Following the conclusion of Mass in Yaounde on Thursday afternoon, Archbishop Nikola Eterovic, secretary general of the Synod of Bishops gave a short presentation of the working document of the forthcoming bishops’ Synod for Africa.
The Instrumentum laboris, or the working document of the African Synod of Bishops, provides guidelines for the discussions to be held by the Special Assembly of Bishops for Africa, which will take place at the Vatican from October 4 to 25. The document is comprised of four chapters and includes a preface which provides certain parameters for reading the text.
The first chapter describes the situation of the Church in Africa today, examining the implementation of the 1995 Apostolic Exhortation "Ecclesia in Africa" and its relevance in the new social context. Having identified a number of critical areas in the cultural, economic and political fields, the focus switches to theological reflections on reconciliation, justice and peace, which are the main topics of the upcoming Synod.
Chapter two underlines the urgent need for justice and peace in Africa. The African notion of reconciliation is intimately associated with the concept of justice and peace, in the desire to restore harmony between victims and offenders, and with society at large.
The next chapter focuses upon the mission of the Church, the Family of God. Through her activity, the Church becomes a sign and instrument of reconciliation. In order to promote justice and peace she is committed - through her educational and healthcare structures, and development programs - to evangelization and human promotion at the service of all mankind. The Catholic Church is open to dialogue with other Churches and ecclesial communities, as well as with traditional African religions and Islam.
The last chapter of the document reflects upon the life witness of all members of the People of God: bishops, priests, consecrated persons and lay people, including all ecclesial structures and institutions. Emphasis is given to the particular tasks incumbent upon Christians active in society: politics, the armed forces, finance, education, healthcare, culture, the social communications media and international organizations.
The Instrumentum laboris concludes with a prayer to Holy Mary, Our Lady of Africa, entrusting the preparation and fruits of the Second Special Assembly for Africa to her intercession. This, Archbishop Eterovic noted, is the first time the Holy Father has composed a prayer for such a purpose.