of the kind of priest needed for the Particular Church. At this stage of formation the missionary spirit is to be instilled into the candidates so that their attitude towards and outlook upon the ministerial priesthood might from the very beginning be missionary. As priests they would then gladly be sent outside their area to proclaim the Good News of salvation.
29. Those entrusted with the task of training candidates in seminaries must be well prepared for carrying out this important ministry. Bishops should give their first priority to this matter. Formators should be sufficient in number, and should be qualified, suitable, convinced and committed to their ministry, so that they may transmit to students the authentic spiritual and academic values needed for their future ministry.
30. "The counsels ... are a divine gift, which the Church has received from her Lord and which she ever preserves with the help of his grace". The life of the members of Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life is in itself a proclamation that this world cannot be transformed except in the spirit of the Beatitudes. Such consecration is also "a better symbol of the unbreakable link between Christ and his Spouse, the Church". It is in virtue of this profound link between Spouse and Bride that the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church declared as follows: "By the charity to which they lead, the evangelical counsels join their followers to the Church and her mystery in a special way. Since this is so, the spiritual life of these followers should be devoted to the welfare of the whole Church. Thence arises their duty of working to implant and strengthen the Kingdom of Christ in souls and to extend that Kingdom to every land".
Pope John Paul II has stated his conviction that such a life of consecration "which has, throughout history, been of such great service to the Church, is still today most suitable for the new apostolic challenges which the proclamation of the gospel message must face".
Members of communities totally dedicated to contemplation contribute to the growth of God's people by imparting a hidden apostolic fruitfulness. Christian monasticism originated in Africa and from there spread to other parts of the world. Early African monasticism played a crucial role in the evangelising mission of the Church in Egypt and North Africa. The Church in Africa today could perhaps reflect on the role that monastic communities could and should play in the present and future evangelisation of the continent. "In fact, these communities are urged to found houses in mission areas, as not a few of them have already done. Thus living out their lives in a manner accommodated to the truly religious traditions of the people, they can bear splendid witness there among non-Christians to the majesty and love of God, as well as to man's brotherhood in Christ".
31. By their profession of the evangelical counsels, Religious Brothers "have handed over their entire lives to God's service in an act of special consecration which is deeply rooted in their baptismal consecration and which provides an ampler manifestation of it". The vocation of Brothers has not always been well understood; however, many answers to the Lineamenta underlined the importance of the witness and apostolate of Brothers, particularly among youth. There is need for greater intellectual and professional training, adequate and inculturated formation and a spirituality relevant to the circumstances of Africa.
32. As of 31 December 1989 there were 885.645 women religious and 33.375 members of women's secular institutes in the Church. Africa had 41.863 women religious. It is a matter for thanksgiving to God that, as many answers to the Lineamenta attest, more and more indigenous African women are being called to the consecrated life. Pope John Paul II has a special word of appreciation for religious Sisters in whom virginity for the sake of the Kingdom is transformed into a fruitful spiritual motherhood. The mission ad gentes offers them a vast scope for "the gift of self with love in a total and undivided manner. The example and activity of women who through virginity are consecrated to love of God and neighbour, especially the very poor, are an indispensable evangelical sign among those peoples and cultures where women still have far to go on the way toward human promotion and liberation".
Many new diocesan institutes are springing up in many places on the continent. These are welcome as they contribute to the fullness of the being and apostolate of the Church. It would seem, however, that some of these new diocesan institutes are being created for apostolates already being undertaken by many others. Others seem to lack a distinctive charism and spirit. In addition, some new institutes do not seem to have adequate means to form their members and engage in effective mission. To avoid duplications the amalgamation of institutes with similar charisms and apostolic goals would seem to be in order. Multiplying diocesan institutes for their own sake could be a counter-witness by creating jealousy, prejudice, possessiveness and narrowness of outlook. Care should be taken to give Sisters an inculturated and relevant spiritual and academic formation.
MAC: An Instrument of Partnership in Mission
33. Since 1974, the Meetings for African Collaboration (MAC) have brought together representatives of institutes working in Africa and those of the Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar in reflection on the ongoing mission of religious and apostolic institutes in Africa. Among requests on the part of religious and apostolic institutes are: a clear pastoral plan developed with the participation of all concerned, better coordination between the priorities of dioceses and those of institutes, greater willingness on the part of bishops to sign contracts, closer dialogue between bishops and superiors in the matter of appointments and transfers, and adequate remuneration for the apostolate of Sisters. At the same time bishops are requesting, among other things, that consecrated persons be more clearly a sign of the presence of Christ among the people, that they show greater respect for the religious and spiritual sensitivities of the people, that they be more ready to cooperate in the mission of the diocese, especially mission in areas not easily accessible or involving difficult tasks, and that they be more willing generally to be guided by the pastoral authority of the bishops. They also request greater stability in personnel and, above all, adequate formation of the members of institutes.
34. In Christifideles Laici Pope John Paul II presented in clear terms the vocation and ministry of the lay faithful in the Church and the world. In virtue of baptism, they participate in Christ's threefold ministry of Priest, Prophet-Teacher and King.
The Second Vatican Council stated that the whole People of God participates in this same threefold ministry which is continued in the Church. John Paul II emphasises that through their participation in the prophetic mission of Christ "who proclaimed the Kingdom of his Father by the testimony of his life and by the power of his word, the lay faithful are given the ability and responsibility to accept the gospel in faith, to proclaim it in word and deed, and courageously without hesitation to identify and denounce evil. United to Christ the Prophet (cf. Lk 7:16), and in the Spirit made 'witnesses' of the Risen Christ, the lay faithful are made sharers in the appreciation of the Church's supernatural faith that cannot err in matters of belief, sharers as well in the grace of the word and the outpouring of the Spirit (cf. Acts 2:17-18). They are also called to allow the newness and the power of the gospel to shine out every day in their family and social life, as well as to express patiently and courageously in the contradictions of the present age their hope of future glory even through the framework of their secular life".
The laity are encouraged to assume their missionary responsibility as agents of evangelisation. It is important to overcome "clericalism", that is, a monopoly of mission by the clergy which would not integrate or promote the mission of the lay faithful. In their everyday life the laity are in constant touch with the world and sometimes know it better. Their competence should be recognised and accepted so that they may become real witnesses to the gospel and effective agents of salutary change. Some of the responses to the Lineamenta call upon the African hierarchy to offer the laity a genuinely religious formation through such means as the biblical apostolate, spiritual formation, instruction in the social teaching of the Church, workshops, retreats and seminars. Such a lay religious culture would include elements such as prayer, acceptance of the obligation of Christian witness and a commitment to bringing up children in the Christian life. It may also call for the provision of Christian schools - in name and in fact - where an integrated Christian education can be given.
Formation of Christ's lay faithful in theology and in the Church's social teaching will enable them to assume their indispensable role as agents of evangelisation.
35. The term "catechist" has a variety of meanings. Sometimes it means simply one who works in the field of catechetics. But the title may also be used more broadly to include anyone involved in some kind of apostolic activity: a teacher of religion, a community animator, a family welfare officer or a development worker. The responses to the Lineamenta also show that in Africa, the term applies to a number of functionaries. The Second Vatican Council speaks of "that army of catechists both men and women, worthy of praise, to whom missionary work among the nations owes so much. Imbued with the apostolic spirit they make a singular and absolutely necessary contribution to the spread of the faith and of the Church by their strenuous efforts".
Catechesis or the teaching of the faith constitutes the specific vocation of the catechist but he is also involved as a collaborator in the whole apostolic endeavour.
Pope John Paul II emphasises that "the ministry of the catechist has its own characteristics. Catechists are specialists, direct witnesses and irreplaceable evangelisers who, as I have often stated and experienced during my missionary journeys, represent the basic strength of Christian communities, especially in the younger Churches".
Catechists stand at the centre of the history of the Church in Africa and of its missionary success. As close cooperators of the missionaries, they have in recent times become specialised teachers of religion and general pastoral agents, with a prophetic role in the community and in schools, both in the towns and in the countryside.
Many responses to the Lineamenta echo both the Second Vatican Council and Pope John Paul II in recognising the importance of the training of catechists. They need careful training in doctrine as well as initiation into pedagogical methods, and should be given opportunities for spiritual and apostolic development. Training can be given in special centres as well as in occasional seminars, workshops and retreats. The aim is to prepare efficient animators of the community who can act as teachers and witnesses of the gospel under the direction of the Pastors in the Africa of today.
Some of the answers to the Lineamenta ask whether it would not be in line with the work already being done by catechists to orientate some of them to become permanent deacons. Other responses, however, were reticent concerning this proposal.
36. Several of the responses to the Lineamenta noted that at least 40% of the present population of Africa is under the age of eighteen. The importance of children and youth for the Church of the future can therefore hardly be exaggerated. Children "are a continual reminder that the missionary fruitfulness of the Church has its life-giving basis not in human means and merits, but in the absolute gratuitous gift of God". Concerning youth, the Pope has also stated: "Youth must not be simply considered as an object of pastoral concern for the Church. In fact young people are and ought to be encouraged to be active on behalf of the Church as leading characters in evangelisation and participants in the renewal of society". Every effort must be made to provide young people with a solid Christian upbringing. The family is particularly important in this respect since the home is the place where the Christian formation of children begins. "Christian education should aim at bringing young people to maturity in faith and preparing them for life. It does this by forming them in chastity, protecting them from ideological and moral danger, bringing them into the ecclesial and civil community, helping them to choose a vocation and in general offering mutual support". Both in the school and the community effort must be made to help young people to become men and women of conviction and "leading characters of evangelisation" for their own people and others. It seems evident that youth holds the promise of the future for the Church.
Many dioceses have Youth Directors and Youth Centres which provide good service. Many youth activities and youth associations have as their aim not simply the welfare of their members, but the formation of young people as witnesses to their peers. It needs, however, to be repeated that there is no substitute for the family as the primary locus for training youth and bringing them up in the faith.
37. Catholic Schools are envisaged as important places for bringing youth up as committed Christians. Every effort should be made to instill Catholic convictions into teachers. It is expected that Catholic schools should give education for life and a genuine training of the Christian conscience. The Church is to provide teachers and chaplains, and also Teachers' Training Colleges where this is possible, in order to produce an efficient and committed body of Catholic teachers equipped to teach religion and train youth.
It is recommended that Catholic education policy take better into consideration the different cultural, social, political and economic elements in the life of the people. The Religious Syllabus should also include the Church's Social Teaching and promote knowlegde of the relevant elements of African Traditional Religion.
38. Pope Paul VI stated that "at different moments in the Church's history and also in the Second Vatican Council, the family has well deserved the beautiful name of 'domestic Church'. This means that there should be found in every Christian family the various aspects of the entire Church. The family, like the Church, ought to be a place where the Gospel is transmitted and from which it radiates. Parents not only communicate the Gospel to their children, but from their children they can themselves receive the Gospel as deeply lived by them".
A special characteristic of African families noted in the answers to the Lineamenta is that they often contain members who belong to different religious confessions. This can be an opportunity for witness and evangelisation. Christian values can be accepted even when they are not recognised as Christian. Differences in religious conviction should be approached in a spirit of mutual respect and tolerance. Such an attitude would indeed be one way in which evangelisation could take place within the African family. At the same time, Christian families, real domestic cells of the Church, remain the ideal, and many are now emerging in Africa.
39. The communion of the Church is promoted when the lay faithful work together in groups, thus exercising in common their responsible participation in the life and mission of the Church. The formation of lay groups is promoted by the ecclesiology of the Second Vatican Council which explicitly referred to such an apostolate as "a sign of communion and of the unity of the Church of Christ". Pope John Paul II offers the following criteria by which the genuinely ecclesial character of lay groups can be recognised:
- the primary aim is an expression of the call
of every Christian to holiness;
Many of the answers to the Lineamenta confirm the importance of apostolic movements as dynamic agents of evangelisation in Africa. The emphasis is placed on formation, and on direction by suitable and well-trained chaplains. These monitor progress and seek to instill the Christian spirit into the groups.
40. The answers to the Lineamenta recognise the fundamental role in evangelisation of the witness of Christian life and the sacraments, especially the eucharist, the source and apex of the Christian life. For evangelisation touches the natural life and gives it a new meaning, thanks to the continual encounter with Christ in the sacraments. Three priorities were, nevertheless, singled out as of particular relevance:
- the centrality of the Word of God;
The Word reveals to us the mystery of the divine plan of salvation. By the Son's incarnation and through the Spirit man has access to the Father and comes to share in the divine nature (cf. Eph. 2:18; 2 Peter 1:4). God out of love reveals himself and speaks to men as friends, he lives among them and invites them to fellowship with him. Through words and deeds, he unveils his plan for the salvation of mankind. The words proclaim the deeds and clarify the mystery contained in them. "By this revelation, then, the deepest truth about God and the salvation of man is made clear to us in Christ who is the mediator and at the same time the fullness of all revelation". He, the one in whom the full revelation of the Supreme God is brought to completion (cf. 2 Cor 1:20), commissioned the apostles to preach to all humankind the gospel, source of all saving truth and moral living (cf. Rm 10:14-27; Mt 19:20).
The Word is also a tradition handed down through contemplation and study by believers. "The Church constantly moves forward towards the fullness of divine truth, until the words of God reach their complete fulfilment in her".
Preaching should be Christ-centred and should help believers to grow towards Christian maturity. Sermons should offer doctrine and moral directives which are relevant to the concrete situation of the hearers so that these feel themselves challenged to improve their relationship with God and with people in the community.
The aim of preaching is to help the hearers make a response to Christ - as individuals and as community. The grace of conversion comes from God; the preacher is his instrument. It is God who both acts through the preacher and moves the minds and hearts of the hearers so that they may understand and follow the message of salvation. Under the impulse of the Holy Spirit the Church's ministry of preaching continues that of Christ. Preaching aims ultimately at manifesting the glory of God which saves mankind through faith and love. The preacher and the hearers are all elements in a divine activity which is directed to believer and unbeliever, just and sinner, in their life situation as Africans. The homily should be adapted to the understanding of the hearers and be inspired by scripture, tradition, and the teaching of the Fathers and the magisterium. Preaching makes great demands on the preacher, both intellectually and spiritually.
