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CEPACS at 50: Church in Africa looks at present and future of media outreach

In Lagos, Nigeria, the Pan African Committee for Social Communications (CEPACS) celebrates its 50th anniversary with a conference looking at the Church’s current and future media outreach in the digital world. The prefect of the Dicastery for Communication gives a keynote address while meeting with the participants.

By Paul Samasumo

From 18-21 November Paolo Ruffini, the Vatican’s Prefect of the Dicastery for Communication, is visiting Lagos, Nigeria, for the landmark 50th anniversary of the Pan African Committee for Social Communications. Known by its French acronym of CEPACS, the origins go back to 1973 when African bishops founded it to spearhead the social communications apostolate on the continent, also in response to the Second Vatican Council’s post-conciliar document, Communio et Progressio.

History and foundations

In a Sunday evening Keynote Address to the African Bishops in charge of communication at a regional level, various communication experts, media practitioners and academicians meeting In Lagos for the golden jubilee, Paolo Ruffini commended the African Bishops for this milestone. “Only by keeping the past alive can we build a future not founded on sand. Our history, our stories, are our foundations. All of us – looking back – must ask ourselves: what is the story we tell and have told? Does it still speak of the Kingdom of God?”

Paolo Ruffini with Cardinal Fridolin Ambongo

Paolo Ruffini with Cardinal Fridolin Ambongo

As he did earlier in the day, in his greeting at the Lagos Holy Cross Cathedral, Paolo Ruffini invited the communicators to look beyond the means and the gadgets of communication. communication is a gift, he said.  “The secret of communication is not technique but love. We might think that communication depends on the media, as mere transmission of news, knowledge, notions, emotions. Certainly, communication is also that. But if we look at the Latin root of the word “communication,” we can see that it combines two other words: cum, together, and munus, gift. This tells us that communication is first and foremost a mutual gift of ourselves, a gift that comes from the relationship we establish with the other,” said the Communication Prefect. He then aptly emphasised, “We know it: there is no mission without communion. And there is no communion without communication.”

Communion, understanding, healing

Paolo Ruffini arrived in Lagos early Saturday morning. He visited with his hosts, the Archbishop of Lagos, Alfred Adewale Martins and the nation’s Bishop of Oyo, Emmanuel Badejo who is also the President of CEPACS. During his rounds visiting some parishes and Church institutions, Paolo Ruffini also paid a much-appreciated visit to the Cardinal Emeritus of Lagos, Anthony Okogie.

The Sunday opening Mass held with the faithful of Lagos’ Holy Cross Cathedral was presided over by SECAM President Cardinal Fridolin Ambongo, the Archbishop of Kinshasa in the Democratic Republic of Congo. It was a solemn and lively Mass, as African liturgies are known to be.

The opening CEPACS Mass in Lagos, Nigeria

The opening CEPACS Mass in Lagos, Nigeria

In his homily, CEPACS President, Bishop Badejo told the congregation that communication can bring about communion, understanding and healing in society when seen as a gift.

“The Holy Father Pope Francis often proposes the Good Samaritan as an example for Christians to follow in order to heal the world and our societies. (The parable) is a good example of listening to others -even if they are not speaking – and it encourages us never to leave anyone behind. Emulating the Good Samaritan wherever we find ourselves can change how we see the stranger, how we see the poor, how we treat the marginalised, and how we treat the least deserving even of our attention. It can help us to craft a more just and sane world for everybody,” said the CEPACS President.

For his part, the President of the Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar (SECAM) commended CEPACS, which works closely with SECAM for aligning the jubilee celebrations in the “wake of the just ended Synod on Synodality in Rome, SECAM finds the theme of the celebration, ‘CEPACS at 50: Towards Promoting a Synodal Church in Africa Through Social Communications’ appropriate for the celebration,” said the Cardinal.

Ethics and communication

Cardinal Ambongo told communicators that “there is still more room for improvement, particularly in ensuring that all the regions within SECAM become more active and increase their digital footprints without losing sight of Church ethics on social communications.”

Several Catholic Bishops across Africa have converged on Lagos for the two-day celebration, and the conference which ends on Tuesday. During the two-day gathering, several Bishops and international communication experts will present papers to relaunch the Church media apostolate in Africa.

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