Representatives from the nine AMECEA (Association of Member Episcopal Conferences in Eastern Africa) countries are participating in the Synod of Bishops on “Young People, Faith, and Vocational Discernment” at the Vatican in Rome from 3-28 October, 2018. These include 11 Bishop Delegates led by Cardinal John Njue, the Archbishop of Nairobi, Kenya and Cardinal Berhaneyesus Demerew Souraphiel, CM, the Archbishop of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. There are two delegates each from Ethiopia, Kenya and Uganda and one delegate each from Eritrea, Malawi, South Sudan/Sudan, Tanzania and Zambia.
There are three auditors:
Professor Kevin De Souza (Kenya), Assistant Professor at the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross in Rome, is a collaborator of the Special Secretariat and Rev. Cyril Sande Kasigwa (Uganda) is an Assistant to the Secretary General.
Of the roughly 350 participants there are 267 voting members of which 247 are Synod Fathers (bishops) who represent more than 130 Catholic Bishops’ Conferences including all the AMECEA countries and 10 Superior Generals of Religious Congregations (eight priests, two brothers). The auditors include three women religious and 34 young people between the ages of 18 and 29.
The Opening Mass on Wednesday, 3 October used the Gospel of St. John: “The Advocate, the Holy Spirit, will teach you everything.” The participants are trying to truly listen to the experience of young people from around the world and to move to practical, pastoral action on the grassroots. To show the universality of the Catholic Church the “Prayers of the Faithful” were read in Chinese, Arabic, Spanish, Portuguese and Swahili (read by Sister Lucy Muthoni Nderi).
During the first week there are four minute “Interventions.” Topics or themes that are being covered by the bishops from the nine countries of the AMECEA Region include (alphabetically): accompaniment in schools and universities; civil, social and political engagement; the digital world and its impact on young people; dignity of women; formation for active citizenry in politics; integral and holistic formation in Catholic schools and universities; training of spiritual directors; unemployment; violence and young migrants; and young people as protagonists.
Cardinal Njue is preparing an intervention on how good catechesis can counter the impact of “religious fundamentalism” on Catholic young people in Africa.
Young people around the world themselves are asking for a more credible church and concrete steps to remove clericalism from the Catholic Church.
The participants from the AMECEA countries will join the 14 Small Working Groups by language during the second week and will use a reflection method or process based on: Part I: “Recognizing: The Church Listens to Reality.” Part II: “Interpreting Faith and Vocational discernment.” Part III: “Choosing: Paths of Pastoral and Missionary Conversion.”
This is based on the “See,” “Judge” and “Act” reflection method or process that is well known in Eastern Africa. Key is the “Act” step. Pope Francis called on the synod to make “concrete pastoral proposals.” Cardinal Sergio da Rocha from Brazil, the Relator General of the synod, said that in Part III “the church is called to take a position, to make courageous choices, even risky ones, to create the conditions for an authentic pastoral, spiritual, and missionary renewal of the church.”
A well-known international journalist said that one of the main challenges for the bishops at the synod is that young people must be welcomed and empowered to create their own Small Christian Communities. Some of these will undoubtedly be virtual communities.
The 11 AMECEA Bishops Synod Delegates are meeting and planning together at the Consolata Fathers and Brothers Generalate near St. Peter’s Basilica. There is a popular African proverb: If you want to walk fast, walk alone. If you want to walk far, walk together.
It is hoped that young people in Africa, including the nine AMECEA countries, will take ownership of the synod, that is, be active protagonists by joining the synod online through the social media.
NOTE: Representatives from Eastern Africa participated in a Book Event in Rome on 1 October, 2018 to launch the book God’s Quad: Small Faith Communities on Campus and Beyond (Orbis Books, 2018) and produced the following statement:
“Young Catholics and the Synod: Listening to Voices from Around the World”: Statement to the Members, Auditors and Observers of the 2018 Synod of Bishops on “Young People, the Faith, and Vocational Discernment”
Rev. Joseph G. Healey, MM (on safari in Rome)