N°7 October 2009
PART ONE: DOCUMENT
At Fenza, we are focused on ENCOUNTER (Encountering other churches and other religions, and also the encounter between
faith and culture). Not that we underestimate other dimensions of Evangelization, but this is our specific mission. It is in that
perspective that we looked at the Second African Synod. None of us was present in Rome. But Internet gives a good
opportunity to follow the proceeding of the Synod; and this is what we noticed.
1* First of all, when we received the Lineamenta (2006) we noticed that the title Service to Reconciliation should include the
way we are invited to meet with our separated brethren and with believers of other religions. We also thought that
Reconciliation should be somehow connected with the theme of inculturation.
In fact we noticed that Ecumenism and Interfaith encounter (both with A.T.R. and Islam) were present in the document (e.g. §
24-29). We also noticed that a number of cultural issues were offered to the reflection of African Christians : e.g. gender
issues, local culture and globalization, attitude towards power, attitude towards work, family, tribalism … Although at first
sight the Synod was concerned with justice and Peace issues, we noticed that these could not be disconnected from some basic
2* The Instrumentum Laboris was published this year.
It is clear that its main focus concerns the socio economic and the socio political spheres. Yet the document also stresses the
importance of socio-cultural issues. The word culture comes 34 times and a complete section (Ch 3.1, § 71-74) insists on the
fact that a just and reconciled society must be grounded in a transfigured African culture. We are not only at the level of
economic and structural solutions, but at the level of the values that animate the way we relate to one another. This is the
encounter between faith and culture, or inculturation. We also note that the ecumenical and interfaith dimensions are also
present (§99-102), as too often divisions, tensions and struggles result from affiliation to different religious groups,
3* The Synodal Assembly
Surprisingly the Opening Report did not mention the words ecumenism or inter-faith. Allusions were made to Sects or to
Islam but on a defensive mood. The word inculturation only come passim.
It is true that this Opening Report dealt mainly with biblical data.
Cultural issues were very present in many of the Delegates’ Interventions. The main cultural issues concerned the family, the
place of women, the attitude towards money and towards power, tribalism.
If the Church wants to be salt in the earth, She must herself review these values and attitudes.
We note also that slowly the issue of encountering Islam came to the forefront, mostly through the interventions from
Bishops from North Africa and West Africa. Interventions also mentioned the sects, often seen as a threat.
The Report After Discussion insists on the socio-economic and socio-political problems which were the main topic of the
Synod. But again, the Bishops made the link with the cultural attitudes which are often at the source of many evils. They also
stressed the necessity to work hand in hand with other churches and other faith-groups if we really want to be In Service to
Reconciliation, Justice and Peace.
The Final Message of the African Synod exhorts different categories of persons. We, at FENZA, we feel especially challenged
by § 39-41 that concern inter-religious dialogue.
But we found that the most interesting document is offered by the 57 Final Propositions, which deal with many facets of the
theme Reconciliation, Justice and Peace. There a lot of recommendations for all members of the Church, and addressing a
great number of issues.
We, at FENZA, we feel especially concerned by the following propositions: 7, 10, 11, 12, 13 33, 36 and we hope to be able to
help Christians in Zambia to implement these propositions
Proposition 7 : Inculturating the Sacrament of Reconciliation
A great number of Christians in Africa adopt an ambiguous attitude towards the administration of reconciliation. While they
are very scrupulous in carrying out the traditional rites of reconciliation, they give little value to the Sacrament of Penance.
Therefore, a serious and in-depth study should be done on the traditional African ceremonies of reconciliation, such as
“palaver” (where a team of sages do public arbitration of cases), and arbitration of conflicts by a “team of mediators”. Similar
bodies can be set up on Justice and Peace Commissions to assist Catholic faithful to seek conversion in a serious way through
the celebration of the sacrament of Penance. The grace of the Sacrament of Penance celebrated in faith suffices to reconcile us
to God and neighbour, and does not require any traditional rituals of reconciliation.