The Word of God needs to become more and more an integral part of Christian life in Africa and the foundation of Christian spirituality and life. For this to happen, initiation by means of seminars, workshops and other means may be needed. Vernacular translations are to be encouraged; in fact they are appearing in greater numbers. The Biblical Apostolate is to be promoted and bibles and biblical material made more readily available. In 1981 at Yaounde, (Cameroon), the Symposium of the Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar (SECAM) reiterated the crucial importance of the Biblical Apostolate, and agreed to assume complete responsibility for the African apostolate of the bible.
44. By "catechesis" is meant the education of children, young people and adults in the faith. It includes especially the teaching of Christian doctrine in an organic and systematic way so as to initiate the hearers into the fullness of the Christian life. Catechesis initiates the catechumens into the following elements of Church life: the initial proclamation of the Gospel, or "kerygma", apologetics, experience of Christian living, celebration of the sacraments, integration into the ecclesial community and apostolic and missionary witness.
Catechesis and proclamation complement each other, and both are "moments" in the entire process of evangelisation. Proclamation leads to initial faith; catechesis advances this faith by educating the neophyte in the duties of discipleship and giving him or her a deeper and more systematic knowledge of the person and message of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Newly-initiated Christians are, it is evident, in need of further formation. It is the task of the catechist, under the guidance of Pastors, to bring Christians to greater faith-awareness. Many of the responses to the Lineamenta stress the importance of an adult catechumenate.
One of the tools of catechetical instruction is the "catechism", or summary of belief. Pope John Paul II outlines four essential features of good catechisms, as follows:
- "they must be linked with the real life of the generation to which they are addressed, showing close acquaintance with its anxieties and questionings, struggles and hopes;
- they must try to speak a language comprehensible to the generation in question;
- they must make a point of giving the whole message of Christ and of his Church, without neglecting or distorting anything, and in expounding it they will follow a line and structure that highlights what is essential;
- they must really aim to give to those who use them a better knowledge of the mysteries of Christ, aimed at true conversion and a life more in conformity with God's will".
Many countries in Africa have diocesan and inter-diocesan catechisms, written in the local language and often composed in the missionary period. They have done good service as tools of evangelisation, but some of them may need to be brought up-to- date to answer to the needs of the new generation and the new reality of the Church. The guidelines for this may be found in the General Catechetical Directory. The Catechism of the Catholic Church, which has now been published, will serve as the standard reference-book.
45. Several Episcopal Conferences have adopted Small Christian Communities as a priority of their pastoral plan. Their form varies from country to country, but in general they bring together several families from an area of the town or village within the parish territory. The advantage of such communities is that they give Christians a sense of belonging and a sense of being united in a common purpose. The family and clan structure of traditional African society makes these Small Christian Communities particularly appropriate. Paul VI enumerated certain conditions for the ecclesial reality of these communities. Although his words seem to refer directly to the Basic Communities of Latin America, some of these conditions apply also to the African situation. They are the following:
- "that they remain firmly attached to the local Church within which they exist and to the Universal Church, thus avoiding the very real danger of becoming isolated; ...
- that they maintain a sincere communion with the Pastors whom the Lord gives to his Church, and with the Magisterium which the Spirit of Christ has entrusted to these pastors; ...
- that they constantly grow in missionary consciousness, fervour, commitment and zeal".
It is very important to train and educate the leaders of these Small Christian Communities.
46. Other ways of communicating the message of salvation include religious books and use of the media. Some responses to the Lineamenta advocate the use in evangelisation of sociological methods of evaluation and research.
47. The Second Vatican Council teaches that "the Church is a kind of sacrament or sign of intimate union with God, and of the unity of all mankind. She is also an instrument for the achievement of such union and unity". This being the case, one of the primary tasks of the Church in Africa in her evangelising mission towards the third millennium must be a commitment to becoming more fully the sign and instrument of communion with God, and of communion and reconciliation among men.
The bishops of Africa have often explicitly called attention to the mystery of the Church as the sign and instrument of communion as well as to the obligation of the Church in Africa to render that sign ever more effective, visible and credible. That is why the Sixth Plenary Assembly of the Symposium of the Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar held in Yaounde (Cameroon) in 1981 made the following declaration: "In the Churches of Africa and Madagascar apostolic workers come from practically everywhere. There are indigenous people and expatriates in all the variety of their origins and cultures. This diversity must be consciously accepted in mutual respect and with the feeling that all are involved in one and the same task, the proclamation of the gospel. Each in his own place must feel responsible for the image given by his or her Particular Church. All must strive to eliminate every trace of racialism and discrimination. No one should encourage tribalism by his words or attitudes... We must find joy in stressing that the qualities and talents of each human group contribute to the good of all and promote mutual enrichment".
Promoting Ecclesial Communion in Africa
48. The Synod of 1974 was an occasion for the African bishops to restate the continued need of foreign missionaries in Africa, for "between the different parts of the Church there are bonds of intimate communion with regard to spiritual riches, apostolic workers and temporal assistance".
Since the Church is a communion, it must embody participation and co-responsibility at all levels. The effort to promote such participation among all Christ's faithful, including the lay faithful, will constitute one of the principal tasks in the evangelising mission of the Church in Africa.
It is suggested that regional seminaries, inter-diocesan apostolic work on the part of seminarians, and National Missionary Institutes might be ways of promoting communion in the Particular Churches.
There must also be true communion between the different members of the African hierarchy, between priests and religious, and between all members of Christ's faithful. Particularly important is the sense of unity between Africans and the expatriate missionaries.
For the Church in Africa to live the mystery
of Church communion more intensely, it is necessary that catechesis,
preaching and other practical ways be found to promote a solid sensus Ecclesiae
among Christ's faithful, as well as a profound conviction and living
awareness of the Church as the Mystical Body of Christ. This sensus
Ecclesiae necessarily implies a fundamental attitude of a sentire cum
Ecclesia, by which Christ's faithful in Africa will accept with Christian
obedience, docility and humility the leadership of their bishops in communion
with Peter and the College of Bishops.
49. "And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us..." (Jn 1:14). The content of what would come in time to be called "inculturation" is contained in these words of the Gospel According to Saint John. God became man so that human beings might become his children. "The process of the Church's insertion into peoples' cultures is a lengthy one. It is not a matter of purely external adaptation, for inculturation 'means the intimate transformation of authentic cultural values through their integration in Christianity and the insertion of Christianity in the various human cultures'".
Jesus confided the mission of proclaiming the Good News to the disciples (cf. Mt 28:20). Paul in fulfilling this mission entered into dialogue with the Gentiles, peoples whose cultural and religious values were different from those of the Jews (cf. Acts 14:8; 17:22). The process inculturation follows is one that the Word of God followed, taking flesh in the life and the beliefs of peoples who welcome Christ and the values of the gospel.
It follows that inculturation does not consist only in transforming the mentality of human beings or groups of people, but also implies approaching cultures in such ways that they are enabled, from within themselves, to be fertile. Christianity becomes itself enriched when through inculturation it enters into dialogue with peoples and with their cultures. An inculturated evangelisation will help peoples give flesh to evangelical values in their language and symbols, their history, politics, business life and own ways of developing.
Inculturation facilitates not only the integration of cultural values but also the purification of those elements not in keeping with the exigencies of the gospel.
Inculturation is written into the very logic of the Incarnation. God became man so as to share with man his plan of salvation (cf. 1 Tm 2:4). In this way the gospel finds expression in the genius of a people, and will continue to find expression in the genius of every people that accepts it.
In the answers to the Lineamenta the
necessity and the urgency of inculturation are justified in Africa.
I. THE NECESSITY OF INCULTURATION
50. Inculturation is looked upon by the great majority of the Particular Churches in Africa as a task that is urgent, necessary and even a priority. It consists, in fact, of a process by which Christian belief takes flesh in the cultures, a process inherent in the announcing of God's Good News. "Because the incarnation of the Son of God was concrete and integral, it was a cultural incarnation".
51. Already in the Old Testament Isaiah foretells the glory of Jerusalem: "The nations shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising... Then you shall see and be radiant, your heart shall thrill and rejoice; because the abundance of the sea shall be turned to you, the wealth of the nations shall come to you. A multitude of camels shall cover you, the young camels of Midian and Ephah; all those from Saba shall come. They shall bring gold and frankincense and shall proclaim the praise of the Lord" (Is 60:3, 5-6). In this manner the universal nature of salvation is forcefully stated.
Inculturation will show much more clearly that, in the biblical perspective, every people is given to Christ as his inheritance, and that by the inculturation process peoples can offer to Christ what they received from him. From that point on, the marvels of God will be told to the peoples, each one in its own tongue (cf. Acts 2:11).
52. If the necessity that the evangelical message be inculturated is drawn from the very mystery of the incarnation, the Church must set out to follow the path traced by her master, who came not to abolish but to complete (cf. Mt 5:17). The Word being God himself took on a real human nature in his own person and lived every aspect of human existence - except sin - in a definite place and time. So, "through her work, whatever good is in the minds and hearts of men, whatever good lies latent in the religious practices and cultures of diverse peoples, is not only saved from destruction but is also healed, ennobled, and perfected unto the glory of God". The gospel should reach into the heart of human beings, because "the Kingdom which the gospel proclaims is lived by men who are profoundly linked to a culture, and the building up of the Kingdom cannot avoid borrowing the elements of human culture or cultures".
53. Inculturation makes evangelisation begin at the very depths of hearts and customs. Christianity remains for many Africans "a stranger religion", there being some part of their very selves and lives that stays outside the gospel. This is the source of a certain double quality in living their beliefs, holding them divided between their faith in Jesus Christ and custom's traditional practices.
Inculturation will help the African Christian resolve the tension between the two ways of living, and to accept what it costs to abandon beliefs and practices that are incompatible with the gospel. Without inculturation the faith of the African will remain fragile and superficial, lacking depth and personal commitment.
Inculturation will additionally relativise the problem of the sects, enabling the African Christian to express his faith in his own tongue and in attitudes and gestures natural to him, in catechesis, liturgy and pastoral work as well as in theological reflection.
Nevertheless, it has to be admitted that the process of inculturation is not universally welcomed, something that one might after all have expected. What is brought out in fact by the fears and the hesitancies the inculturation process arouses in various quarters is that the process calls into question the understanding and accustomed ways not only of the Christian people but of some pastors too.
54. It is generally accepted by African Episcopal Conferences that the Christian western world is now paying more attention to the hidden riches of African cultures. Moreover, the Second Vatican Council gave recognition to the importance and timeliness of the matter when it said, "although the Church has contributed much to the development of culture, experience shows that, because of circumstances, it is sometimes difficult to harmonize culture with Christian teaching".
A Church that does not attain success in
integrating its proper cultural values into its belief will not be able to
stand against the influences of other religious currents. This is certainly
one of the causes of the failure of evangelisation in certain regions of
II. INCULTURATION AND CHURCH COMMUNION
55. The efforts made to achieve inculturation will certainly bring enrichment both to the Particular Church and the Church at large, for inculturation calls the Christian to a life of communion that is more committed and more in keeping with the gospel.
The first positive outcome surely is a great strengthening of the salvific action of the Redeemer working through a living liturgy that employs means that are proper to Africa. In this way Africa brings enrichment to the spiritual patrimony of the Universal Church. The use of certain African cultural traditions helps the African better understand and live the sacraments.
The crowning of all efforts towards
inculturation is before all else the contribution Africa makes to the glory
of God. Saint Irenaeus said "the glory of God is the living human
person", which here means the believer fully alive, enabled to praise
God with every last one of his cultural values.
III. MAIN FIELDS OF INCULTURATION
56. The majority of the Episcopal Conferences in Africa believe that the matter of inculturation cannot be restricted to one aspect of evangelisation. The objective is instead to see inculturation as a process that should underpin the entirety of the new evangelisation.
Experiments or attempts in inculturation are being made, in most instances, in the domains of bible, liturgy, pastoral method and theological research.
57. The Church in Africa responded very rapidly to the recommendation of the Second Vatican Council in the Constitution Dei Verbum that Christians be given easy access to sacred scripture. Almost everywhere in Africa translations into the local language were undertaken, often in a joint effort with other Christians. This led to the bible becoming in a special way an area of ecumenical dialogue.
58. It is in the domain of liturgy that the great majority of attempts at inculturation have been undertaken. The development moved rapidly from simple adaptations to creative efforts. Several initiatives may be mentioned:
- a rediscovery of the importance of the Word of God;
59. In the work of the apostolate the African Church has, in the Living Church Communities, something that promises to be fruitful. A theology of communion is beginning to develop, thanks to them, through which the faithful are starting to appreciate that they are themselves involved in preaching the gospel.
The parish is increasingly seen as a structure which both expresses this communion of parts and holds them together. In some Particular Churches, parish structures have been re-ordered into Living Christian communities, and this helps members share responsibility better and feel themselves more a Church family. Retreats and preparation for the reception of the sacraments are done in groups. Manuals for catechesis make every effort to take African symbols and cultural values into account. Evangelisation of some traditional rites has been undertaken: concerning twins, widows, initiation, burial, etc.. Some parishes have been selected to be pilot projects, places for experimentation in inculturation before these practices are extended to a region (diocese) or a country.
60. Inculturation is not just a matter of
languages, rather the fresh examination, thanks to the gospel, of everything
that makes up the lives of African people. In the field of theological
research there is intense activity, for example, doctoral theses are being
written, and periodicals and books are being published. Teaching institutes
exist where courses are offered on the theme of inculturation (universities,
higher institutes, pastoral centres, seminaries). Associations of theologians
and exegetes are being set up in great numbers, and they are organising
symposia and colloquia. This research work, combined with the Christian sense
of the African faithful, could result in a particularly African theology
which, by a deep reflection on the African way of seeing God, human beings
and life, would enrich the Universal Church.
IV. AGENTS OF INCULTURATION
61. The work of inculturation involves the
entire Church community because it is the whole Church that must be
missionary. Therefore it must never be thought that inculturation falls under
the responsibility of foreign missionaries or of a handful of experts. It is
the responsibility of the whole believing community. In fact, if pastors and
theologians, for the most part, organise pastoral work and theological
reflection, the gestures, attitudes, expressions, prayers and songs, along
with musical instruments and rhythms will spring from the spiritual depths of
the faithful people. The drive for inculturation is therefore a movement with
which everyone is associated. In cases where there is conflict, it is the
duty of the bishop to take a decision.
