As the Synod for Africa winds down, the hundreds of bishops in attendance voted on the final message to be given to the Holy Father, who will then use it to draft an apostolic exhortation. The message urges Catholics in public life to live out their faith, denounces the influence of international corporations and ideologies and calls for inter-religious cooperation.
Cardinal Wilfrid Fox Napier of Durban, South Africa served as president of the assembly as the first version of the final message was presented and voted upon.
In a section of the message titled, “The Church in Africa,” the prelates stated that, “We are convinced that the first and most specific contribution of the Church to the people of Africa is to proclaim the Gospel of Christ,” a message that they said will truly strengthen the unity of all Africans.
The Synod endorsed several ways of improving the governance and management of the Church, as well as working to improve the catechesis of the laity, particularly the youth.
The message spoke of the Church's “deep affection” for the lay faithful of Africa, noting that, “It is in and through you that the life and witness of the Church are made visible to the world.”
“Allow your Christian faith to permeate every aspect and facet of your lives; in the family, at work, in the professions, in politics and public life,” the bishops exhorted, encouraging the laity to “access the means of grace, through prayer and the Sacraments.”
Politicians were also singled out for a “very important and special message” from the Synod.
“Africa needs saints in high political office: saintly politicians who will cleanse the continent of corruption, work for the good of the people, and know how to galvanize other men and women of good will from outside the Church to join hands against the common evils that beset our nations.”
Turning to the scandal caused by Catholic politicians who have “fallen woefully short in their performance in office,” the bishops called on them to “repent, or quit the public arena and stop causing havoc to the people and giving the Catholic Church a bad name.”
Aware of the forces at work to spread abortion and other “virulent ideological poisons from abroad,” the Synod urged the Catholic families of Africa to be on their guard against these threats.
“You should continue to welcome children as gift from God, and train them in the knowledge and fear of God, to be people of reconciliation, justice and peace in future. ... Poverty often makes parents unable to take good care of their children, with disastrous consequence. ... Most families are asking for just what is enough for survival. They have a right to live,” the message reads.
Young adults were also highlighted as members of the Church that should be given particular attention.
“You are often neglected, left adrift as targets for all kinds of ideologies and sects. You are the ones most often recruited and used for violence. We urge all the local Churches to consider the apostolate to the youth a high priority,” the African prelates said.
The Synod Fathers also made sure to speak out on the issue of how international assistance used.
On the topic of HIV/AIDS the bishops stressed that the the Church is “second to none in the fight against HIV/AIDS and the care of people infected and affected by it in Africa.”
However, the Synod, along “with the Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, seriously warns that the problem cannot be overcome by the distribution of prophylactics. We appeal to all who are genuinely interested in arresting the sexual transmission of HIV/AIDS to recognize the success already obtained by programs that propose abstinence among those not yet married, and fidelity among the married,” they underscored.
“To the great powers of this world, we plead: treat Africa with respect and dignity,” the bishops said, as they addressed the economic situation.
Currently Africa has “unjust structures piled heavily against her,” the message says, adding that recent “turmoil in the financial world shows the need for a radical change of rules.” “But it would be a tragedy if adjustments are made only in the interest of the rich and again at the expense of the poor. Many of the conflicts, wars and poverty of Africa derive mainly from these unjust structures.”
The Synod Fathers also touched on the behavior of multinational corporations, insisting that they “have to stop their criminal devastation of the environment in their greedy exploitation of natural resources. It is short-sighted policy to foment wars in order to make fast gains from chaos, at the cost of human lives and blood. Is there no one out there able and willing to stop all these crimes against humanity?” they asked.
The draft of the final message concluded by noting “the testimony of many Synod Fathers who have successfully walked the road of dialogue with Muslims” as well as African Traditional Religion.
If the many religions of Africa cooperate, they can “contribute greatly towards restoring peace and reconciliation in our nations,” the bishops said.
The Synod also warned that nations that restrict freedom of religion undermine sincere dialogue and frustrate genuine collaboration. “Since Christians who decide to change their religion are welcomed into the Muslim fold, there ought to be reciprocity in this matter. Mutual respect is the way forward."
During this afternoon's Nineteenth General Congregation, the presentation of the final list of propositions is due to take place.