Propositio 10: Ecumenical Dialogue
In service to reconciliation, justice and peace on the continent, and in union with the universal Church, the Church in Africa
recommits herself to the task of ecumenical dialogue and cooperation. A divided Christianity remains a scandal, because it
runs contrary to the wishes of the Divine Master, who wished and prayed that his followers may be one (cf. Jn 17:21). The
goal of ecumenical dialogue is, therefore, both to bear witness to Christian fellowship in Christ and to move towards Christian
unity with those with whom we share the same faith, through listening to the Word of God and collaborating in the service of
their brothers and sisters “in one Lord…one Baptism, one God and Father of all...” (Eph 4:5, 6). Accordingly, the Synod
commends the ongoing efforts of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of Christian Unity to initiate and sustain dialogue
with other Churches and ecclesial communities
The Synod is aware that, although the unity of Christians is not yet a reality, Christians in various African countries have come
together in various associations (such as the Christian Association of Nigeria, the Christian Council of Liberia, etc.) to
undertake common works of charity and to safeguard the interest of Christians in a pluralistic modern state. The synod
commends these efforts and recommends them for other countries, where such associations could serve the cause of peace and
reconciliation. In addition, the synod invites the Church in each diocese or region to ensure that the week devoted to prayer for
Christian unity be marked by prayer and common activities that promote the unity of Christians, “that they may all be one”
Propositio 11: Interreligious Dialogue
Peace in Africa and other parts of the world is very much determined by the relations among religions. Therefore, promoting
the value of dialogue is important so that believers work together in associations dedicated to peace and justice, in a spirit of
mutual trust and support, and families be taught the values of listening patiently and fearlessly respecting one another.
Dialogue with other religions, especially Islam and African Traditional Religion, is an integral part of the proclamation of the
Gospel and the Church’s pastoral activity on behalf of reconciliation and peace. Accordingly the initiative of the Pontifical
Council for Interreligious Dialogue to establish dialogue with the different non-Christian religions is to be commended highly.
However, because religion is persistently politicized and becomes the cause of conflicts, religious dialogue is urgently needed
with Islam and Traditional African Religion at all levels. This dialogue will be authentic and productive to the extent that each
religion begins from the depths of its faith and encounters the other in truth and openness.
The Synod Fathers pray that religious intolerance and violence be minimized and eliminated through interreligious dialogue.
The important ecumenical and interreligious event of Assisi (1986) provides us with a model to follow.
Propositio 12: Islam
With the Second Vatican Council, the Church-Family of God, “regards with esteem also the Moslems, who adore the one God,
living and subsisting in himself; merciful and all-powerful, the Creator of heaven and earth, who has spoken to men” (“Nostra
To serve reconciliation, justice and peace, every form of discrimination, intolerance and religious fundamentalism must be
overcome. Where religious freedom is concerned, the right to worship must be stressed.In relations with Muslims, we must:
- give priority to a dialogue of life and a partnership in social matters and reconciliation;
- take into consideration the variety of situations and experiences;
- confront honestly our misunderstandings and difficulties;
- provide a better knowledge of Islam in the formation of priests, men and women religious and the lay faithful; and
- take initiatives which promote respect, friendship, collaboration and reciprocity.
Propositio 13: African Traditional Religion (ATR)
Since the Church-Family of God in Africa continues to live alongside adherents of African Traditional Religion, the Synod
Fathers recalled the wise counsel of Vatican II (“Nostra aetate”) which treats African Traditional Religion and other religions
in the following way: “From ancient times down to the present, there is found among various peoples a certain perception of
that hidden force which hovers over the course of things and over the events of human history…” (2).
Knowledgeable people who are converts from African Traditional Religion can guide the Church to an ever greater and more
precise knowledge of African cultures and religions, making the discernment of true points of opposition easier. This will help
the necessary distinction to be made between the cultural and the religious and especially between the cultural and those
malevolent programmes of sorcery, which cause the break-up and ruin of our families and our societies.
Therefore, with the Second Vatican Council, the Synod Fathers reject nothing that “is true and holy in these religions.... The
Church, therefore, exhorts her sons, that through dialogue and collaboration with the followers of other religions, carried out
with prudence and love and in witness to the Christian faith and life, they recognize, preserve and promote the good things,
spiritual and moral, as well as the socio-cultural values found among these men” (2).
Therefore, this Synod proposes that:
- African Traditional Religion and cultures be subject to qualified and thorough scientific research in the Catholic Universities
of Africa and in the faculties of the Pontifical Universities in Rome in light of the Word of God;
- Bishops in their diocese should take energetic pastoral action against all those involved in witchcraft and decide what
disciplinary measures are required; and
- each bishop should name an exorcist, wherever there is none.
As for what concerns witchcraft and cults,- the local Church is to rely on a balanced approach which studies this phenomenon
in the light of the faith and reason, so as to liberate Africans from this scourge; and- a diocesan multi-disciplinary pastoral
team is to devise a pastoral programme, that is grounded in rationality, deliverance and reconciliation
Propositio 33: Inculturation
A thorough study needs to be made of African traditions and cultures in the light of the Gospel, so as to enrich Christian life,
to set aside any aspects which are contrary to Christian teaching and to animate and sustain the work of evangelizing the
peoples of Africa and their cultures. The Church in Africa is seeing a steady growth in the number of her members and those serving within the clergy.
