Ahead of the October Synod on Synodality session this October, African participants to the Synod have gathered in Nairobi for a two-day meeting aimed at their knowing each other and familiarizing themselves with the continental document and the Synod’s working document, Intrumentum Laboris.
In his opening address, the President of the Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar (SECAM) Cardinal Fridolin Ambongo invited the participants to work together as family of God and enter into the dynamics of the Synod.
“We are privileged to have been invited to participate at the synod. The Synod on Synodalite is a historical moment and a special one regarding its theme, its special characteristic of journeying together and listening to one another and to the Holy Spirit, and its distinct style which makes it different from all the past synods,” said Cardinal Ambongo.
On his part, the Secretary General of SECAM Fr Rafael Simbine Jr insisted that the meeting be taken as a pre-synod where the participants shall undertake two main activities, namely to relook at the African synod document and the Instrumentum Laboris.
“The main objectives of this seminar are basically four: for the Synod participants from Africa to know and recognize each other; to familiarize ourselves with the Instrumentum Laboris and ask questions for clarification; to deepen our understanding of the methodology of Spiritual Conversation; and to share our personal expectations of the forthcoming Synod on Synodality meeting in Rome,” said Fr Simbine.
Kickstarting the gathering, Fr Vitalis Anaheobi took his turn to briefly remind the participants the content in Africa continental document as endorsed by the delegates at the March 6, 2023 gathering of African delegates in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The document underscored the priorities in the context of the Church in Africa which include, among other, the deepening the spirit of synodality in the context of the Church in Africa; aligning the principles of synodality with the Gospel and African values; a Church that is committed to promoting peace and justice in the African context which is marked by exploitation of resources and social conflicts; promoting communion in the context of subsidiarity and co-responsibility of all baptized members of the Church; pastoral care for the family; and a Church committed to addressing ecological justice and stewardship.
On the Instrumentum Laboris, Bishop Lucio Andrice Muandula reminded the participants of the two sections in the working document whereby calls attention to the fruits already gathered since the synodal journey begun and the two key questions that will lead to identification of the desired practical steps that must be taken by the Church from now onwards.
“With the Holy Spirit as protagonist, the synodal journey has been an opportunity for the Church in Africa,” he said and added, “The Instrumentum Laboris deals with the synodal Church founded on the recognition of the common dignity of every baptized person as a member of the Church, inspired by the Holy Spirit and sent to fulfill a mission.”
In this way, Bishop Lucio set grounds to urge the participants to look into the key questions raised in the working document, adding that at this point, familiarity with the methodology of Spiritual Conversation becomes key to discerning the steps necessary for promoting the mission of the Church in the spirit of synodality which underscores communion, co-responsibility and participatory approach to governance and exercise of authority.
According to Cardinal Ambongo, the Church in Africa is grateful to Pope Francis who has nominated from the continent, 5 cardinals, 48 bishops, 6 priests, 6 nuns and 2 members of the laity to participate at the synod. At this gathering, over 47 participants have gathered from all the eight regions of SECAM.