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African Continental Assembly: Delegates highlight inclusiveness of synodal process

At the continental synod assembly currently taking place Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, delegates express their appreciation for their experience of the synodal process since it started in October 2021.

By Andrew Kaufa, SMM – Addis Ababa

Divided into groups of ten, the cardinals, bishops, priests, men and women religious , the laity and youth from across Africa took turns sharing about what they have experienced and learnt in the past one and half years of the synodal process.

“Synodality has been welcomed by the Church in Africa as it has already been part of our way of doing things here in Africa. The only concern is that there are some strange ideas which are being peddled through the Synod,” expressed one group from the Anglophone countries. 

Inclusiveness and conversion

At the same time, appreciation was expressed that the synodal process has encouraged inclusiveness as the way to be Church in the future. The same Anglophone group said, “We feel that the Church needs to be inclusive of those who feel neglected, especially the women, youth and people with disabilities. We have also noticed that we have lost many Christians to Pentecostal movements and ATR: there is need for introspection on this phenomenon.”

“The Synodal process is a good exercise of inclusion which should be encouraged with a sense of conversion. For instance, we felt in the process that the Holy Spirit is inviting us to walk together as a Church in Africa — the youth, women, disabled. Also, on Church ownership, the synod has underscored the fact that the Church belongs to all of us. Therefore, the laity are taking responsibility, they are free to take initiative to improve the Church. Obviously, we note that this is an ongoing process but it must become the way of being Church in Africa,” two other Anglophone groups expressed.

A more participatory and listening model

On the part of the Francophone groups, delegates pointed at the pyramid structure of the Church as something that must give way to a new and more participatory and listening model of the Church.

“The synodal process must be embraced as a lifestyle of the Church. The involvement and engagement of the faithful is a must. The framework of the synodal process calls us all to be missionaries, which calls for accountability on the mission given to us,” one group reported.

Another group said, “Synodality is a style of the Church that can also bring forth process of reconciliation. Such a structure of the Church can only improve by the spirit of synodality and open up access to Sacraments for those Christians who are blocked from receiving the Sacraments such as Baptism and Communion.”

The role of women and young people

The delegates also said in unison that the synod has revealed some insights regarding the role of women and the youth in the future Church.

“Women are key members of the Church; there are many groups of women who are being left behind and need to be allowed to share their gifts in Church and society. Also, the youth recognize the Church be a source of hope. They are asking to be given an opportunity to express themselves; they should not be silent on negative forces affecting their lives.”

Everyone has something to offer

Other aspects which the synodal experience has uncovered in Africa include the demand for promoting a spirituality of communion, the conversion of Church structures through the SCCs and Christian movements which shall enhance the sense of belonging and ownership, hence addressing the risk of clericalism.

“All this needs a new catechesis,” the delegates underscored as they acknowledged that journeying together, though important, is also difficult and “requires patience as this implies bringing forth reforms.” another group conveyed. They added, “Everyone has something to offer to the Church and that synodality calls for constant communication, listening to one another and laity fulfilling their responsibility in the Church and exercising co-responsibility with the priests.”

As the delegates ended the first day, this sharing has set grounds for further spiritual discernment in the remaining three days of the assembly.

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