Yesterday and today at the ongoing Synod for Africa, bishops raised issues of concern that ranged from how to deal with polygamy to asking sister Churches in developed countries to persuade their governments to stop trying to impose “ideologies that are foreign to Africa.”
Bishop Evaristus Thatoho Bitsoane of Lesotho took the floor on Thursday afternoon to explain how his local Church can fulfill the synod's theme. “The Church in Lesotho, like many other local Churches of Africa is involved in the area of health, education and in the service of the poor. Lesotho is about fifty percent Catholic and the Church has the majority of schools in the country. From these numbers one would hope that Catholic principles would prevail in the running of the country,” he explained.
But this is not the case, Bishop Bitsoane continued, “On the contrary, people embrace anything that will enable them to have bread on the table even if it is opposed to the teaching of the Church.”
Pointing out that Lesotho is just one of many countries of Africa who have signed the Maputo Protocol, he said that even though “the services of our Catholic hospitals are appreciated by many, we are afraid that many abortions will be performed in private hospitals.”
“What the Church of Lesotho needs urgently in order to continue her service to the poor,” Bishop Bitsoane stated, “is for the sister Churches of the developed world to influence their governments not to impose ideologies that are foreign to Africa.”
The Synod Fathers also reflected on how to bring the values of the Gospel to African cultures that are rooted in pagan practices.
Bishop Matthew Kwasi Gyamfi of Sunyani, Ghana said on Friday morning that, "In some parts of Africa because of the culture and tradition of the people before the Church was introduced, many African women find themselves in polygamous marriages through no fault of theirs.”
According to Bishop Gyamfi, this situation means that “many of the women attending church are denied the Sacraments of Initiation, Reconciliation and Marriage.”
The bishop pointed out that this treatment is unjust and has damaging effects for those women who were “first wives with children” of polygamous marriages. “The Church needs to address this painful and unpleasant situation in Africa by giving some special privileges to women, who have been the first wives with children and through no fault of their own have become victims of polygamous marriages, to receive the Sacraments of Initiation and others,” he said.
If these “sorely tried women” are allowed to receive the Sacraments, Bishop Gyamfi said that they will be able to “share in the peace and reconciliation offered by the compassion and peace of Our Lord Jesus Christ Who came to call sinners and not the self righteous.”
The Synod for Africa began at the Vatican on October 4 and will conclude on October 25.