V. CHRISTIANS' REACTION TO THE EFFORT FOR INCULTURATION
62. Inculturation can seem a novelty as a way of evangelising, so there is always need to explain the process before trying to put it into action. In those instances where inculturation has been badly received, the failure will have resulted because proper explanation in advance was lacking.
It would seem that reactions to efforts at inculturation may not be the same everywhere.
In certain countries it is necessary to distinguish various sorts of reaction to the attempts at inculturation. Some reactions in fact point to understandable hesitancies in face of anything new. Others, however, are a result of failure to understand the basis upon which alterations are being made in accustomed ways for expressing the faith. There are also Christians who reject the new initiatives, particularly in liturgy, because they are overly attached to ceremonies in Latin, and even in the european languages.
In liturgy, at least, it may be claimed that people welcome the changes enthusiastically. It can be noticed in the growing numbers who approach holy communion. Again, it can be seen how people are moved by preaching that is done within the cultural categories they are familiar with. Overall it can be said that those who habitually take part in the life of the community are the ones who best understand the basis of inculturation.
In such cases there is no surprise in finding that the younger generation is better disposed to accept the changes, where older people are far more hesitant. The different reactions come from the fact that in many instances the explanations that were done before the introduction of the changes have been understood differently. Hence, it is to be desired that every effort to try out inculturation should be preceded by explanation, so people may understand the reasons for it and its purpose.
In fact, negative reactions are often bound up
with hesitancies when confronted with the demand to change mentality and
habits. At times some changes are discredited or rendered suspect through
exaggeration on the part of the people who are putting them into effect.
VI. SOME SUCCESSFUL EFFORTS AT INCULTURATION
63. It is incontestable that the Church has flourished in those areas where the principle of inculturation was taken seriously.
The experience of the early Church community deserves to be cited in evidence here as a model. As it moved from the Jewish to the Hellenic world the early Church felt it necessary to inculturate the message and to share out responsibilities (cf. Acts 6:1-6). At the Council of Jerusalem the Hellenists had to accept - for the sake of unity (cf. Acts 15:28) - to maintain what was strictly necessary.
The history of the Church, from Pentecost to the Second Vatican Council, and the transition from Greek to the Latin and Byzantine traditions shows that the principle of unity in diversity, better perhaps, the particular in the universal, has always been upheld.
The Ethiopian and the Coptic Churches have survived only because from the outset inculturation was part of their being. In fact, "in Egypt and in Ethiopia from very early times the Christian faith was presented (the bible, liturgy, etc.) in the Coptic and Ethiopian languages, even if they were the spoken tongue of only a minority of people".
In our day Christianity lives on in the north of Ethiopia, with its proper liturgy (Ethiopian Rite) and its theological heritage. Here, it is preferable to speak of a rooting of God's word in the community - instead of inculturation.
The Church in Egypt wanted from the beginning
to inculturate the gospel message into what was at first a pagan and later a
Muslim milieu. The same effort is still asked of her today as she strives to
make contact with Arabic culture which is also called to be influenced by
gospel values. She is adapting to the modern world, keeping intact its faith
and its Church tradition. Elsewhere in Africa there are different efforts
towards inculturation going on.
VII. SOME QUESTIONS THAT ARISE CONCERNING INCULTURATION
Diversity of Peoples and Cultures
64. In some of the answers to the Lineamenta, questions are asked concerning inculturation, based on the great diversity of peoples in most African countries many of whom host over a hundred indigenous languages. Some of these peoples are relatively few in number. Furthermore, as most countries of Africa are striving towards national unity and national identity on the psychological level a stress on inculturation would seem to be detrimental to such identity. Some people hold the theory of "convergence of industrial societies", that is, that traditional societies become more and more similar as they become industrialized and urbanized. Some would extend this to a gradual dominance of the western type of culture over all traditional cultures.
It needs be remembered that "whatever is received, is received according to the manner of the receiver"; each group and people hears the gospel from within its own traditional experiences. This may lead to distortions and misplaced emphases which may need to be corrected by a proper approach to inculturation. It may also have a positive effect in buttressing certain essential aspects of the gospel or revealing "new faces" of Christ. It would be the task of inculturation to integrate these "faces" within an balanced Christian point of view particular to the group or people. The principle should be adopted that, as far as possible, each group should hear the gospel in its own tongue, and have necessary translations made available, especially if the majority of people cannot communicate in any other language. It should be a goal of inculturation to so order missionary work and pastoral action as gradually to do away with interpreters.
Culture should not be confused with the actual practices of a culture. The practices may differ from place to place, and in the same place from one epoch to another, without essential change in the culture. The trained or experienced person can discover similarities of culture (depth level) where others see only diversity.
Nor is culture synonymous with language even if language is an important element. Some peoples with diverse practices and languages can share an overall culture; such seems to be the case of Africa, south of the Sahara; there one tends to speak of African Traditional Religion in the singular, this without prejudice to the existence of sub-cultures.
The Challenge of the Present Situation
65. Industrialization, urbanization and the mass media are certainly agents of cultural evolution, so have been the factors of colonialism and neo-colonialism. They have brought such enormous changes to Africa, especially on the level of material culture and the forms and functions of certain elements of culture, that the new Africa is a culture in transition. However, when it comes to values and the basic assumptions of a people, the resistance is still strong and the underlying African identity still intact. Culture, like the human organism which grows by absorbing life from the environment, retains its identity even while undergoing profound changes. Efforts at inculturation may not neglect the factor of change. Especially in urban centres, it will be found that attempts at inculturation which take account both of social change and the underlying resources of the African mentality will be a force for unity rather than a source of discord.
In parish situations, care is to be taken that inculturation efforts are not based on the ideas of some cultural sub-groups to the exclusion of others. Since inculturation is a community project, it calls for dialogue between all levels of the community with a view to arriving at expressions which have universal appeal and lend themselves to acceptance by all. The caveat of His Holiness is apposite: "inculturation is a slow journey, which accompanies the whole of missionary life".
Since culture is a dynamic reality and not
static, it is in constant evolution. Internal re-structurings are continually
in progress because of the contact between cultures. Inculturation is,
therefore, an ongoing process, never a finished product.
VIII. INCULTURATION AND POSSIBLE ERRORS
66. Certain initiatives in inculturation have been considered deviations or abuses because they were not accompanied by anthropological and theological reflection of adequate depth. There are rites or customs that cannot without discernment be adapted for use. Again, there have been attempts on too limited a cultural basis.
It must be admitted that some of the things attempted in inculturation lend themselves to equivocal interpretation. Tactless initiatives put valid ones at risk and are to be avoided:
- abuses in the use made of holy water, incense, candles and the laying on of hands;
- prayer groups tending towards sects, and not attending Sunday Mass;
- danger that the liturgy evolve into a non-sacred folk ritual. The danger of syncretism has to be noted.
IX. PROSPECTS FOR THE FUTURE
67. Inculturation is not a new method of evangelising, it is rather an idea about which all plans for evangelisation must turn. Today inculturation appears to be an urgent task for the Church in Africa.
Inculturation ought to be in all respects an effort men and women make to be converted down to the very roots of their culture. It is imperative then that the Synod aid the peoples of Africa to avoid separating conversion of mind from the conversion of their way of life. Inculturation should enable African Christians to live their faith in all its depth and to be able to give it expression in their own way. Before that stage is attained, it is necessary to face up to some pastoral challenges.
Marriage and Family Living
68. "Marriage", says an African proverb, "is the main post of the hut". If the house, that is, the Church of Christ in Africa, should sway, perhaps that is because its main support does not plunge deep enough into the earth of Africa. There is a great number of Catholics excluded from the sacraments, the source of unity and strength, by reason of their irregular marital situation. Still others are barred from coming into the Church by reason of already existing relationships. It is good that all of these problems should be treated so as to find out what pastoral solutions are possible.
In any case, it is opportune in this matter of marriage to go back to the two principles that should direct every effort of inculturation, namely, "compatibility with the gospel and communion with the universal Church". Again, "holding fast to the two principles of the compatibility with the gospel of the various cultures to be taken up and of communion with the Universal Church, there must be further study...and greater pastoral diligence so that this inculturation of the Christian faith may come about ever more extensively, in the context of marriage and the family as well as in other fields".
Priestly and Religious Life
69. Some of those who become priests or religious in Africa may feel themselves alienated from their own culture. So some Episcopal Conferences in Africa judge that the training being given to future priests and religious fails to root them well enough into their cultural inheritance. This state of things can lead to their living in a very insecure state, perpetually wearing a mask. Could a spirituality steeped in African wisdom perhaps provide a remedy to this condition? What needs be done to inculturate religious life? How does one lead a truly priestly life and remain a man of one's people? These are questions that must be asked.
70. Recent study of African Traditional Religion has demonstrated that the traditional African possesses a deep and very rich spirituality. He not only believes in a Supreme Being but gives expression to his faith by means of religious convictions and practices.
A spirituality, whole and entire, surges up from the depths, even in the case of Christians, at certain vital moments in human living - birth, initiation or rite of passage to adulthood, pain and death.
Completed and purified by the light of the gospel, the concepts of life and death, of veneration for the ancestors and belief in the afterlife, can enrich Christian spirituality and make certain aspects of the mystery of salvation more understandable to the African.
71. There can be no doubt that Catholics provide a great service in the field of health. Yet experience shows that illness, suffering and death lead Christians to look to other sources of help, for example, traditional healers, sects and the Independent Churches. Some who follow these practices say that the Church does not have power over illness and suffering. This is, of course, false, but it is possible that the approach of the Church is not sufficiently holistic in practice for the African. If the gospel is Good News for every human person, then the Synod must turn its attention to the belief in witchcraft and divination which is disturbing the African's peace of mind, to see what ministry can cope with this preoccupation.
Ancestors and the Communion of Saints
72. In Africa there is still a widespread conviction that life and death, the living and the dead, even the as-yet-unborn, are mutually dependent. This network of beliefs constitutes the bedrock of the African worldview. It is a question that the Synod ought to face, to discover if those beliefs could not be harmonised with the Communion of Saints. The fact that the ancestors hold a key position in African Traditional Religion makes this all the more important. Research in this field should be undertaken in different parts of Africa to reach, possibly a fresh understanding of the Communion of Saints.
It is necessary that the mysteries of life and death as the African lives them be held in consideration and, what is more, that rituals which concern death and burial be christianised in such a way that the ancestors are brought into the Christian understanding of the Communion of Saints.
Inculturation and African Traditional Religion
73. The process of inculturation must
constantly take into account the positive elements of African Traditional
Religion. These elements form part of the cultural heritage of the peoples of
Africa, and the establishing of relationships between them and Christianity
could be to the enrichment of the latter. Some of the positive elements of
African Traditional Religion are outlined in Chapter Three which deals with
74. The inculturation process will help the
Particular Churches of Africa make their evangelising more extensive and of
greater depth. Perhaps it is well to restate here that inculturation is not a
missionary methodology by which one passes into a new stage of
evangelisation. It is rather a new awareness, a requirement that has Jesus
Christ at its centre. This new requirement demands a profound change in
mentality and conviction. Inculturation enables the Church in Africa to take
its own place in the ongoing process of the mystery of the incarnation, for
wherever the Word is proclaimed by the Church there it must take flesh in and
for the culture. Evangelisation has to be carried through in every culture
"in depth and right to its very roots". The missionary task of the
Church in Africa at the dawn of the third millennium is to make possible in
an adapted way the event of two thousand years ago, the incarnation of the
Word of God.
75. Dialogue is an important characteristic of the world we live in. The revolution in the modern means of transport and social communications has brought the world closer together. The whole world has become one big market place where dialogue and encounter have become inevitable. Never before in the history of humanity has there been so much contact between adherents of different religions and among different religions of the world.
In making dialogue an important part of her programme of action in today's world, the Church wishes to respond to this external and clear "sign of the times", but also and especially to give fresh vitality to an integral aspect of her mission of evangelisation. The programme outlined by Pope Paul VI in his first Encyclical, Ecclesiam Suam, in 1964 - a document described by Pope John Paul II as the "'Magna Carta' of dialogue under its various forms" - was spelt out more clearly in the Second Vatican Council. Various conciliar and post-conciliar documents are available as precious records of what the Spirit is saying to the Church. On the practical level, structures have been established to ensure the implementation of the conciliar directives.
6. Dialogue "is demanded by deep respect for everything that has been brought about in human beings by the Spirit who blows where he wills".
Hence, the Church is not free with respect to dialogue nor does she enter it with ulterior motives. Striving to live in a state of continual conversion and of docility to the Holy Spirit, she cooperates with his activity wherever it is found. To a certain extent, the Holy Spirit is also active in the other Churches and Christian Communities as well as in the other religions of the world. The Church has a duty to discern this activity and to promote it to the best of her energy, and this calls for dialogue and mutual challenge. In this way, she grows into the fullness of Christ, the foundation and norm of God's self-manifestation and self-communication to man.
77. The Church is a kind of sacrament of the intimate union with God and of the unity of all mankind; she is also an instrument for the achievement of such union and unity. She continues the initiative of God himself, who established a dialogue of salvation with man, a dialogue gratuitously undertaken on God's part, with full respect for human freedom and destined for all. On the other hand she follows the example of her divine Founder who during his ministry used dialogue as the means of progressively revealing his divinity and the mysteries of the Kingdom (cf. Jn 3:1-21, 4:1-42, 6:26-69). Dialogue is, therefore, an important aspect of the Church's mission of evangelisation: "authentic dialogue becomes witness, and true evangelisation is accomplished by respecting and listening to one another".
Dialogue is not an alternative for proclamation nor a substitute for it; one implies the other, and both are different aspects of the same mission of the Church. The obligation of preaching the gospel and bearing witness to Christ lies on every Christian: "woe to me if I do not preach the Gospel" (1 Cor 9:16) and again, "we cannot but proclaim what we have seen and heard" (Acts 4:20). The Christian engaged in dialogue responds to the exhortation found in 1 Pt 3:15 to give "an account of the hope that is in you, but to give it in gentleness and reverence". A Christian in dialogue cannot but begin from his or her own identity as such, that is, as one who follows and professes Christ as the universal norm for human life. In this sense, true Christian dialogue is never indifferent to the aims of proclamation.
