Bishops gather to examine Africa’s role in New Evangelization

The leaders of the Symposium of African and European Bishops deliver their opening remarks on Feb. 13, 2012
The leaders of the Symposium of African and European Bishops deliver their opening remarks on Feb. 13, 2012

.- A conference exploring how the continents of Africa and Europe can work together in the new evangelization is underway in Rome.

“Pope Benedict XVI refers to the Catholic Church in Africa as ‘the spiritual lungs of humanity’,” said Cardinal Polycarp Pengo, President of the Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar, at the opening session.

“This is an enormous challenge to us, for which we shall do all that it takes to share what we have with the entire Church.”

The 2nd Symposium of African and European Bishops is meeting Feb. 13-17 at Rome’s Regina Apostolorum University. The gathering is entitled “Evangelization Today: Communion and Pastoral Collaboration between Africa and Europe.”

It comes only months after Pope Benedict’s November 2011 trip to the West African country of Benin, where he signed his Apostolic Exhortation “Africae Munus” (Pledge for Africa). In it the Pope outlined “a program for pastoral activity for the coming decades of evangelization in Africa, stressing the need for reconciliation, justice and peace.
Archbishop Buti Tlhagale of Johannesburg, South Africa explained to CNA on Feb. 13 that the conference “has already helped because it is starting to clarify why Africae Munus was issued, what is important about that document, and why Africa should treat it very, very seriously.”
He said one of the key challenges laid down by the Pope is that “theology shouldn’t just be some speculative science,” but that bishops should “try and translate some of our theology into some pastoral teaching, some pastoral care, etc.”

Over the week the participants are using much of the Pope’s document on Africa as a template for their seminars and debates. They are also gathering every day to celebrate Mass together.

On Feb. 16, they will meet with Pope Benedict at the Vatican to discuss their work.

“It is up to us while we are here to become more deeply aware of what the Holy Father has said and how, in practical terms, we might be able to develop his ideas for the benefit of the people in Africa, and also for those in Europe,” Bishop Tom Burns of Menevia in Wales told CNA.

“We can do this by understanding what Africa has to offer -- and we welcome that -- but also by Africa understanding what we may have to offer. And I’m sure they can benefit from that as well,” Bishop Burns said.