Synod/4 – Rise up!

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The Second Special Assembly for Africa of the Synod of Bishops focused its work on reconciliation. When the second Synod for Africa was proposed, the continent was coming out of a prolonged war in the Great Lakes region, a conflict not yet concluded today, wars in the Horn of Africa, and various instances of tribal fighting and social unrest. Reconciliation was urgent, and still is. Here below there are a few excerpts on different themes discussed by the Synod delegates in the document Africa Munus written by Pope Benedict XVI.

d2Indeed, only authentic reconciliation can achieve lasting peace in society. This is a task incumbent on government authorities and traditional chiefs, but also on ordinary citizens. In the wake of a conflict, reconciliation – often pursued and achieved quietly and without fanfare – restores a union of hearts and serene coexistence. As a result, after long periods of war nations are able to rediscover peace, and societies deeply rent by civil war or genocide are able to rebuild their unity. It is by granting and receiving forgiveness that the traumatized memories of individuals and communities have found healing and families formerly divided have rediscovered harmony. … If it is to be effective, this reconciliation has to be accompanied by a courageous and honest act: the pursuit of those responsible for these conflicts, those who commissioned crimes and who were involved in trafficking of all kinds, and the determination of their responsibility. Victims have a right to truth and justice.

There is no doubt that the building of a just social order is part of the competence of the political sphere. Yet one of the tasks of the Church in Africa consists in forming upright consciences receptive to the demands of justice, so as to produce men and women willing and able to build this just social order by their responsible conduct.

d3The family is the best setting for learning and applying the culture of forgiveness, peace and reconciliation. “In a healthy family life we experience some of the fundamental elements of peace: justice and love between brothers and sisters, the role of authority expressed by parents, loving concern for the members who are weaker because of youth, sickness or old age, mutual help in the necessities of life, readiness to accept others and, if necessary, to forgive them. For this reason, the family is the first and indispensable teacher of peace.” By virtue of its central importance and the various threats looming over it – distortion of the very notion of marriage and family, devaluation of maternity and trivialization of abortion, easy divorce and the relativism of a “new ethics” – the family needs to be protected and defended, so that it may offer society the service expected of it, that of providing men and women capable of building a social fabric of peace and harmony.

d4While it is undeniable that in certain African countries progress has been made towards the advancement of women and their education, it remains the case that, overall, women’s dignity and rights as well as their essential contribution to the family and to society have not been fully acknowledged or appreciated. Thus women and girls are often afforded fewer opportunities than men and boys. There are still too many practices that debase and degrade women in the name of ancestral tradition. With the Synod Fathers, I urge all Christians to combat all acts of violence against women, speaking out and condemning them. In this area, the conduct of the members of the Church ought to be a model for society as a whole.

Young people make up the majority of Africa’s population. This youthfulness is a gift and a treasure from God for which the whole Church is grateful to the Lord of life.  … Dear young people, enticements of all kinds may tempt you: ideologies, sects, money, drugs, casual sex, violence… Be vigilant: those who propose these things to you want to destroy your future! In spite of difficulties, do not be discouraged and do not give up your ideals, your hard work and your commitment to your human, intellectual and spiritual formation! 

… Cultivate a yearning for fraternity, justice and peace. The future is in the hands of those who find powerful reasons to live and to hope. If you want it, the future is in your hands, because the gifts that the Lord has bestowed upon each one of you, strengthened by your encounter with Christ, can bring genuine hope to the world!

Together with the Synod Fathers, I ask all the members of the Church to work and speak out in favour of an economy that cares for the poor and is resolutely opposed to an unjust order which, under the pretext of reducing poverty, has often helped to aggravate it. God has given Africa important natural resources. Given the chronic poverty of its people, who suffer the effects of exploitation and embezzlement of funds both locally and abroad, the opulence of certain groups shocks the human conscience.

d5Everyone knows that the new information technologies are capable of being powerful instruments for unity and peace, but also for destruction and division. From a moral standpoint they can offer either a service or a disservice, propagate truth as well as falsehood, propose what is base as well as what is beautiful. The flood of news or non-news, to say nothing of images, can be informative but also powerfully manipulative. Information can readily become disinformation, and formation deformation. The media can be a force for authentic humanization, but just as easily prove dehumanizing.

The Church needs to be increasingly present in the media so as to make them not only a tool for the spread of the Gospel but also for educating the African peoples to reconciliation in truth, and the promotion of justice and peace. A solid formation in ethics and truthfulness will help journalists to avoid the attraction of the sensational, as well as the temptation to manipulate information and to make easy money. Christian journalists should not be afraid to show their faith!

The proclamation of the Gospel must recover the ardour of the beginnings of the evangelization of the African continent, attributed to the evangelist Mark and carried on by “countless saints, martyrs, confessors and virgins”. If this effort is to be more effective, the missio ad gentes must keep pace with the new evangelization. In Africa too, situations demanding a new presentation of the Gospel, “new in its ardour, methods and expression”, are not rare. In particular, the new evangelization needs to integrate the intellectual dimension of the faith into the living experience of the encounter with Jesus Christ present and at work in the ecclesial community. Being Christian is born not of an ethical decision or a lofty ideal, but an encounter with an event, a person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction. Catechesis must therefore integrate its theoretical dimension, which deals with concepts to be learned by heart, and its practical dimension, which is experienced at the liturgical, spiritual, ecclesial, cultural and charitable levels, in order that the seed of God’s word, once fallen on fertile ground, can sink deep roots and grow to maturity.


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