78. As a specific activity dialogue may be expressed in four ways - dialogue of life, dialogue of deeds, dialogue of specialists and dialogue of religious experience. In this sense, some people may feel called to give themselves more especially to dialogue as a specific apostolate. It is to be noted, however, that dialogue goes beyond the mere setting up of structures for discussion and debates by experts; it is also and especially the sharing of experiences and collaboration in life by ordinary adherents of the different religions.
Above all dialogue is a spirit which underlies every form of Christian mission. It is a habit of mind, an attitude of respect and friendship towards those who have a different point of view. It is flexibility and openness to truth no matter from which side it comes. So that the search for Truth may be freer, the person in dialogue seeks to eliminate every prejudice, intolerance and unnecessary misunderstanding. Dialogue shows openness to the activity of the Spirit in each person and each religion or group, and hence a readiness to accept the depth of the religious experience of others and to collaborate with them for the good of religion and society. Such an attitude is evangelical and should characterise the interpersonal relationships of Christians at all levels.
Catholics are to be aware that faith is not static but enters into constant dialogue with various human contexts. They should also be acquainted with the beliefs and practices of other Christians and other religions, and show themselves ever open to the good in others. Dialogue implies a will to greater collaboration for the good of humanity and the triumph of Truth.
It is thus that the spirit of dialogue should mark the relationships of the Particular Churches with one another, and in the Particular Churches between the bishop, his clergy, the religious, laity and movements, and in the relationship between the various structures on the diocesan and parish level.
9. However, dialogue is not without its difficulties. It is not easy to listen to others with respect, charity and patience without running the risk of watering down one's own faith. It is difficult to continue to stretch out a hand of dialogue to people who offer no reciprocal gesture of response. Nevertheless, even with fundamentalists or extremists, whether religious or ideological, the injunction of St. Paul in Romans 12:18 remains valid for us: "As far as in you lies, live in peace with everyone". The risks inherent in dialogue must be accepted, even and especially, where dialogue is difficult. This should be done, however, in the spirit of the Lord Jesus who tells his disciples to be "as wise as serpents and as simple as doves" (Mt 10:16). There is need for faith, prayers and patience. The guidelines of the Church are a safeguard against possible risks.
80. For the Church in Africa, dialogue is particularly important and indeed necessary for evangelisation. It is not simply because as Catholics with only about 13% of the total population members of the Church are literally surrounded by others among whom they have to live, witness to and work for the Kingdom of God. Oftentimes, religious pluralism cuts across national, tribal and at times even family lines. Only a genuine spirit of dialogue by all concerned can prevent such differences from issuing in conflict and discord. Religion sincerely practised, especially by the Christian, should lead to justice and peace among men.
The Catholic Church in Africa, as elsewhere, often has to play the leadership role in inter-religious dialogue because she has very positive guidelines as well as clearly articulated policies and programmes for such dialogue. This is a challenging mission which must be pursued.
Many answers wish that the Synod re-commit the Church in Africa to dialogue. It would be useful to analyse the particular situations of dialogue on the continent and to give concrete orientations.
The content, form and pace of dialogue depend on the participants and on concrete circumstances. Pope Paul VI speaks of "concentric circles of dialogue". The Catholic Church must be always reaching out to all humanity, beginning from those who share with her the faith in Jesus Christ.
In the context of the general theme of evangelisation, religious dialogue will be treated in the light of the different "concentric circles" of surrounding neighbours beginning with those closest.
1. In his high-priestly prayer before leaving this world, the Lord Jesus prayed, "that they may be one even as thou, Father, in me, and I in thee; that they also may be one in us, that the world may believe that thou hast sent me" (Jn 17:21). Lifted up on the cross and glorified, he sent forth the Holy Spirit who gathers the Church into a unity of faith, hope and charity, for "there is one body and one Spirit, even as you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith one baptism" (Eph 4: 4-5). All those justified by faith through baptism are incorporated into Christ for, says the Apostle: "all you who have been baptised into Christ, have put on Christ... for you are all one in Christ Jesus" (Gal 3:27-28).
"The 'ecumenical movement' means those activities and enterprises which, according to various needs of the Church and opportune occasions, are started and organised for the fostering of unity among Christians". It aims at overcoming obstacles to unity posed by differing doctrines, disciplines or structures so that all Christians may give common expression of their faith in Jesus Christ and undertake in common the evangelisation of human society. The ultimate goal is the common celebration of the Eucharist, that sacrament "by which the unity of the Church is both signified and brought about". The deeper the holiness of Christians, as individuals and as groups, the closer their relationship to Christ, the more coherent with the gospel their lives and structures, the closer they come together in the one faith. "For those who believe in Christ and have been properly baptized are brought into a certain, though imperfect, communion with the Catholic Church".
2. The Orthodox Churches have a particular relationship to the Catholic Church, and therefore deserve to be treated first.
The Catholic Church in Africa will need to pay more attention to, and improve its links with, the older Churches truly indigenous to Africa, and which have survived through almost 2000 years of historical vicissitudes. By the year 2000, there will be more than 10 million Coptic Orthodox Christians in Egypt and Sudan, 30 million Ethiopian Orthodox Christians and 350,000 Eastern Orthodox Christians.
The ongoing progress in Catholic-Orthodox relations worldwide must also be a concern in the African continent. In these efforts, the Catholic Coptic Church of Egypt and that of Ethiopia, themselves also ancient and truly indigenous to Africa, may have a role to play. Outside Egypt and Ethiopia, small communities of the Orthodox Churches exist in a few countries of Africa; attention should be given to these also.
Ecumenical dialogue in the theological and pastoral domains have grown in Egypt especially since Pope Paul VI and the Coptic Orthodox Patriarch, Shenouda III, adopted a protocol and made a common declaration in Rome in 1973 concerning elements of doctrine and ecclesiastical discipline common to the Catholic Church and the Coptic Orthodox Church. A mixed ecumenical commission, made up of Catholics and members of the Orthodox Churches, was instituted. This commission holds regular meetings and has made some progress in the two domains mentioned above. One of the tangible results has been an agreement in respect of christological doctrine. Study sessions are continuing on other points of doctrine and on reciprocal relationships.
Nevertheless, a hardening of positions is evident in some places. In these places it sometimes happens that Catholics who marry Orthodox Christians are subjected to re-baptism, and Orthodox Christians who attend Catholic activities are refused communion by their own Orthodox Church. These difficulties only underline the need for continuing dialogue.
Other Christian Communities
83. Besides the Orthodox Churches, there are Christian Communities emanating from the divisions which occurred in Christianity in the 16th century. In addition, Africa has become a fertile ground for the proliferation of new Christian bodies often called "African Independent Churches". There are also Evangelical Groups some of whom are on the borderline of sects.
By the year 2000, there will be 393 million Christians in Africa; 118 million, or 30%, will be Catholics. Although with this figure the Catholic Church will be the largest Church, the Orthodox Churches and the Christian Communities in Africa will make up 70% of the total African Christian population. In the light of the above facts, it can be more easily seen how divided witness to Christ can hamper the preaching of the gospel in Africa. As the Holy Father said to the leaders of other Christian Communities in his Address at Nairobi (Kenya) in 1980: "we stand together before the world of today with a common responsibility which stems from obedience to Christ. This common responsibility is so real and so important that it must impel us to do all we can, as a matter of urgency, to resolve the divisions that exist between us, so that we may fulfil the will of Christ for the perfect unity of his followers".
84. A fundamental difficulty to be overcome would be differences on the level of doctrine and of the interpretation of the bible, on the nature and mission of the Church, on moral questions and Church discipline.
Competition in initial proclamation and rivalries over schools, the siting of churches and the presenting of candidates for public office take away from the unity of mission in Christ. Some governments have even found it possible to play one group against another for political advantage. Proselytism, understood as pressurising people to conversion by methods unworthy of the gospel, and offensive propaganda against fellow Christians should be strongly discouraged by all Churches and Christian communities. It would be good if agreement could be reached on the nature and administration of baptism so that all could mutually recognise one another's baptism. It is a problem when some Ecclesial Communities lack definite doctrine and definite representatives who can act on their behalf as interlocutors and who can initiate changes which may be seen to be necessary. This is not to say that ecumenical relations are primarily a matter of action by leaders, for ecumenical relations in Africa are often rather on the level of the people themselves.
Some groups reject ecumenism altogether and do so for theological reasons of their own. The growth of fundamentalism, especially through sects, is a problem; some sects seem to have only a veneer of Christianity. Since the bible is sometimes the only tool for dialogue, the Catholic Church would do well to promote the deeper biblical formation of its faithful. All are invited to Christian patience and the rejection of acts of refusal when dialogue has failed.
85. Vatican II has effected a veritable ecumenical revolution in Africa. It is changing attitudes both inside and outside the Church, and leading to ecumenical cooperation at all levels.has been the most successful and has also been the area of greatest collaboration. Ecumenical translations of the bible into the vernacular languages have been done or are on course almost everywhere. In many countries, Catholics are cooperating with other Christians within the framework of National Bible Societies for the provision of bibles and biblical material. Common study days of the bible are being held. In one country, the use by Protestants of the Catholic three-year cycle lectionary led these Protestants to translate and use the deutero-canonical books also.
Joint medical services, joint rural animation programmes and joint relief and development services exist in many places in the social sphere. Ecumenical cooperation is growing in neighbourhoods and Small Christian Communities. In a few countries there are common radio and T.V. programmes.
In some areas of the cultural sphere there are events held in common, e.g., sports, dances, youth clubs, video-clubs, and feastdays. There have been joint appeals to traditional rulers and the cultural elite to remove customs offensive to Christian traditions and morals. Churches and Christian communities have collaborated in setting up schools and other educational institutions. Some have admitted people of other confessions into their own institutions while respecting their beliefs.
Because of the recent turmoil all over Africa, Christians have joined together politically to present memoranda to governments on the economic and political situation and to act jointly for the defence of human rights and moral principles. All Christians have found it necessary to unite in one voice against attempts in some countries to establish Islam as the State religion, calling on governments to respect the rights of all citizens irrespective of their religion. In many countries, this has entailed defending the "secular" status of the State.
From a religious perspective Christians of different confessions are increasingly celebrating family feasts and some religious occasions in common - baptisms, marriages, funerals, pilgrimages. Some countries have adopted a common religious syllabus for schools and run ecumenical chaplaincies in secondary and tertiary institutions. Permission is given to use each other's churches where necessary and opportune. There have been joint pastoral letters on certain moral and religious issues. Attempts have been made in some places to celebrate certain major feasts in common despite the theological questions this might raise.
86. As suggested in the answers, the work of ecumenism in Africa will generally take the following lines:
- Observing the rules for fruitful ecumenism, according to the directives and practice of the Church;
- Seeking to implement at the local level
the ecumenical programmes of the Universal Church while working in faith,
patience and diligence. The Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity
has prepared a document to guide such ecumenism on the local level.
Some concrete proposals feature in some of the Responses to the Lineamenta:
- Christians are to run, where possible and desirable, common programmes of evangelisation using the mass media (T.V., radio.).
- There are suggestions for common programmes in the formation of clergy and laity (technical, religious and theological levels).
- Mixed commissions on bible, doctrine and morals are recommended, where they are suitable.
- Some advocate the formulation of ecumenical rites, especially in the celebration of marriages, funerals ...
Two proposals or questions concern the Catholic Church itself:
- that biblical formation be deepened;
- that there be less emphasis on apologetics and more attention given to ecumenical theology.
87. Sects and new religious movements are a common feature of the contemporary world. The Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue in collaboration with other Departments of the Roman Curia, has recently had to include them in its wide field of interests. In April 1991, the special Consistory of Cardinals which met with the Holy Father considered two major topics of current relevance, one of them being, "The Proclamation of Christ, the Only Saviour, and the Challenge of Sects". Recently, the Meeting for African Collaboration (MAC) issued the results of its collaborative study entitled, New Christian Movements in Africa and Madagascar.
Africa is characterised by a great variety of sects and religious movements of diverse origin: sects in opposition to Christianity coming for the most part from North America; western, non-Christian philosophies of life; new religious movements with their origin in the East, some of which have entered the world scene because they have first been implanted in North America; movements of Islamic inspiration. The thousands of "African Independent Churches", mainly offshoots of missionary Churches and bearing certain aspects of African Traditional Religion, represent a confused picture: some are clearly to be regarded as "ecclesial bodies", while others seem to have all the characteristics of sects properly so-called. Some groups within the Church degenerate into sects.
In 1981, the African Independent Churches alone accounted for 15% of the total Christian population in sub-Saharan Africa; by the year 2000, at the fast growth rate of over 1.5 million per year, the adherents of these Churches will be 60 million.
Many of the groups mentioned above are anti-Catholic; others are a-religious; many have no consistent, clear doctrine. A common denominator seems to be the belief to "be saved", "to be in the right" whereas all others are "on the path of damnation". In temperament they divide according to the following categories: spiritual, pentecostal, ascetic, syncretistic, millennial, mystical and perfectionist.
88. In answer to the question what attracts people to these sects, the following were most commonly mentioned:
- healing and care of the sick,
- belief in prophecies and tongues,
- ability to deal with evil spirits and witches,
- search for palpable salvation,
- desire to know scripture and Word of God better,
- attractive and persuasive preaching,
- attachment to a charismatic leader,
- quest for spiritual experiences of another kind,
- thirst for "knowledge",
- strong sense of community and brotherhood,
- mutual help of a material kind given in a spirit of solidarity,
- an inculturated liturgy which gives free expression to feelings in prayer,
- the fact that adherents are quickly given challenges and responsibility.
It would seem that the groups most at risk would be mainly those in some difficulty with the Church and those far removed from the presence of the priest. Youth looking for security or "knowledge" or what is "new" are particularly vulnerable, so are women and those who feel themselves isolated in urban areas and in the peripheries of cities. Their particular attraction for women could be because of their appeal to the emotions and the fact that women are admitted to most offices. People may be attracted by their offers of healing, bodily and spiritual, or by the promises of instant solutions to all problems. Some sects pose as channels of professional advancement and economic success. Others emphasise a narrow spiritual conversion which ignores or even rejects social and political responsibility.
89. Dialogue with these sects is often difficult because of an unyielding fundamentalism or aggressive proselytising. Many reject all dialogue outright. With some it may not be locally found prudent to engage in formal dialogue. It is, nevertheless, necessary to develop a Christ-like spirit in relation to all, making the effort to understand them and to enter into dialogue, while recognising "false prophets" (Mt 24:24,), pointing out the inconsistencies in so many of their answers and promises and in some cases warning against the social and political dangers which some of these sects may pose.
