(Bishop of Atakpame, Togo)
On the pastoral terrain, the apostolic worker, often, has to do with persons who are profoundly marked and impregnated by their cultural patrimony from which the secular practices, millenary seeing are the object of a consigned tradition and of scrupulous and faithful consignment by the family and society to the different societies.
Instinctively man looks for immediate salvation, expects a remedy from the Gospel, an efficient solution to his doubts, to his ailment, to his difficulty, to his suffering, to his sickness today. He believes in future life, in happiness after, but he wants to be happy today. In these sombre moments, it is not easy for him to accept in faith that the Kingdom of God is already there for him as well, because yet he does not understand that the Kingdom of God, the Christ, is in fact the real happiness, the immediate salvation that he looks for without knowing it. So, in the fog, temptation is big, and he succumbs to it, taking into consideration other possibilities of immediate solutions which propose sometimes doubtful practices, sects, esoteric religions, etc..
A discerning job is peremptory. Here, the apostolic workers must lend a hand by the disclosure of the positive values of traditional religion which could, for these titillating persons, constitute a viable way to reach Christ who is the Way, the Truth and the Life. And for this work of discernment, specific research are more than necessary.
We come to the question of finding a suitable place for this research. In the order of the ideas of living encounter with the symbols and the signs in which African man tries to scrutinise the order, the orientation, and the useful and apt structure for a serene and integral growth, we must not ignore in silence a primordial need: that of giving our institutions, our universities and Catholic faculties necessary structures and well formed personnel for research in place.
The incontestable advantage regarding this is that offered to the researcher himself as to the manager and supervisor of the research, the possibility of receiving in place precise data, to produce and create from the same nourishing base and direct sources of the environment. This gives at the same time, the ability to verify scrupulously the value, the solidity, the validity, the scientific rigour and the force of impact of the enterprise.
For this, I believe that the association in a larger way of resource persons of our territory is a definite necessity. Within authentically African research institutes, the presence and the living word of our wise men, carriers and guarantors of the traditions and of the authentic values of our societies must be able to find their place. Direct communication with them in the teaching and research must be cited. The fact of being unable to read and write — in scholastic sense — must not create, in Africa, a motive for rejection or non-association of the resource persons who are the so-called "anaphabets" in our societies, for the efforts of critical examination of the given inculturation.
Also, research arriving on inculturation must be based on the deep knowledge of Christian message, history and the doctrine of the Church as well as the knowledge of the man to whom the message is addressed. We hope to assure the persons engaged in the inculturation of the Gospel, especially when priests, be armed with a solid and competent formation in the ecclesial disciplines and the human sciences.
Here, one must remind that no discovery, no strategy, no technique will satisfy our expectations in this delicate domain of inculturation of the Gospel, if it is not constantly nourished by constant prayer to the Holy Spirit without whose help any effort in this sense is in vain, because only he knows, like the psalm says, what we are made of, having presided and is presiding each day over the creation of man, over the birth and the life of all cultures.
If evangelisation consists in proposing
Christ and his salvation to those who do not know him yet or know him very
little, the Holy Virgin Mary remains an unequal Model for all evangelisers
of our times and for all cultures. She was also embraced and posed the
question like we do today, in this Synod, to know how to accomplish this
mission that the Archangel Gabriel proposed to her on behalf of God to
bring Christ into the world. "How can this be done?" the achievement of
this mission by the one we pray to under the title of Mother of the Apostles
and Mother of the Church is above all due to the great trust that she put
in the strength of the Holy Spirit. First to kneel and pray before proposing
Christ to the people of our times and of our cultures, is already to begin
as a winner, trusting that the Spirit who will be at the meeting with our
efforts to approach our brothers, will know how to accomplish Himself His
work, He without whom we could do nothing.