Nevertheless, an inconsistency exists between some traditional African cultural practices and the demands of the Gospel.
To be relevant and credible, the Church needs to make an in-depth discernment, so as to identify those aspects of culture
which promote and those which hinder the inculturation of Gospel values.
Therefore, the Synod proposes that:
- positive cultural values be promoted and inculcated in all its institutions of learning and training;
- the work of authentic African theologians be encouraged and promoted;
- positive elements of African traditional cultures be incorporated into the Church’s rites;
- pastoral agents learn the local languages and cultures, so that Gospel values can touch people’s hearts and help them towards
a genuine reconciliation which leads to lasting peace;
- the documents of the Magisterium be translated into local languages;
- the exchange of documents between Episcopal Conferences be facilitated;
- canonical and liturgical regulations regarding the ministry of exorcism be used in a ministry of compassion, justice and
- simony be denounced among a certain number of priests, who abuse the sacramentals in order to meet the demands of the
faithful who are fond of religious symbols, like incense, holy water, olive oil, salt, candles, etc.
The teaching of culture conditions the integral development of individuals and groups. Therefore, Africans should promote the
cultural heritage of their region. They should cherish certain values and, at the same time, open them to an encounter with
other cultures – values such as respect for elders and for women as mothers; respect for solidarity, mutual aid and hospitality;
unity; respect for life; and honesty, truth and the word of honour.
Propositio 36 : The Challenges Posed by the New Religious Movements
In light of the challenges posed by the new religious movements (cults, esoteric movements, etc.) local Churches are required
to devise forms of evangelisation which best meet the existing problems of the faithful.
Parishes are to promote in their Small Christian Communities a fraternal life of solidarity. Agents in apostolic activity are also
to develop a ministry of spiritual listening and support to assist the faithful to live each day in keeping with their faith.
Furthermore, the Synod recommends that catechesis lead to a genuine experience of conversion and include formation for
perseverance in the faith in time of trials (cf. Rm 5:3-5), in the same manner that traditional initiation prepares young people to
encounter any and every situation, deep Scriptural and doctrinal teachings of the Church should be transmitted to the faithful.
Prayer groups, Church movements and new communities should also make this concern a part of their programmes.
PART TWO: SHORT NEWS
* Norwegian theologian and pastor Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit, 48, was elected 7th general secretary of the World Council of
Churches (WCC) Thursday 27 August during its Central Committee meeting
* The 10th WCC Assembly in 2013 will take place at Busan, South Korea
* The Faith and Order Plenary Commission of the World Council of Churches (WCC) met at the Orthodox Academy in
Kolympari, Crete, Greece from 7 to 14 October 2009. 120 theologians from nearly all Christian Traditions to discuss about the
mission of the Church. Participants noted an emerging coherence between the three current studies on Nature and Mission of
the Church, Sources of Authority and Moral Discernment in the Churches. A tendency to give more space to an "ecclesiology
from below" based on the concrete experience of "being church in a particular context", rather than describing the church
theoretically "from above", was encouraged
Fr Bernhard Udelhoven came back from Home leave on August 1st
Fr Gilles Mathorel left on 2nd
September and will be back in Lusaka at the beginning of December. He will no longer reside at
Fenza, but will still be able to help us in encountering Muslims/
Fr Patrick Mumbi has joined Fenza staff. After 20 years in Uganda, Fr Patrick comes back to Zambia for home service. He is
trained in anthropology and in counselling.
Fr Gotthard Rosner has also be attached to Fenza staff. He will join us in March.
Our Welcome to Zambia Program took place from 14th
September with 17 participants.
Our 10 weeks Intensive Languages Courses (Nyanja & Bemba) are presently running with 13 students for Nyanja and 5
students for Bemba.
P.S. Fr Edgar Pillet M.Afr is publishing the texts for Weekday masses (Scripture Reading and Prayers) in Chinyanja.Buku la Mapemphero
ndi zowerenga. Masiku onse pa misa) Volume 1 (Advent, Christmas Season, Lent and Easter Season) is available. Vol 2, (Year 1) will be
ready in December, Vol (Year 2) will be ready in February. Vol 4 (Sanctoral) is still in the making.
They can be bought either in Chipata or in Lusaka (Catholic Bookshop & Kabwata Parish). Retail price 40 000 Kwacha
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