There is a need to develop studies on these sects and movements at the national and continental level, to create centres of study and documentation and to foster an exchange of experiences. Those responsible in pastoral matters should analyse the nature of inculturation of Christianity in Africa and its capacity to constitute vibrant ecclesial communities, the role of the laity, the response to the thirst for spiritual experience and the Word of God as well as the reply to be given to the vital questions posed by suffering, sickness and death.
90. The Holy Spirit sows the "seeds of the Word" and leads human cultures and religions from within towards their full realisation in Christ. "He is at the very source of man's questionings, a questioning which is occasioned, not by contingent situations but, by the very structure of man's being". Thus "every authentic prayer is prompted by the Holy Spirit who is mysteriously present in every human heart".
"Members of religions in so far as they respond to God's call are related to the Church as the sacrament in which the Kingdom is present in mystery". Through dialogue the Church seeks to uncover the "rays of that Truth which enlightens all men" and which are found in individuals and the religious traditions of mankind. On the other hand the beliefs and some of the practices of other religions stimulate the Church to examine more closely her own identity and to bear witness to the fullness of revelation which she has received for the good of all humankind.
Dialogue and proclamation are complementary aspects of evangelisation. Proclamation must be carried out in a spirit of dialogue, hence not by force but as a search for truth in which the interlocutors are personally addressed and challenged. In this sense, true conversion becomes self-fulfilment and an answer to a personal quest.
Those engaged in dialogue must be consistent with the Christian traditions and convictions, for in the search for Truth the norm for the Christian is Christ. The action of the Holy Spirit in men and women, and in cultures and religions draws them towards Christ even if unknown to them, for "he will take of what is mine and declare it to you" (Jn 16:14). It is for this reason that the Holy Father has explained that "the fact that the followers of other religions can receive God's grace and be saved by Christ apart from the ordinary means which He has established does not thereby cancel the call to faith and baptism which God wills for all people".
91. Islam entered North Africa through conquest in the seventh and eighth centuries after Christ. This religion now represents the tradition of most peoples in countries north of the Sahara. In this region of Africa, a number of States have proclaimed Islam as the state religion. Some of these are influenced in their relations with the adherents of other religions, including Christianity, by the ancient conceptions of the status of dhimmi, or status of a "protected minority" (but which, in fact, sometimes tends towards second-class citizenship). Some of these States are experiencing drives by fundamentalists which are disquieting for the whole society and a cause of anxiety for the future of Christian-Muslim relations.
In the immediate sub-saharan region, Islam has existed generally from the 11th and 12th centuries after Christ. Islamic culture is usually not general. It is often the case that some areas are dominated by traditional religion which deeply colours the type of Islam in various countries. Some countries in this zone are divided into an "Islamic north" and a "Christian south". The State oligarchy in some of these States is Islamic and Sharia law is a burning issue.
In Central and East Africa, Islam exists along the old railway and slave trade routes, or it is generally the religion of immigrant entrepreneurs who wield economic weight.
There are only small Islamic communities in South Central and South West Africa.
92. Responses to the question, whether Islam has an official or privileged status in the country, indicated four situations. They are the following:
- Some States have Islam as the State religion.
- In some States or sections of countries there is a de facto identification with Islam without that religion being the official religion.
- Some States are predominantly under Islamic influence; in such States economic or political reasons force the government to enter Islamic associations, for example, the Organisation of the Islamic Conference (O.I.C.), with the result that certain privileges are accorded to Islam and to Muslims.
- Quite a few States insist on a secular status - both in law and in practice.
The prospects and difficulties of dialogue with Islam will vary from place to place depending on the above situations.
93. Vatican II's Declaration on the Relationship of the Church to non-Christian Religions says this of Muslims: "They adore one God, living and enduring, merciful and all-powerful, Maker of heaven and earth and Speaker to men. They strive to submit wholeheartedly even to His inscrutable decrees, just as did Abraham, with whom the Islamic faith is pleased to associate itself. Though they do not acknowledge Jesus as God, they revere him as a prophet. They also honour Mary, his Virgin mother; at times they call on her, too, with devotion. In addition they await the day of judgment when God will give each man his due after raising him up. Consequently, they prize the moral life, and give worship to God especially through prayer, almsgiving, and fasting".
Some responses underline also the fact that Muslims tend to practice universal fraternity and insist on solidarity among their members.
94. The above "agreements" should not make one underestimate the importance of great differences in the basic tenets of Islam and Christianity. The most fundamental problem is that both religions regard themselves as the exclusive apex of revelation. The very person of Jesus, who is at the heart of Christianity, receives a different interpretation in Islam. Islam denies the incarnation, redemption, and the Trinity; there is an infinite difference between the Jesus of the Koran and the Lord Jesus of the New Testament. There are serious differences in the respective understandings of apparently common points like prophethood, God's action in human history... Islam is at once a religious and political community and a complete system of private and public life, a fact that seems to allow little room for freedom of religion and freedom of conscience. Some Muslim currents regard a Christian as kafir, that is, "a heathen" and exclude in principle any religious dialogue that may be open to conversion.
95. There is clearly a renewed drive for the propagation of Islam worldwide. Africa seems to figure greatly in such a project whose objectives appear to be the following: to convert as many Africans as possible to Islam and to work towards a refashioning of African society according to Islamic principles - in government, legal system, culture, financial institutions, etc..
A particular feature has been the proliferation of Islamic schools, centres and mosques, sometimes where there is only a handful of Muslims. There is a notable increase in itinerant preaching and the use of the mass media. Religious intolerance seems to be growing and is often introduced into local Islam by groups coming from outside. This has sometimes led to frictions even where adherents of the religions have before been living together in peace for long.
There is an increasing consciousness of Islamic ummah ("community") and of the individual Muslim as a member of an Islamic community, with structures and institutions to express its identity and pursue its objectives at local, national and world levels.
A corresponding universal consciousness is that of Islam as a religion with worldwide goals which it pursues through international organisations for collaboration and solidarity, and for sharing ideas and ideals.
The above are in themselves not necessarily negative factors; they could facilitate dialogue with Islam as a religion by making available qualified Islamic interlocutors. The Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, for example, has been having useful contacts with many world Islamic organisations. However, contacts become difficult, both on the individual and group levels, where foreign influences lead to greater intransigence.
96. Acknowledgment is readily made as to the rights of Muslims to live their faith and witness to it, also to seek to spread it by means which respect the dignity of the human person. But it must be firmly stated that Christians also have the same rights. Respect for the principle of reciprocity is a necessary condition for any progress in dialogue.
The Holy Father has stated: "I cannot remain silent about the disturbing situation experienced by Christians living in certain countries where Islam is the majority religion. Expressions of their spiritual distress constantly reach me: often deprived of places of worship, made the object of suspicion, prevented from organising religious, education or charitable activities in accordance with their faith, they have the painful feeling of being second-class citizens. I am convinced that the great traditions of Islam, such as welcoming strangers, fidelity in friendship, patience in the face of adversity, the importance given to faith in God, are principles which ought to enable unacceptable sectarian attitudes to be overcome. I express my earnest hope that if Muslim believers nowadays rightly find in countries of Christian tradition the facilities needed for satisfying the demands of their religion, then Christians will similarly be able to benefit from a comparable treatment in all countries of Islamic tradition. Religious freedom cannot be limited to simple tolerance. It is a civil and social reality, matched by specific rights enabling believers and their communities to witness without fear to their faith in God and to live out all the demands of that faith".
97. In Africa, Islam is thus an important but often difficult partner in dialogue. It is an important partner because of its genuine religious values, its large following and the deep roots it has struck among many African peoples. It is a difficult partner in dialogue because of lack of a common concept of, and language for, dialogue. At times, its methods of conversion raise problems for dialogue. As both Christians and Muslims seek to make many converts, great prudence will be required to avoid a dangerous collision course between Islam's Da'wah ("the call") and Christian evangelisation.
It would seem that problems of dialogue with Islam in Africa are greater now than ever before. All too often, the areas suggested for dialogue and collaboration have themselves become points of friction, conflict and rivalry. In some parts there is a dominant Islam which allows practically no room for other religions except in respect of foreigners whose rights are severely restricted. In other countries, there is dangerous confrontation between Muslims and all other believers. In still others, tension is building up and problems are gradually brewing, giving cause for concern about the future.
It is a problem that Islam has not developed guidelines for promoting dialogue similar to those issued by the Holy See and some Catholic Bishops' Conferences; one of the tasks of Christian-Muslim dialogue may be to challenge Islam to develop such guidelines. Justice and peace would be greatly aided if common agreement could be reached on certain basic principles and rights, for example, the principle of reciprocity, rejection of forced conversion, freedom of conscience and freedom of religion, including freedom to change one's religion according to lights received, right of expression of one's faith... It might be good to take a look at the Charter of Human Rights adopted by the Organisation for African Unity to see whether there is reason for reservations. The Synod should demonstrate concern in some way for Christians under persecution in Muslim areas.
8. Islam as a religion may have its own fixed and often rigid positions many times irreconcilable with Catholic doctrine and practice. Yet Muslims, as individuals who profess the Islamic faith, often form a better bridge for dialogue, especially when they are of the same ethnic group as Christians. One can therefore distinguish between Islam and Muslims in this sense. Where Christians and Muslims come from the same religio-cultural background of African Traditional Religion, this religion often serves as a bridge. It is on the level of the extended family and in common village living that dialogue has had much progress, often in response to the charitable or generous and self-sacrificing gestures of one or the other party.
The selfless dedication of men and women religious and the religious testimony of their lives are often greatly appreciated in certain Muslim milieux. Some Particular Churches have a policy of making available to Christians, Muslims and others alike their educational, social and development facilities.
Progress has been slow in purely religious dialogue, yet even in this area there are reports of some places where days of fasting and prayer have been held in common between Christians and Muslims. Many Particular Churches have intensified the religious study of Islam - some have integrated dialogue with Islam into catechesis. Courses on Islam are now offered in many major seminaries and suitable priests, religious and lay faithful have been sent on further studies to the Pontifical Institute for Arabic and Islamic Studies in Rome, and to other centres.
In many countries, Christians and Muslims have formed associations for dialogue and for the promotion of peace and good neighbourliness, sometimes also for theological dialogue. In one country, both groups joined together to run a tertiary institution for the education of teachers within the government school system.
9. The official stand of the Church on dialogue with Islam has been clearly spelt out in the relevant conciliar documents and in papal teaching. The Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue has caused to be published some guidelines in this area and, with varying results, has carried out an intensive programme of dialogue with Muslims worldwide. Its goodwill messages sent regularly to Muslims on the occasion of the end of the annual celebration of Ramadan are a case in point.
100. There is already a well mapped-out agenda for dialogue in the many areas in which Christians and Muslims can work together: for example, promoting an atmosphere that will be conducive to freedom of worship for God's greater glory; working for good government, justice and peace in society; working out agreed strategies for fruitful and peaceful collaboration in all fields, e.g., youth activities, education, refugees, etc.. A common stance on moral issues affecting the generality of the people may be possible and desirable in some places, as well as common and regular meetings between Christian and Muslim leaders among themselves and between them and the government.
Consideration could be given to the desirable role of contemplatives in spiritual dialogue.
In some areas, the social and political situation is leading to the emergence in Islam of religious leaders who can act as representatives. Such a development is welcome for it facilitates collaboration and common action in the interests of peace and true religion.
Some Muslims tend to see the secularity of the State as if it were a negation of the social and political relevance of religion. Whatever system of government is chosen should guarantee freedom of religion and worship, and ensure that the secularity of the State does not lead to secularism.
What are the hopes for the future? Any hope that might be entertained is rooted in a conviction that the charity of Christ can overcome all obstacles (cf. Rom 12:21). That such a hope is not vain is proved by the positive experiences of the Church in some regions of Africa in its relations with Muslims. With prayer and effort more such experiences will arise. One sure way to promote this is for Christians to remain faithful to the Lord Jesus and his Church, pursuing the truth in charity and patience.
101. African Traditional Religion is the religious and cultural context from which most Christians in Africa come and in which they still live. The vitality of this religion varies from country to country but on the whole its influence still remains in Africa. There seems to be sufficient common features in traditional religion in Africa to justify the usage, "African Traditional Religion", in the singular. Nevertheless, what has to be dealt with in concrete dialogue situations are the various forms and expressions of religion in the different traditional societies and ethnic groups in Africa.
It is sometimes difficult to distinguish in this religion between what pertains to religion and what pertains to culture; the same vernacular term often covers the two: it is a religion which involves the totality of life. For this reason, dialogue with ATR is related in an intimate manner with inculturation.
102. Four situations of ATR on the continent can be detected:
. The old ATR disappeared hundreds of years ago when northern Africa was overrun by Islam and Arabic culture. Traces remain in certain taboos, traditional feasts, veneration of ancestors and certain funeral rites and customs.
It would seem that in some places, either because of long continuous evangelisation or other factors, it has disappeared as a social and cultural force and has become rather a type of popular religiosity.
Popular Religiosity. Traditional practices have merged with Christian ones in some places especially in the areas of personal and family life. Examples would be the paraliturgy of the Ethiopian and Coptic Churches and similar rituals in the more heavily christianised parts of Africa.
. This is the situation in the majority of countries. In these places, ATR is part of the cultural heritage and determines the spontaneous and subconscious reactions of people and their interpretations of reality.
. There are some countries or parts of countries where ATR is still the dominant religion and is practised as a public, social and organised system. In some places, neo-pagan intellectuals are returning to this religion and are re-organising it according to modern principles.
103. Where there are still true adherents of ATR who do not yet want to become Christians, dialogue understood in the ordinary sense of mutual encounter is both possible and useful. In general, followers of ATR have been found to be open to such dialogue. Here the general rules and methods of dialogue with other religions apply.
With reference to neophytes who have been converted from ATR to Christianity or who are catechumens, dialogue is to be understood especially as pastoral attention to ATR and to its values and elements with a view to deeper evangelisation. The Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue sent a letter recently to the African episcopate on this issue.
It is to be noted that many of the new sects represent transformations or deformations of ATR. Many of the practices of charlatans in towns have little to do with true traditional religiosity.
