One Year after Pope Francis’ Second Visit,
Church in Africa Renews Commitment to Peace
The leadership of the Catholic Church in Africa has, in a statement shared with ACI Africa, announced a week-long commemoration of the first anniversary of Pope Francis’ second three-nation visit to sub-Saharan Africa, recalling the 4 – 10 September 2019 Papal trip to Mozambique, Madagascar and the Mauritian Islands as having been a joy to the people of God in Africa.
In the statement, the leadership of the Symposium of Episcopal Conference of Africa and Madagascar (SECAM) say the anniversary celebrations set to start on Friday, September 4 will focus on a renewed commitment to peace, end of poverty, and conservation of the environment as a home to all.
“Although the visit took place in the cities of Maputo, Antananarivo and Port Louis, Pope Francis was visiting Africa and its Islands, not just the three cities,” SECAM leadership says in the statement signed by Fr. Rafael Simbine Junior, the Deputy Secretary General and Coordinator of the Evangelization Commission of SECAM.
SECAM leadership’s message is a call on the people of God across the continent to remember the Holy Father’s words when he toured Africa a year ago, focusing on peace and reconciliation, fight against poverty and the conservation of the environment.
“We hereby repeat the call of Pope Francis that all of us must continuously say ‘no to violence and yes to peace’. All must join hands to end poverty and all must be actively involved in caring for our common home,” SECAM leaders say, and add, “We thank Pope Francis, messenger of hope, herald of peace and advocate of reconciliation.”
The Church leaders in Africa and Madagascar note with concern that despite Pope Francis’ hearty message of reconciliation to the people of Mozambique, cases of violence had skyrocketed in the Southern African country.
“A year has passed since the memorable visit of Pope Francis to Africa. Indeed, the warmth of his presence and the richness of his messages are still felt by good-hearted people,” the leaders say in the statement shared with ACI Africa September 3, the eve of the start of the weeklong commemoration.
They added, “Nevertheless, brutal acts of violence are still being witnessed in different African countries, including one of those the Holy Father visited last year (Mozambique).”
Additionally, the Church leaders note that there seems to be little or no sign towards peaceful or harmonious coexistence, unity, food security, clean environment in most parts of the continent and the Islands nations.
Addressing Catholic Church leaders in Mozambique during his pastoral visit, Pope Francis said that the Church in the country should avoid being part of conflicts and divisions, but to go out of their way to visit others and to encourage dialogue and solutions.
“The Church in Mozambique is invited to be the Church of the Visitation,” Pope Francis told Bishops, Priests, Seminarians, Religious men and women, the Consecrated, and Catechists in Mozambique during his September 5, 2019 address in Maputo.
The Church in Mozambique, the Holy Father added, “cannot be part of the problem of rivalry, disrespect and division that pits some against others, but instead a door to solutions, a space where respect, interchange and dialogue are possible.”
In the seven-page statement, SECAM officials say that three words symbolized Pope Francis’ 2019 pastoral trip to Africa: Peace, Hope and Reconciliation.
In Mozambique, the motto was “Hope, Peace and Reconciliation”, in Madagascar it was "Sower of Peace and Hope” and in Mauritius it was “Pilgrim of Peace”.
“These three words sum up the hunger not only of these three countries, but of the whole of Africa and its Islands. So, Pope Francis came to Africa as a messenger of hope,” the SECAM leaders say, recalling the words of Pope Francis who said, “I go to Africa as a messenger of peace and reconciliation.”
For Pope Francis, peace is not only the absence of war, SECAM leaders say and reiterated the Holy Father’s message that in order to make reconciliation possible, it is necessary to overcome times of division and violence, of xenophobia and tribalism.
“In this connection, we need to take up the challenge of welcoming and protecting migrants who arrive in search of work and in search of better living conditions for their families, of defending the ecumenical and interreligious meetings and finding ways to promote collaboration among all - Christians, traditional religions, Muslims - for a better future for Africa,” SECAM leaders say.
The leaders also express their commitment to Pope Francis' call to the Church to participate actively in social issues that impact the well-being of the people of God.
“Religion can no longer be said to be limited to the private sphere, which serves only to prepare souls for heaven. We know that God desires the happiness of his children on this earth too, even though they are called to eternal fullness, because he created all things for our benefit, so that all may enjoy them,” SECAM leaders say in their latest statement.
Pope Francis told Madagascar’s bishops that the Catholic Church should participate in public life in order to promote the common good and that the Bishops should not be afraid to voice their opinions on matters affecting members of their society.
“Christian conversion demands reviewing especially those areas and aspects of life ‘related to the social order and the pursuit of the common good,’” the Pope said in his September 7, 2019 address in the Cathedral of Andohalo in Antananarivo, the capital city of Madagascar.
The Holy Father added, “Consequently, no one can demand that religion should be relegated to the inner sanctum of personal life, without influence on societal and national life, without concern for the soundness of civil institutions, without a right to offer an opinion on events affecting society.”
As for fighting poverty, SECAM leadership has expressed the concern that Africa is a rich land yet with so much poverty, “full of natural and cultural riches, but paradoxically with a huge amount of its population below the poverty level.”
Echoing Pope Francis, SECAM leaders say that the only way out of poverty for Africa and Madagascar is a greater effort in the fight against corruption, which drags the population into a spiral of poverty from which it is difficult to escape.
And touching on the need to conserve the environment, SECAM leadership asserts that development cannot happen without paying attention and taking care of creation, “our Common Home”.
Meanwhile, the Church in Mozambique is concluding its week of faith and social commitment that was organized to commemorate the first anniversary of Pope Francis’ pastoral visit to the Southern African country.
The leadership of the Social Department of the Episcopal Conference of Mozambique (CEM), which includes different social commissions, explained to ACI Africa that the week-long celebrations expected to end on Saturday, September 5 will be marked with spiritual reflections in all Dioceses of the country.
ACI Africa was officially inaugurated on August 17, 2019 as a continental Catholic news agency at the service of the Church in Africa. Headquartered in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, this media apostolate will strive to facilitate the telling of Africa’s story by providing media coverage of Catholic events on the African continent, giving visibility to the activities of the Church across Africa where statistics show significant growth in numbers and the continent gradually becoming the axis of Catholicism. This is expected to contribute to an awareness of and appreciation for the significant role of the Church in Africa and over time, the realization of a realistic image of Africa that often receives negative media framing.
Father Don Bosco Onyalla
Editor-in-Chief, ACI Africa