.- This morning, the "Lineamenta" (or draft guidelines) for the Second Special Assembly for the Synod of Bishops of Africa were presented in the Holy See Press Office. The synod will focus on the many and diverse problems, which exist around the continent and the Church’s continuing role in bringing reconciliation, justice, and peace. Participating in the press conference were Cardinal Francis Arinze, prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, and Archbishop Nikola Eterovic, secretary general of the Synod of Bishops.
Cardinal Arinze began by pointing out that, in order to better understand the "Lineamenta," it would be helpful "to reflect briefly on signs of good news about Church life in Africa," to study the problems and challenges in the areas of reconciliation, justice, and peace in African societies, and to consider "what the Catholic Church in Africa has done, or can do, to help."
"There are great differences in the situation of the Church in each of the 53 countries on the African continent," he said. "Growth is a fact. Experts tell us that Africa is the continent with the highest annual percentage growth for Christianity in the world. Many more Africans get baptized each year. In some African countries seminaries and sisters' novitiates have more candidates than they can conveniently accommodate. ... Several beatification causes are being promoted, one of the latest being that of President Julius Nyerere of Tanzania."
"But the Church in Africa is not closed in on herself. She shares the joys and hopes, problems and challenges of the wider society in Africa. The painful situation of violence and even war in Somalia, the tragedy of Darfur and the not yet totally resolved situation in the Ivory Coast, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and to some extent in the Great Lakes region, are causes of concern."
He continued: "The challenge of building up a nation in harmony and peaceful development out of peoples from many ethnic groups put together as a country by colonial masters remains present, as in Nigeria. Moreover, poverty, disease and especially HIV/AIDS, are real threats and have wiped out large numbers or crippled them."
The prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments also noted some positive signs: "a smooth passage from apartheid to democracy in the Republic of South Africa, the opposition party winning elections without tears in Senegal, Ghana, Malawi and Zambia, and significant steps towards greater democratization in several countries."
"The Catholic Church," Cardinal Arinze concluded, "without any pretence at having a political or economic mission, knows that she has to contribute first by preaching the Gospel to call to a conversion of hearts, respect for the rights of other people, repentance and reconciliation, forgiveness and harmony. ... The dioceses in Africa take practical steps to show Christian solidarity to the poor and the needy. Most bishops' conferences have justice and peace commissions. ... Refugees and displaced persons, find the Church as one of the few institutions that care for them and that can put a smile on their faces."
For his part, Archbishop Eterovic affirmed that for this Second African Synod (the first was held in 1994) Benedict XVI, "accepting the advice of the African episcopate," has approved the theme: "The Church in Africa in Service to Reconciliation, Justice and Peace. 'You are the salt of the earth. ... You are the Light of the World'."