Some Aspects of ATR
104. The accounts of the traditional religion in different parts of sub-Saharan Africa are very similar, and this fact underlines the fundamental unity of this religion despite the differences in actual practices; the worldview at bottom seems identical.
The responses to the Lineamenta presented abundant characterisations of ATR. A selection of these is given here, an attempt being made to classify them under categories for easier reference. It is clear that some of these aspects require further elucidation and discussion, but the intention has been simply to record faithfully what was contained in the responses. The "positive" and "negative" aspects take Christianity as a point of reference (as in the questions in the Lineamenta).
105. There are some which can be detected in the following areas:
- There is widespread belief in a supreme God, unique and transcendent.
- Africans have a sense of the sacred and a sense of mystery; there is high reverence for sacred places, persons and objects; sacred times are celebrated.
- Belief in the afterlife is incorporated in myths and in funeral ceremonies.
- The invisible world of spirits and ancestors is always present and the intentions of these spirits can be ascertained; care is taken to ascertain the will of the spirit to whom sacrifices may be due or from whom protection may be sought.
- Religion enfolds the whole of life, there is no dichotomy between life and religion.
- Ancestors mediate between God and man.
- Belief in the efficacy of intercessory prayer is widespread.
- Bodily purification is required before one may approach to offer sacrifice to God; there are nevertheless provisions for spiritual purification also.
- It is believed that sin harms the public good, hence there are periodical purification rites in order to promote public welfare.
- Worship requires a fundamental attitude of strict discipline and reverence.
- Pardon is final and acknowledged by all: an offence, once forgiven, is never recalled.
- Rites form an essential part of social life.
- Ancestors and the dead are invoked by
- The whole person, body and soul, is totally involved in worship.
- In worship and sacrifice there is co-responsibility - each person contributes his share in a spirit of participation.
- Symbols bridge the spheres of the sacred and secular and so make possible a balanced and unified view of reality.
- Rites of passage, of initiation and of consecration are widespread.
- There are many rites of purification - of individuals and communities.
- The sick are healed in rites which involve their families and the community.
- Religious sacredness is preserved in ritual, in dress and the arrangements of the places of worship.
- Some of the traditional blessings are rich
and very meaningful.
- There is respect for life: children are
treasured, abortion is an abomination.
- Attention is given to locating man within his environment and making him feel at home in it.
- Tradition is handed down through stories, poems, hymns, proverbs, riddles and art.
- The whole community is involved in the
training of the young, and education itself has a necessary community and
- Life has a festive dimension and is
celebrated in adequate rites.
- Blood alliances bind with a bond that is
- Between kith and kin and people of the same clan there is a very strong sense of sharing and of solidarity and belonging.
- Efforts are made to secure and promote justice and peace within the community.
- The nuclear family and the extended family have been the pivots of the African social system.
- Respect for authority, sanctioned by the ancestors, is strong and represents the common will.
- The poor and the sick are taken care of,
widows and orphans are looked after.
106. Despite the many positive aspects of ATR there are, nevertheless, the following negative aspects:
- Magic and divination are widespread.
- God is regarded as too remote and
therefore absent from the daily lives of men; this leads to the cult of
spirits as substitutions for God.
- Salvation, seen as holistic and primarily this-worldly, is uncertain and precarious, beset by many dangers.
- The belief is widespread that certain natural things (rivers, mountains, rocks..) have supernatural powers.
- Evil is interpreted as a personal force - there is always an "enemy" behind it.
- Religion appears sometimes as a manipulation of God - my will be done?
: - Some prayers invoke a curse.
- Spirits and ancestors are sacrificed to.
- Some situations may call for human sacrifice; ritual murder is not unknown.
- Certain indecencies are permitted, particularly at initiations, funerals...
- In some places, twins are rejected as an abomination even if they are a sign of blessing in others.
- Clan consciousness, though strong, is exclusive.
- The image of creation is conservative and the attitude towards it merely imitative; this can hinder the integral development of man under modern conditions.
- Customs of widowhood are generally oppressive of women; the role of women within society is sometimes unduly restricted.
- In some places the practice of "osu" (a certain caste system) still persists.
- Certain aspects of initiation seem to offend against Christian values and morals.
- "Spirit possession" is a phenomenon in quite a few communities.
- Secret cults are sometimes used to manipulate society.
- Some marriage practices allow forced marriages.
- Witchcraft and sorcery are persistent social ills in many places. Rites against witchcraft may actually play upon and deepen the hatred and divisions in the society.
- The sense of neighbour is often restricted.
107. Among the reasons for pastoral attention to ATR are the following:
- ATR still influences Christians in Africa.
- The Church respects the religion and culture of each people.
- The better ATR is understood, the better the Gospel can be preached.
- The Second Vatican Council advocated deeper theological research in each cultural area in order to enable the Particular Church better achieve its identity and make its proper contribution to the Universal Church.
- Attention to ATR and consequent inculturation can promote dialogue and collaboration among adherents of different religions within the same cultural area or ethnic group (e.g., Muslims and Christians who share common cultural roots).
In this process a positive attitude must be adopted in respect of the religious values of Africa, in the spirit of our Lord's injunction: "He who is not against you is for you" (Lk 9:50) Here St Paul's approach to the Athenians comes readily to mind: "The God whom you worship without knowing him, this I preach to you" (Acts 17:23).
The following practical suggestions are feasible and useful lines for further progress.
- It would be good if each Episcopal Conference could constitute a small commission for pastoral attention to ATR. Such a commission would channel the efforts of theologians and researchers, establish greater unity between bishops and theologians and assure serious theological preparation for bishops' statements and directives.
- Courses in ATR are already a fact in many seminaries and houses of formation for religious and laity. This trend is to be encouraged. In these courses reflection on morality and spirituality should not be forgotten.
- The Higher Theological Institutes in Africa should continue to do research in this area and make proposals to bishops.
- The values in ATR can be used to
inculturate catechesis and give a unified vision to Christian living.
108. It is perhaps at this point that mention should be made of the presence in Africa of small scattered communities of adherents of other world religions, e.g., Buddhism, Hinduism, Sikhism, etc.. While these have remained for a long time the "cultural religion" of foreign residents on the continent, in some places they are beginning to attract Africans too, e.g., Hinduism in East Africa. Dialogue with them, where they exist, cannot be postponed indefinitely. In this area profit can be had by considering the experiences and example of the Church in dealing with such groups in other parts of the world.
109. Although, as a religious community, the Church in dialogue concerns herself mainly with other religions, the circle of dialogue of the Church embraces the whole of humanity, with all its values, aspirations and ideals. Further, dialogue in practice is carried out more by individuals and groups who interact in a world that has become a village, hence Christians are constantly also in dialogue with cultural and political groups.
Among the partners in this broader dialogue are the following:
- Social groups with good intentions and aims in the human domain with whom the Church can collaborate. Such groups may or may not acknowledge a role for religion in their methods, e.g., philanthropic, humanitarian and cultural organisations. For example, it may be useful to collaborate with cultural groups to eliminate customs against the dignity of women.
- Those who, while claiming to be non-believers, nevertheless show good will in promoting truth, justice and human fraternity. In the African context these are to be found mainly among the elite who have lost their traditional religious roots but have not been, or are no longer, committed to any of the world religions. In this context, a few of the responses mentioned the apparently increasing phenomenon of "confraternities" and "secret societies". These seem to differ according to place and context but they deserve study and pastoral response.
110. Capable and committed Catholic lay faithful should be
trained and formed for public office. The religions can cooperate in
promoting good legislation and good government, as well as for preserving the
moral tone of a nation. Church-State relations are increasingly becoming
factors of peace and stability in Africa. Christianity and other religions
are sometimes the only voices who can speak for the masses, propose
alternatives and defend human rights. Regular structures of dialogue with
governments, if possible, along with other religious groups, allow the
Churches to play a very important role in social and human development.
There is need to disseminate Vatican II and post-Vatican II documents in clear language, and perhaps in summary form. Dialogue should be made an essential element in Christian witness and catechesis; it is not a concern for Church leaders only.
There may be need, especially in Africa, to reformulate Catholic dogmas and experience of the faith in a language understandable to the partners in dialogue.
Given on the one hand that Christ is central in God's plan of salvation, and on the other that "concretely it will be in the sincere practice of what is good in their own religious traditions and by following the dictates of their conscience that non-Christians share in the one mystery of salvation in Jesus Christ" there is need for a balanced theology of dialogue to undergird pastoral action in this area.
A Total and All-inclusive Evangelisation of the African Man and Woman
112. Socio-economic and political concerns have vital links with evangelisation. Therefore, the Church in Africa, as she reflects on and pursues her mission of salvation in the continent, cannot neglect becoming actively involved in efforts for human promotion, justice and peace. "Between evangelisation and human promotion, development and liberation, there are in fact profound links. These include links of an anthropological order, because the man who is to be evangelised is not an abstract being but is subject to social and economic questions. They also include links in the theological order, since one cannot dissociate the plan of creation from the plan of redemption. The latter plan touches the very concrete situations of injustice to be combatted and of justice to be restored".
In proclaiming the Good News of salvation, Jesus takes up the messianic hope of the poor and applies to himself the text of Isaiah: "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach the Good News to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord" (Lk 4:18-19; cf. Is 61:1ff). Throughout his life Jesus took upon himself the role of "servant" (cf. Lk 22:27); "he went about doing good" (Acts 10:38); and in turn, he invited his disciples to devote themselves to the service of others (cf. Jn 13:1-20). He placed the second commandment of the love of neighbour on an equal footing with the first great commandment (cf. Mt 22:34-40), making it the distinctive sign for all to recognise his disciples (cf. Jn 13:34).
In proclaiming the Good News, the Church, in her turn, aims at internally transforming human beings so that they can live in renewed relationships with God and with their brothers and sisters. The preaching of the Kingdom calls of necessity for the transformation of human relationships. The Church is herself a community of fellowship and of concern for the poor. Inspired by the nearness of God's reign, the early Christians lived a life of communion, and shared all goods, spiritual and material, such that no one was in need among them (cf. Acts 2: 42; 4:32).
The Synod is an opportunity to renew the invitation to Christians and to all people of good will in Africa to commit themselves more to a conversion of heart and to the transformation of the structures of society (social, economic, political and cultural structures) so that the African man and woman may feel the Good News of Jesus Christ in every dimension of his/her being. With all people of good will the Church in Africa will show greater "concern for peace, together with an awareness that peace is indivisible. It is either for all or for none. It demands an ever greater respect for justice and consequently a fair distribution of the results of true development".
113. The Church in Africa sees a necessary link between the mission to preach the gospel and the promotion of the human person, for salvation concerns the total person, soul and body. "We affirm as a fundamental option that to evangelise is to develop human beings in all the dimensions of their vocation as sons and daughters of God".
This link was not always seen as direct in spite of the fact that from its very beginning the mission of evangelisation in Africa has always included a commitment to human advancement: education, health, aid to the needy and development projects. Many recent pastoral letters of bishops, both on the national and continental levels, highlight this link between evangelisation and human promotion.
"For the Church all ways lead to man", and by "man" the whole person is meant. Through the proclamation of the gospel and through the works of justice and mercy, the human person is built up. To separate the works of development from the love which prompts them and which is preached in the gospel, is to deny the profound unity of Christian involvement.
It has to be acknowledged, nevertheless, that the recognition of this link, though always implicit, became explicit in some documents of the Second Vatican Council, in particular, the Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World Gaudium et spes which in Chapter II (nos. 23-32) insists on the communitarian nature of man's vocation and hence the necessity of a more than individual ethic, and of the importance of social responsibility and participation. Several pontifical documents have also shown how evangelisation is intimately connected with human promotion and justice and peace.
The Synod ought to lead to a deeper awareness of this close link between the mission of evangelisation and human promotion.
114. The documents on human promotion, justice and peace from the Holy See and the Episcopal Conferences are generally little known and poorly circulated in Africa. The reasons usually given to explain this situation are mainly of two types: firstly, there are often no translations in the local languages spoken by the people, and secondly, circulation is almost exclusively limited to intellectual circles. In countries where translations exist it is often the case that the style still makes them incomprehensible to simple folk.
Therefore it is necessary to popularize these documents and to make them reach a wider audience, so that Christians at the base also may take inspiration from, and be permeated by, the action taken by Church, on the universal and particular levels, in the area of human promotion, justice and peace.
It was suggested by many that the Synod seek ways of making the documents of the Holy See and of the Episcopal Conferences better accessible to the Christian people and to all people of good will. This is particularly urgent because in the majority of countries in Africa, the current situation of human promotion, justice and peace gives cause for worry, in others it is disastrous.
115. In a certain number of African countries, there are situations of political unrest and armed conflicts. Tribalism, racism, apartheid, attempts at expansion and border disputes are leading to conflicts, with a huge cost in human lives and in scarce financial resources. Some of these group conflicts are waged under the cover of an ideology or a political option. Political rights and the rights to free association and free expression are no longer honoured; other fundamental human rights (of political prisoners, workers, the rural populace and minority ethnic groups) are constantly violated.
116. The responses to the Lineamenta mention that in these countries fundamental human rights are constantly being violated, bringing with it the usual consequences. Peace comes to be confused with artificial consensus or a tranquillity imposed by force. Power remains in the hands of a particular group who wield it to the detriment of the masses. The weak have no protection against the mighty. It is impossible for the citizens to participate in public life or to bring to bear the weight of their collective opinion, and hence they tend to become uninvolved and disinterested. Such a situation sometimes leads to secret associations and underground political activity. But development, justice and peace in society are the concern of everyone, not least the poor themselves who are the first to experience the hardships which weigh upon them and their families. Pope John Paul II has reminded the lay faithful "never to relinquish their participation in public life, that is, in the many different economic, social, legislative, administrative and cultural areas which are intended to promote organically and institutionally the common good". The recent wave of democratisation all over Africa is a sign of hope for the future.
117. Some countries still have basic structures for human advancement, justice and peace. Nevertheless, they are often subject to upheavals in society and suffer from insufficiency of means. Dependence on foreign aid makes their situation more precarious. Even in places where there are no racial or tribal conflicts, arbitrary arrests are not unknown, poor administration is widespread and there is unjust distribution of the national resources.
