.- The Seventeenth General Congregation of the Synod for Africa began in Rome on Tuesday with the reading of a letter from synod leaders who expressed their “deep sorrow” about the violent conflicts in Africa. The letter was read in the presence of Pope Benedict XVI and 217 Synod Fathers. Addressed to the presidents of the bishops conferences of Sudan, Uganda, Chad, the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Central African Republic, the letter expressed the Synod Fathers’ “deep sorrow” about the persistent war in Africa’s Great Lakes region.
The letter noted that hundreds of thousands of people, fearing for their lives, have abandoned their homes to seek refuge in nearby countries in “extremely perilous conditions.”
The Synod Fathers also lamented the “worrisome situation” of child soldiers, orphans, and those who are severely physically or mentally injured.
“As Synod Fathers, in solidarity with the president of the Synod, Our Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI, we wish to express our deepest sentiments of fraternal communion with the bishops of the dioceses involved in this inhuman suffering of innocent peoples,” the letter read.
“At the same time, we turn to the parties concerned, imploring them to replace at once the language of arms with that of dialogue and negotiation. In dialogue, undertaken in mutual respect and peace, all problems can be solved. War, on the other hand, makes everything more difficult, transforming brothers into enemies.”
“Strengthened by the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of the Risen Lord Jesus, we, as Synod Fathers, declare the sacred value of every human life. The commandment 'not to kill' is not only a part of the Decalogue, revealed by God and recorded in the Bible, but a law written in the heart of every person who comes into this world.”
Using a traditional biblical reference, the bishops noted that the blood of the innocent “cries to heaven for vengeance” to God who will judge those who have bloodied their hands.
The prelates also prayed for the “gift of peace” and the “grace of reconciliation” through the intercessions of the saints and the Virgin Mary.
Archbishop of Bukavu François Xavier Rusengo had to leave the Synod to return to the war-torn eastern Democratic Republic of Congo because of a violent incident in which uniformed men burnt down one of his archdiocese’s parishes, attacked priests and took others hostage.
After the reading of the letter, a list of fifty-four propositions was presented for the consideration of the Synod Fathers. The propositions will be consigned to Pope Benedict as he writes the post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation.
On Tuesday afternoon the Synod Fathers were scheduled to meet in language groups to prepare their amendments to the proposition list.