Message of the Second Symposium of Bishops’ of Africa and Europe
Evangelization Today :Communion and Pastoral Collaboration between Africa and Europe.
To the Christian faithful and all men of good will
This meeting between Bishops of Africa and Europe has been part of a brotherly approach, mindful of the life of our two continents, and shows that we are thesame Church and the same family, and that we speak out with the same voice.
For the second time since 2004, a Symposium gathering 70 African and European bishops has taken place in Rome, from February 13 to 17, 2012, with representatives of the Symposium of Catholic Bishops’ Conferences of Africa and Madagascar (SCEAM) and the Council of Catholic Bishops’ Conferences of Europe (CCEE), under the auspices of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples and with the collaboration of various charitable organizations.
This meeting is a follow-up to the Symposium held in Rome In 2004 on the topic of Communion and solidarity between Africa and Europe - Christ calls upon us - Christ sends us . Three intermediate symposia marked the way during these eight years: the first one took place in Cape Coast, Ghana in 2007 on the topic of Slavery and new forms of slavery; the second one in Liverpool, United Kingdom in 2008 on Migration as a new opportunity for evangelization and solidarity, and a third one in Abidjan, Ivory Coast in 2010 on the New situation of the Ad Gentes Mission - Exchanges of priests and pastoral agents and training. Vocations. Fifty years after the opening of the Second Vatican Council and a few months away from the Synod on New Evangelization, we wanted to look into our hearts about this theme: Evangelization today: Communion and Pastoral Collaboration between Africa and Europe. The human person and God: the Church’s mission to proclaim God’s presence and love. In this Symposium we have found the joy of reunion, and we have assessed the progress made over these eight years. Indeed, the Beatitudes are our common treasure. More and more, they make us discover our complementary nature, but also our co-responsibility and interdependence in the lives of our local Churches. It’s a question of rising to the challenges of an increasingly new Evangelization in our two continents today « For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body ( …) and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many » (1 Cor 12 :13-14). We have rejoiced for the progress we have made in the last decades in the relations between our two continents – the Synods for Africa and for Europe, as well as our meetings, are a testimony to this very fact.
In the service of men and women of today
Listening to the Word of God and in a prayerful attitude, we discussed and analyzed situations in great freedom, and asked ourselves: who are the men and women the Church has been sent to evangelize in the diversity of our continents? We have the task of being the proximity of God to the men and women of today, whatever their religion. We observe that the messages conveyed by current cultures are muddled, and many signals disclose hostility towards life and towards the identity of men and women. We have an unprecedented experience - especially in the Northern hemisphere - of rejection of God or growing indifference in a world where mass media often communicate a relativistic message that is affecting advanced and emerging countries alike. However, we know that beyond all cultures men and women have a common experience in their hearts, in Africa as well as in Europe: they are filled with the desire to love, be loved and give life. We also know that the thirst for the search for God and the practice of the faith are communitarian goods that are impossible to confine to the field of private life.
Mindful of the challenges of the world
Together, we have observed that urbanization, the fascination with cities, often multiplies disappointments, loneliness and misery, without denying that cities can be meeting places for cultural enrichment. We must learn the language of city-dwellers to promote a true community life there, to support the understanding of the issues of uprooted people. Mindful of the poor, our parish and religious communities develop the attitude of service to our brothers and sisters. Even with their own suffering, we can help them to meet a friend - Jesus Christ – crucified, dead and risen. The complexity of social mobility has transformed our societies: cultures are distorted. Shall we be able to be there and make proposals that are open to new ways of life, out of our audacious proclamation of Christ’s Gospel?
Another challenge has appeared: materialism, which is expressed - among other things - by consumerism and prevails over all ideals, thus creating a great deal of frustrations. Greed for money causes new forms of selfishness that drive people away from solidarity and the search for common good.
Migrations – intercontinental as well as inside one same continent - are another challenge, which raise issues within our societies. They may cause social imbalances and fears. A true pastoral care for migrants is a must for our Churches, which should pledge to be a sign of brotherhood in Christ: « I was a stranger and you welcomed me ».
The proliferation of sects cannot leave us indifferent. We must wonder whether our language may sometimes be excessively complex and abstract. We must be more daring in our proclamation of Jesus Christ, and call for a personal and community adhesion to faith.
At the international level, we are faced with the illegal exploitation of the soil and subsoil of the earth, paying the high price of a huge rate of corruption, along with the ensuing violence, or even wars. It is important to act together before the eyes of our rulers, and speak out with one voice, calling for more justice. We support a policy of agricultural development in the respect of the needs of our populations and the environment. We ask our Catholic Universities, within the framework of a North-South collaboration, to undertake specific works based on the transcendental foundations of law, ecology and international ethics in our pluralistic and secularized societies.
Many other challenges should be highlighted. We are aware of this; however, they fall within a process of common reflection and analysis that requires time.
In brotherly solidarity
The development of African Churches, their youth, the many vocations, show a growing vitality which makes them take part in the universal mission. It is within this climate of common responsibility that we have acknowledged the existing forms of collaboration and those that are yet to be established.
• The exchange of apostolic workers – priests, seminarians, men and women religious - requires a common effort on our part to set up good training and follow-up structures within a framework of mutual trust among Bishops.
• The Formation of Formators calls for new efforts in terms of programs, personnel and various means, both financial and material.
• Interreligious dialogue, with particular reference to Islam, is a must. We must turn our fears into a better knowledge of the other religions.
• Ecumenical dialogue should lead our Christian communities to greater unity.
The enhancement of family life, so important for the human and Christian formation of a person, must remain the main focus of attention and continuous support within our pastoral projects.
Respect for life and the natural complementarity of man and woman are an inalienable wealth which should always be rediscovered. With reference to this, our message goes beyond our communities and is addressed to every person.
Inhabited by Hope
The commitment of the Church in Africa and in Europe is subject to high expectations. Our words and our practice are widely recognized.
• We want to be there at the appointment with our world’s challenges, first of all with our own conversions, and also with the carrying out of the necessary transformations to better serve the men and women who live in our two continents.
• We want to participate together - in mutual support - in the universal mission in order for Christ to be better welcomed, known and celebrated.
• We want to find together new momentum - responding to Pope Benedict XVI’s invitation in the Apostolic Exhortation Africae munus (the commitment of Africa) – to « become a greater blessing for the noble African continent and the whole world !» (Africae munus 177)
• We want to commit ourselves – with the youth of Africa, with the hopes of the WYD, with local communities, movements and fraternities – for an Evangelization with a new quality.
We are in communion with the Holy Father, whom we met on February 16, and we are supported by him. With a same pace and along the same way, our Symposium affirms its willingness to pursue the objectives it has established to “act with one heart and one soul” (St. Augustin) in one Church and one mission.
This is our wish, our prayer and our mutual commitment!
Rome, February 17, 2012