118. Persisting social tensions block progress in some countries, giving rise to juvenile delinquency, prostitution, drug addiction, corruption and unemployment. Malaria is still a great killer in parts of Africa; recently AIDS has created a medical and social problem in some parts. Disasters, for example, drought, combine with the situation of war in some places to lead to an increasing refugee problem; in some cases they lead to uncontrollable emigration. Africa has six million refugees, 50% of the world's total number of refugees.
In many countries the system of education in continual decline, the health system in disarray and social welfare in ruins. Hunger and disease are still the greatest killers. Fully "30% of African children under the age of five go through a period of malnutrition severe enough to cause them permanent mental or physical damage".
Victims of Situations of Disorder
119. In all situations of disorder, the most vulnerable persons are always the weak, among them, children who are the first to die in refugee camps or to suffer from lack of food. But mention must also be made, with many Episcopal Conferences, of the young whom disorder in society drives towards the social evils cited above and, in addition, to despair.
The population of many African cities doubles every ten years. Such rapid and largely unplanned urbanisation leads to the marginalisation of many who flock to town in search of employment.
The Situation of Woman
120. The role of woman and her true dignity need to be better acknowledged and promoted. His Holiness has written, "the moral and spiritual strength of a woman is joined to her awareness that God entrusts the human being to her in a special way. Of course, God entrusts every human being to each and every other human being. But this entrusting concerns women in a special way - precisely by reason of their femininity - and this in a particular way determines their vocation". The responses highlight woman's essential role in the family and her increasing contribution in social and ecclesial life, as also the increasing literacy among women in Africa. However, it is also reported that the tendency persists to regard women as inferior to men, and that this can be found even in the Church.
21. The causes generally given for the violation of human rights in Africa are external, e.g., deterioration of the money market, the burden of external debt and foreign interference. The Episcopal Conferences, however, chose to stress causes internal to Africa so as to state clearly that Christians are equally responsible for what happens in society. These causes of abuse are generally political, socio-economic and psychological.
Dictatorship, or the exclusive possession of power (executive, legislative, and judiciary) by one person or a group of persons, is a major cause for the violation of human rights in many States in Africa. Such dictatorships and the concentration of power in the hands of one person destroys the authority of the State, making it a mere instrument arbitrarily used by one person or by a small group. A series of abuses follows as a result: corruption, partiality, false accusations, fear.
On the economic level, disorganisation in monetary matters leaves the poor without defence. Simply to survive, the small-earner is forced to submit to exploitation and oppression by the rich and powerful. Unjust and unequal distribution of national resources is creating an ever widening gap between the rich and the poor. There is large-scale misappropriation of public funds.
Where people are ignorant or illiterate the situation becomes worse. These two evils make people unaware of their rights and force them to accept a life of resignation and fatalism. "The hunger for instruction is indeed not less depressing than the hunger for food: an illiterate is a person with an undernourished mind". The ruin of the economy, sometimes hastened by the unjust conditions of the world market, should be considered a major cause of the violation of basic human rights in Africa.
On the psychological-religious level, the most manifest cause is the devaluing of the human person which is exemplified in the inversion of values. Untruth, immorality, corruption and the exploitation of the poor have become methods of government which are almost institutionalised. Laws which clearly discriminate against certain groups in society are passed and promulgated. Some governments enslave and treat with contempt the very people whom they are meant to serve.
In some countries the force of custom and tradition not yet fully transformed by the gospel do not allow a Christian response to such abuses as a spirit of revenge, oppression, marginali-sation of an ethnic minority or the inferior condition of women in African society.
Respect for the dignity of the person begins with respect for life which is denied through egoism. Egoism leads, among other things, to an increasing rate of abortion in a continent where traditionally abortion was considered an abomination.
Some efforts have been undertaken in various countries to remedy situations in Africa where human rights are violated. Such attempts are evaluated in different ways depending on whether they originate from the Church, ecclesial communities, the State or other organisations.
122. It can be said that in some places the Church for a long time neglected forming and educating the people to their civic, social and political rights in the face of oppression or the denial of these rights. However, owing to the impulse of the Second Vatican Council, the laity are now active in many places, and some answers singled out the impact of the laity in the social and political life of some countries.
In other countries the Church, at certain moments of her history, has appeared linked to unjust and oppressive regimes or, if not overtly linked, may not always have spoken out against unjust situations where she should have or given the necessary guidance. However, the situation seems to have changed in the last few years. Pastoral letters of bishops and of Episcopal Conferences have often been the means through which the following abuses have been denounced: 1) the evil effects of structures which compromise human promotion; and 2) the violation of the basic rights of man. In some countries, these pastoral letters have been published by the national press or circulated through diocesan bulletins and parish newsletters. In other countries, Christians have joined together in an ecumenical effort to promote human rights and denounce abuses.
It should be noted that evangelisation itself is the Church's first contribution to peace and justice. In evangelising the faithful, the Church forms human consciences and arouses expectations which serve as the basis for human dignity and promote this dignity.
The problems of justice and peace have been at the centre of the reflections of The Symposium of the Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar (SECAM) from its beginning, and notably during the Pan-African Seminar on Justice and Peace, Lesotho, 29 May to 3 June, 1988. They have also been discussed by certain regional conferences. Several countries have a national Justice and Peace Commission, a Development Commission, a Caritas Office or an Episcopal Commission for Social Action. Where such commissions do not yet exist, they are highly to be recommended; furthermore, one would wish that they be created even on the diocesan and parish levels.
Since the publication of the Lineamenta, there have been profound changes in Africa. Many Particular Churches have been involved in the process leading to democracy undertaken or still on course in different countries. Others are constantly being requested to mediate between political parties or to help in setting up the multi-party system. In places where the political picture is confused, people expect guidance, and the bishops are being invited to give direction.
The Synod is an occasion to evaluate the involvement of the Church in these new situations, and to specify her proper role.
Associations which fight for human rights, justice and peace exist in many countries in Africa. In some countries, the Young Christian Workers, the Young Christian Students, Caritas and other organisations play an important role in making people sensitive to the issues. Living Ecclesial Communities are becoming more and more the place for human promotion, justice and peace. There exist associations and groups, notably Caritas and the Development Agencies which work for human promotion through concrete endeavours which reach people in their everyday life in village and neighbourhood. Men and women religious are often the Church's active presence among elderly persons, the sick, the handicapped and the poorest of the poor. All educational work - from children's kindergarten programs to universities - has been, and continues to be, one of the most extraordinary contributions of the Church towards the total and all-inclusive program of promoting the African man and woman.
Among the many suggestions for the Synod two stand out, namely, that the Church attach more importance to professional schools which train people in the necessary work-skills, making them more self-reliant; also that a "follow up" to the publication of the bishops' pastoral letters be organised.
123. Several Episcopal Conferences complain that in their countries the sectors of education and health have been nationalised and that the State has taken control of these two sectors without being able to effectively administer them. For others, certain measures undertaken by the State have been hailed as a path towards the betterment of the structures of human promotion, the suppression of abuses of human rights and a return to peace. Furthermore, this situation has led to the revision of existing laws and the creation of associations and special ministries concerned with the civil rights and liberties of citizens, popular participation in politics through a multi-party system, the freeing of political prisoners, etc.. New housing policies are also being devised. However, these measures have not always had their desired effects because they have in some cases been frustrated or violated by the very authorities who put them in place. The result is that in several countries people today reckon the State a failure in matters of human promotion, justice and peace. On the other hand, in many countries it is the State that has created certain Associations for the defence of human rights.
The Synod should help discern how the laity can be made more committed to restructuring the State so that it will truly serve the African person.
124. Following the example of Christ, the Church in Africa announces her faith through proclamation, celebrates it in the liturgy and lives it through charity. Charity becomes incarnate and concrete in Caritas, through which the Church in Africa helps the poor, develops and coordinates charitable works and accompanies the persons engaged in works of charity. Therefore, on the Church level, Caritas is the privileged partner of Non-Government Organisations (NGO) whom she invites to realise development projects in faithfulness to the Christian conception of the person.
NGO's accomplish an excellent work of human promotion in many countries of Africa. Thanks to them aid reaches refugees and the most needy. Rural animation becomes possible through their presence in rural areas. In several countries efforts in the area of human promotion are on an ecumenical level. Furthermore, almost everywhere in Africa one notices the springing up of non-political movements and associations dedicated to the defence of human rights or which have humanitarian objectives, and foundations for various purposes, for example, for the Sahel region.
When the causes of the violation of human rights are analysed, it becomes clear that the basic cause is due to sin in a person's heart: the amassing of money, hunger for power, egoism, a type of clan spirit which excludes others, intolerance, etc.. The Synod is an occasion to search for ways to bring salvation and the Good News of Jesus Christ to human beings in these situations. What is in question in the efforts for justice and peace is the total and all-inclusive evangelisation of the African person, as individuals and as communities. The Synod should help us devise pastoral approaches to lead every baptised person to an ever greater conversion to the demands of the gospel and to becoming more and more an agent of evangelisation wherever he or she may be, in the family, in society or in the economic and political spheres. For, since the call to labour in the Lord's vineyard is addressed to all, "each person should take into account what he does and consider if he or she is labouring in the vineyard of the Lord".
125. To bring improvement to situations where there is a violation of human rights, a fundamental re-thinking of the methods of evangelisation is imperative. First of all, it is necessary that the link between the mission of evangelisation and human promotion be considered as an integral part of the general programme of evangelisation. Human promotion and the duty of justice and peace are not supplementary elements to apostolic activity, but an integral part of pastoral work as a whole: "man's development derives from God, from the model of Jesus - God and man - and must lead back to God. That is why there is a close connection between the proclamation of the gospel and human promotion".
The Church in Africa is called to evangelise herself first, i.e., that, among other qualities, she become a model also in the area of human promotion, justice and peace. She ought to question herself concerning the efforts made to ensure that the laity have a better awareness of their responsibility in the domain of socio-economic and political life.
Church teaching on development, justice and peace should become part of programmes of formation in seminaries and other houses of formation. Meetings, seminars and discussions of these themes should be arranged in the Living Ecclesial Communities. New approaches to evangelisation are needed in order to overcome fear and distrust, and to involve Christians in a dialogue of reconciliation and respect for creation (humanity and nature).
The responses to the Lineamenta did not directly speak of the responsibility of the Church in Africa and of African Christians in the transformation of international relationships. "Underlying the relations between African countries and those of the first and second worlds there is often the situation of domination: the unilateral fixing of the price of raw materials; the foot-dragging in the North-South dialogue due to the selfishness of the existing blocs; the sale or offering of products which are likely to have harmful effects on peoples' health or their very lives; programmes for sterilization and the free distribution of contraceptives in place of the medicines needed by the population, so often victim to endemic diseases".
The Synod should reflect on ways and means in which Africa can act to revise the relations between North and South, restore mutual respect among nations, promote peace and overcome racist reflexes. In this, the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace has contributed helful documentation which "examined the ethical implications of the question of the external debt of developing countries in order to arrive at just solutions that respect the dignity of those who would be most strongly affected by its consequences". The celebration of the Synod should, in addition, be an occasion to treat the subject of relationships of respect and collaboration among the various religions so that they can work together in the reconstruction of the international community on the global level and in the area of respect for life and nature.
The gospel should be an aid in the work of human promotion and solidarity: it should help restore traditional and modern values which are being abused, help heal the Christian conscience of its paralysis and encourage the formation and edification of the faithful through the assistance provided by the Church's social doctrine.
At this very moment Africa needs a new involvement of Christians and all people of good will in efforts to attain a better society. In the minds of many the credibility of the gospel rests on how Christians will participate in working for the promotion of humanity, justice and peace.
In this regard, the means of social
communication treated in the following chapter play an evangelising role in
human promotion through educating the masses.
26. "At the dawn of a new era, a vast expansion of human communications is profoundly influencing culture everywhere. Revolutionary technological changes are only part of what is happening. Nowhere today are people untouched by the impact of the media upon religious and moral attitudes, political and social systems, and education".
"The first Areopagus of the modern age is
the world of communications, which is unifying humanity and turning it
into what is known as a 'global village'. The means of social communication
have become so important as to be for many the chief means of information and
education, of guidance and inspiration in their behaviour as individuals,
families and within society at large".
II. FOLLOWING THE DIVINE PLAN
127. From the beginning it has been a characteristic of God to want to communicate. This he does by various means. He has bestowed being upon every created thing, animate and inanimate. He enters into relationships with human beings in a very special way. "In many and various ways God spoke of old to our fathers by the prophets; but in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son" (Heb 1:1-2). Jesus reflects divine perfection (cf. Col 1:15) and fulfills the Father's will to communicate ( cf. Bar 3:38). He spoke as no man ever had spoken (cf. Jn 7:46) and preached the complete conversion of his contemporaries, so that they may be, in soul and body, the image and resemblance of God (cf. Gen 1:27).
When his task was accomplished, he
commissioned those whom he had chosen to carry on with his mission to bring
his message of universal salvation to all human beings and to all ages.
"Go, therefore, make disciples of all nations; baptising them .."(Mt
28:19). To evangelise means teaching, by word and by example, proclaiming the
message "welcome or unwelcome" (2 Tim 4:2), endeavouring to
be there with human beings in their very deepest aspirations. The Second
Vatican Council has recalled that among the principal tasks of bishops
"the preaching of the gospel occupies an eminent place", in keeping
with the Lord's command to teach all nations and to preach the gospel to
every creature (cf. Mt 28:19).
III. THE ACTUAL SITUATION
128. In Africa, the situation regarding the means
of social communication differ from one country to another. Civil authorities
in certain countries have control of the modern means of communication and
the Church cannot use them. In other countries, even if the same control
exists, the Church enjoys a certain access for a few programmes and for
limited hours. It does not, therefore, have either time or means sufficient
to be able to announce the Good News via the media. Other countries again,
just a few, recognise the religious freedom of the Church and so its right to
use the means of social communication, but the Church's financial limitations
and lack of qualified people hinder her making full use of this opportunity.
There are, however, many Church people who were trained and qualified as
professional communicators over the past twenty years, but who actually hold
appointments in other apostolates. There is also a general tendency to
overlook the numbers of professionally qualified Catholic laity who would
gladly contribute their effort and talent if allowed or encouraged by the
IV. MEDIA AT THE SERVICE OF EVANGELISATION
129. As an addition to the fundamental means - witness of life, catechesis, personal contacts, popular piety, the liturgy - it has become essential for evangelisation to make use of the media. In fact, "The Church would feel guilty before the Lord if she did not utilise these powerful means that human skill is daily rendering more perfect". The means of social communication can and should be instruments used by the Church in the contemporary world, for evangelisation and for the new evangelisation. With the new evangelisation in mind, particular attention shall be given to the audio-visual impact of the communications media, along the lines of the saying "see, judge, act".
