In union with the universal Church, the Church in Africa celebrated the Continental Synodal Assembly in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, from 1st-6th March 2023. Here are some impressions from those who participated in this very important moment for the family of the People of God.
“Understanding the synodal process means opening our hearts to the Holy Spirit who speaks to us, and listening to each other in order to better carry out the Church’s mission”. With these words, Archbishop Lucio Muandula, Vice-President of SECAM (Symposium of the Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar), opened the work of the Continental Assembly that began in Addis Ababa (Ethiopia) at the beginning of March 2023. Over two hundred delegates, including cardinals, archbishops, bishops, consecrated people, lay people, seminarians and novices, together with representatives of other faiths, gathered together to reflect on the document of the continental phase of the Synod on Synodality. They experienced the joy of listening and the beauty of feeling part of the “family of God”.
Markos Gebremedhin, Apostolic Vicar of Jimma-Bonga (Ethiopia) and friend of the Focolare Movement, said: “We discussed various themes and identified the calls of our synodal journey to prepare a final document that represents the authentic voice of Africa. It was an experience of true synodality, a moment of deep dialogue, mutual listening and discernment, between local churches and with the universal Church”.
The continent of Africa is blessed by rich principles and values, the fruit of many cultures and traditions. It is rooted in a sense of community spirit, family, solidarity, inclusion and hospitality. Mons. Gebremedhin continued, “These principles and values are good, healthy seeds which can enable a truly synodal Church in Africa, in which all vocations must be valued, to grow. With great charity, the assembly empathized with the pain and suffering of our sisters and brothers in Africa. This family walks with those who are most affected, in particular by war, ethnic strife, religious intolerance, terrorism and all forms of conflict, tension and anguish”.
The topics addressed included a reflection on the fundamental role of young people who are a source of energy, passion and creativity for the Church, and on African women, the backbone of communities. Their talents, their charisma and the great contribution they bring was recognized and valued.
Don Giacomo Costa, consultant of the General Secretariat of the Synod guided the participants through the working method of the “spiritual conversation” which was expressed in three moments: taking the floor, making room for others and building together.
Guy Constant, one of the Focolare Movement’s “Volunteers of God”, told us “I participated in the Assembly as an adult Catholic appointed by the Bishops’ Conference of Benin. We met in small groups to discuss our personal experience of the path of synodality during the first year of the synod. The reports of each group were then presented in plenary. This was followed by the presentation and reflection on the synthesis document prepared for the continental phase. One of the most beautiful aspects of this was the invoking of the Holy Spirit, praying that He might guide the process and the intervention of each person. This made it possible to readily accept the proposals of others, instead of wanting to impose our own. A second aspect was experiencing a working atmosphere of true unity among us, priests, bishops and cardinals without distinctions. There was a lot of humility in welcoming everyone’s interventions.”
This path of synodality seems to have awakened the thirst of a Church that wants to take into account the thoughts and feelings of each member, which does not walk alone, but which learns from others. A vital Church that aims at being an “us”.
Fidely Tshibidi Musuya, focolarina from Congo recounted, “I participated in the Continental Assembly for the Synod in Africa as a youth assistant. It was truly a unique experience to hear that I too have a voice that can be heard. For the first time I truly felt a child of the Church. I was born into a Catholic Christian family and many things were obvious to me but this experience made me take on a new awareness of my belonging to the Church, which is not only for bishops, priests and men and women religious, but is truly the Church for all.”
Maria Grazia Berretta
Com’è consolante questa visione della morte con Gesù che morendo per nostro amore ha vinto la morte anche per tutti noi. Buona resurrezione a tutta l’ODM.