The Vatican Press Office has released the details of the latest meeting of African bishops since the closing of their Special Assembly in October. A meeting of the Special Council for Africa was held on Jan. 19 - 20 at the Vatican to discuss continuing issues in the African Church.
The secretary general of the Synod of Bishops, Archbishop Nikola Eterovic, hosted the council's second meeting in which all members, representing 12 African nations, were present.
As he introduced the agenda items for the meeting, Archbishop Eterovic reflected on the major themes addressed in October's assembly, which focused on achieving justice, peace and reconciliation in Africa. Finding reconciliation, the archbishop stated, must happen through the Sacrament of Penance and the ability to forgive. He also touched on the importance of avoiding the transformation of theology into politics and the protection of creation.
Each of the members reported on the positive effects of the Special Assembly and the current social and ecclesial climates in their countries and dioceses.
According to the press office statement, discussion was primarily dedicated to the fact that Churches in Africa often find themselves playing a role in defending the people from injustices. "The lack of peace leads the Church to a strong commitment to mediation and reception of those who suffer the consequences of internal wars," the bishops said.
The communique from the council also observed that "reconciliation continues to be a challenge for the Church in Africa, which must be reconciled in herself to become credible in her preaching and her social action."
The members of the special council also spoke of their wish to "establish relations of mutual understanding and collaboration" with other religions on the continent. They underscored that, above all, they must seek dialogue with the Islamic community, of whom they expressed their thought that "fundamentalist groups are always more repudiated and marginalized by official representatives of Islam."
The group wrapped up its meeting by organizing the proposals from October's Synod into a workable outline for the creation of a Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation. Pope Benedict will craft the Apostolic Exhortation.
The council members hope the document will take “into account not only the real and concrete difficulties, but also many positive and promising situations of the African continent.” “In any case," they said, "the final text should maintain a fair equilibrium between a theological-spiritual perspective and an adaptation to the pastoral and social reality."
The special council will meet again from April 27 - 28.