"It is not enough to use the media simply to spread the Christian message and the Church's authentic teaching. It is also necessary to integrate that message into the 'new culture' created by modern communications... with new languages, new techniques and a new psychology". This requires a change in attitude so that the media shall be at the service of peoples and of cultures, of dialogue with the contemporary world, of the human community and the advance of society, of evangelisation and church communion.
The means of social communication are certainly among the most effective instruments available today for spreading the message of the gospel. Not only does the Church lay claim to the right to make use of them, it also exhorts pastors to profit by them in the discharge of their mission.
The Decree Inter Mirifica of the Second Vatican Council and the Pastoral Instructions of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, Communio et progressio and Aetatis novae, have already dealt extensively with the importance of the means of social communication and with their significance as regards the Church's mission of evangelisation. Mention must be made too of the Guide to the Training of Future Priests concerning the Instruments of Social Communication, published by the Congregation for Catholic Education. The Codes of Canon Law also deal with social communications and confide care and vigilance regarding them to the Pastors.
130. It is through the communications media that people are drawing closer together and creating the "global village". Through them people are better able to get to know their country and their culture. Modern means of communication form people, inform them and modify their behaviour, and open up the world and a more universal reality for them. They contribute to the development of the country, diffuse techniques that are new and expand new knowledge. The use of national languages in the modern communications media allows the greater part of the entire population to be reached.
Guarantors of Freedom
131. Positive regard has to be had concerning the desire of numberless peoples and human groups to have access to more just and equitable communication and news systems as a sure defence against being dominated or manipulated, whether from abroad, by fellow-countrymen or by certain pressure-groups. In this matter, developing countries are fearful of the more developed ones. Minority groups in some countries - developed and developing - feel the same preoccupation. Whatever be the case, the citizen must be enabled to play his part, actively, freely and responsibly in the communications process which in many ways influences the situations in which he is living.
132. The modern means of social communication
are modifying the culture and bringing in new appetites that can never be
satisfied; they also bring new models, notably of western origin but not
always the best that the West can offer. The upbringing of children is called
in question, delinquency follows as well as violence, theft, pornography,
etc.. The television set occupies a growing space in homes and leads to a
loss of the sense of being family. Young people gaze at television, at
videocassettes and films without the slightest critical awareness.
V. PRIVILEGED MEANS OF EVANGELISATION IN AFRICA
133. The answers to the Lineamenta insist that the Church's mission of evangelisation in Africa today and tomorrow calls for a new style of communicating the Good News which will use to best advantage all available and useful media, especially those whose language is easily understood and which are adapted to the place and the age.
Given the situation which exists in many places, the Church, sensitive to the rights and interests of persons, may sometimes be led by this fact to favour other means of communication. For example, in the field of evangelisation, and particularly of catechetics, the Church may sometimes have to take steps to preserve and favour "popular" media and other traditional means of expression, recognising that in certain societies they can be a more efficient means for spreading the gospel than more recently arrived media, allowing as they do for greater personal involvement and touching deeper levels of human sensibility and motivation.
The all-pervasiveness of the modern media does not in the slightest diminish the importance of those other media which give people the opportunity to take part and to be involved in producing and even thinking-up communications. In fact media that are of-the-people and traditional constitute not only an important forum in which the culture of the place can be expressed but allow the acquisition of skills in creating and actively using the media.
The Traditional Means of Communication
134. Traditional means draw their inspiration from a certain world-view and are understood by a whole people: the story, drama, proverb, debate, dance, mime, theatre, music, feasting, etc.
To communicate between villages, Africans have used smoke signals, drums, xylophones, gongs, horns, etc.. Down through time, tattoo, body painting, mask and effigy have served as message. Africans have used signs too - tree branches, the colours of clothing.
Those means which lie close to oral culture, of such importance at all epochs in Africa and in the Church, are particularly worth using - song, story, proverb, dance and short pieces of drama woven integrally into catechesis and liturgy.
To use the instruments of traditional music helps everyone participate, and bonds the young people to their cultural roots.
The Synod could examine traditional symbols to see which ones could be used to strengthen conviction. It could also encourage the use of means of communication tied to oral cultures, means which are often both lively and spontaneous.
There must be awareness of the threat which modern means of communication pose to the traditional means. It ought to be recognised that the Church usually gives a special place to traditional means in her pastoral work, especially in making use of song, dance, the drum, proverbs and mime. These means are plentifully employed in preaching (the bedrock of communication in the Church) and on the occasion of liturgical celebrations (notably in the liturgical rites of the Mass and the rites for religious profession).
Interpersonal communication in the village remains an important means of spreading the Good News. Christ's faithful are to be enabled to share their faith with others by all means available.
The Church may sometimes find it useful to uphold certain traditional means of communication which have enduring value. Much research has been undertaken in many places towards such a reasoned use of the traditional means of social communications, but such research has not yet led to a sufficient use of these means. Some practical instances of what might be done are offered here.
135. The Theatre. Before the video became known, people presented theatre plays telling their life and expressing their belief. At important junctures of Church life, at Christmas, Easter and Assumption, this still happens in some places. It is good to give new value to these means that offer a splendid opportunity to the African soul to manifest itself.
Stories, Tales, Legends, Proverbs, Riddles. Recitation has played a great part in the history of the African's information and training. Today this ancestral means of communication seems to be falling into disuse. It must be taken up again, re-directing catechesis towards stories, tales, legends and riddles drawn from Sacred Scripture. Beyond their worth in keeping safe values that are typical of Africa, such recitals always arrive at a moral lesson that is very much to the point.
Song, Dance and Body Language. These are greatly appreciated in the Liturgy in some places. Some places have found it useful to encourage the celebration of the Christian faith in the griot fashion by a singer, man or woman. Many places have already adopted the use of traditional instruments in the liturgy, for example, the xylophone, the traditional guitar, the buffalo horn, etc..
Experiments could be made, especially where dance in the liturgy is acceptable, with creating dance which is of a markedly sacred nature and destined for liturgical use. Institutes of consecrated life, of men and women, may have a particular role to play in this. It would be an important step to create structures within which professional specialists in music and dance are trained.
Discussion. Discussion in the village is a means of communication imbued with African values. People need to be made accustomed to discussing together in the light of the gospel, with their own expressions and in their own style, the problems of society, of economics, of politics and of religion.
The Talking Drum. The effectiveness of this in traditional societies is well recognised. It is a language used to spread information about happenings of importance in the life of the people: births, deaths, the coming of the chief, marriages, initiations, etc. It can be used effectively and profitably for evangelisation.
The Plastic Arts - Sculpture, Masks. The African has frequently given expression to his beliefs and to his sentiments in different ways by means of art: statues, masks, drawings and symbols of different provenance. The Church fosters the reflection of artists and encourages them to make their contribution to the creation of African sacred art. Christian reality gains in depth, and sends deeper roots among the people, when it is expressed in African art forms.
Modern Means of Communication
136. There are three basic groupings of modern means of social communication:
- the mass media;
- the group media or media for few; and
- the personal media.
The choice between the various media depends upon a judgement as to which one is most apt to carry the "revealed contents". It is useful to notice that some of these have a tighter grip on the consumer than others, for example, the radio, the television, videocassettes and popular films.
Suggestions were made that religious education be the focus in utilising these means, concentrating on such themes as justice, respect for the common good, Christian family values, and training in reading the scriptures. Another important theme would be the Christian as model citizen in professional life and in the proper management of public finances.
A factor in deciding which media would be more useful is the cost. It is well to bear in mind that some of them, as for example, newsprint, television receivers and videocassettes cost more than what poor people can afford in many places.
The preaching at the Sunday liturgy is not displaced as one of the most effective means of communicating the Good News, especially when the homily is well delivered, based on the Word of God and gets down to the realities of the daily lives of the people.
137. The Mass Media. Here are included broadcast networks on a national and international scale, either private or public: the radio, television, the printed word (newspapers, books, magazines, broadsheets, comic books, publicity materials).
Among these, the radio, the television and the press would seem to be deserving of special attention by the Church.
The radio is accessible to the major part of the population, even the poorest. Some Particular Churches already run radio stations or share time on the public station, but many answers to the Lineamenta request improved use of broadcast time, and the setting up of more Catholic radio stations or perhaps stations run jointly with our Separated Brethren. A community radio in areas of concentrated population is certainly an option which should be considered very attentively.
The television is very important as its images grip people, as much village people as the town folk.
The printed press has the advantage that "written word stays", and can be read over again. The answers to the Lineamenta suggest the establishment of more printing presses and publishing houses, Catholic bookshops and parish and diocesan libraries. There are requests for documentation on social topics and matters which concern the lives of the people and the interplay between faith and life.
Group Media. Group media cater for specialised interests: videocassettes, films, public address systems.
Videocassettes and video clubs are a recent phenomenon. They have not yet spread over the continent as a whole. An objective enquiry would seem to be urgently called for.
Answers to the Lineamenta propose that more use be made in evangelisation of this means, and that supply centres be provided. They point out the lack of videocassette materials which draw upon Catholic teaching, and the fact that many of the imported materials are either unsuitable or not easily assimilable since they originate in other cultures. The Church does not yet have means at its disposal to spread quality films to drive out the materials that the video clubs are supplying. A certain screening of the content is undertaken by those responsible, but it is usually just administrative and really ineffective. All this leads to a need to have at the parish level a library of video materials as an effort towards supplying some education in morality. There is also an evident need for the circulation of information on the video-production centres which already exist in Africa, and for a catalogue of existing African religious and cultural video material.
As to films, there is need for the provision of educational films for schools and parishes. There is also a need to circulate information sheets so as to make possible informed opinions about the films that come to the cinemas or are shown on television. This would stem the loss of moral education in the case of the children and win back some of those who have slipped.
Note is taken of how the young are captivated by pictures of leisure and of violence, by films of warfare and love. In these they seek relaxation rather than education. It may be possible in some parishes to procure and show films at once entertaining and educative.
In pursuing a program of formation in this regard the document of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications on pornography and violence should be kept in mind.
Personal Media. These serve communication between individuals: the
phone, telex, fax, mobile/radio telephone.
VI. THE CHURCH AND THE AGE OF COMMUNICATIONS: A PASTORAL PLAN
138. The Pastors of our Churches and the faithful have realised that modern media constitute a phenomenon that is altering human beings and the manner in which they look upon the world. It should not be forgotten that "today public opinion exerts massive force and authority over the private and the public life of every class of citizen... With the aid of these instruments, then, each person should strive to form and to voice worthy views on public affairs". The greater number of these media remain, however, under the control of the State, with very limited participation by the Church. This makes it all the more necessary that ways be found to touch the conscience of the persons who are responsible for programmes, so that they may respect the dignity of the human person.
The use of the means of social communication in evangelisation, deepening of the faith and human promotion is both valid and urgent as a pastoral undertaking.
It is valid because of the undeniable impact that both the traditional and the modern media exert on the life of society today. They create what is in fact a new culture and so are the carriers of new cultural models. Having an impact on the human person, they influence the behaviour both of individuals and the overall population. The Church would be pushed to the margin in the technological and social evolution of society if it were not to utilise these means of social communication, and it would be deprived of the use of a powerful instrument for the religious education of the masses.
It is urgent because there is no substitute for these media as vehicles for communicating the Good News and for diffusing the documents of the Magisterium. They can also be a force in the effort for integral human development, because programmes for development rely very much on the mass media to help change attitudes and dispose the people to accept necessary changes.
The Church should accept her responsibility regarding these means. If she does not, she risks missing the effect that they have upon the masses, something which politicians and the other religious groups know how to exploit.
Two ways forward may be followed:
- one would deal with employing these means in the catechetical and liturgical apostolate, thus reinforcing Church communion between communities in Madagascar and in Africa;
- another would coincide with a diocesan,
national or regional focus upon the areas of evangelisation and human
development, inculturation and the socio-religious, all of which have such
VII. ADEQUATE TRAINING AND COORDINATION
139. The above pastoral project demands that the people who will be using these means of communication be given a thorough preparation, because any initiative that may be taken in the utilisation of the means of communication is ruled by the personnel available and the type of audience that is being targeted.
Proper coordination and personnel training in these matters all fall within episcopal duty. It is, therefore, suggested that attention be paid to the following:
- further training for the agents of evangelisation and a heightened awareness on their part of these facts;
- educating the faithful so they may look here for themselves for worthwhile knowledge, training and pastimes; and
- seeing to the finances necessary to invest overall locally, nationally and regionally.
Evangelisation is in essence an activity, a process of communicating; in these days it is inconceivable that any programme for evangelisation should ignore the means of social communication. Education and training in communications should be an integral part of the training of pastoral agents and of priests. People who work in the media for the Church must, in addition to adequate doctrinal and spiritual training, have professional media skills. These can be achieved at the local, national, regional or continental level, using the structures available.
140. The Instrumentum Laboris has sought to organise the responses to the Lineamenta which have come from the Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar, the concerned Bodies of the Roman Curia and the other concerned Bodies of the Church. It has as its primary purpose the immediate preparation by the Synod Fathers for the work of the Special Assembly. Effort has been made to incorporate the responses within a framework which, it is hoped, will aid reflection and discussion. In general, the text indicates the observations and questions commonly raised among the responses; it would not have been possible or desirable to represent each particular point of view.
The Holy Father has decided to make the document public, therefore it can also serve as a tool for the further animation of the Churches in Africa and Madagascar, and for the ongoing involvement of the Christian communities in the work of the Synod.
As the basic theme of the Synod is evangelisation - a duty incumbent on all Christ's faithful - the suggestions and the undergirding doctrine contained in this "Working Paper" will, it is hoped, be of use to all in the ongoing evaluation of what is happening in the area of evangelisation in the various Particular Churches in Africa and Madagascar. For this purpose, the Lineamenta will be found to still retain their usefulness.
May Mary, the Mother of the Church, bless the efforts of the Fathers of the Synod so that in the power of the Spirit they may redound to the glory of God and a new Pentecost in Africa, Madagascar and the contiguous islands.