“We want to be there at the appointment with our world’s challenges, first of all with our own conversions, and also with the carrying out of the necessary transformations to better serve the men and women who live in our two continents”. Thus wrote the bishops of Africa and Europe in a message to “the Christian faithful and all men of good will”. The message was released on February 17, at the end of the Symposium promoted by the Bishops’ Conferences of Africa (SECAM) and Europe (CCEE). The meeting, which opened in Rome on February 13, was themed: “Evangelization today: communion and pastoral cooperation between Africa and Europe. The human person and God: the Church’s mission to proclaim God’s presence and love”.
Man’s heart. Urbanization, materialism, migrations, sects proliferation, along with the illegal exploitation of the soil and subsoil of the earth are the “world challenges” that the Bishops of Africa and Europe wish to address “to better serve men and women living in our two continents”. “We have an unprecedented experience - especially in the Northern hemisphere - of rejection of God or growing indifference”, the bishops write. “However, we know that beyond all cultures men and women have a common experience in their hearts, in Africa as well as in Europe: they are filled with the desire to love, be loved and give life. We also know that the thirst for the search for God and the practice of the faith are communitarian goods that are impossible to confine to the field of private life”.
World challenges. In their joint statement, the bishops underline the importance to be “mindful of world challenges”. The first, according to the bishops, is the challenge of urbanization, which, they say, “multiplies disappointments, loneliness and misery”. “We must learn the language of city-dwellers to promote a true community life there, to support the understanding of the issues of uprooted people”. Then there is the challenge of “materialism”. “Greed for money”, the bishops write, “causes new forms of selfishness that drive people away from solidarity and the search for common good”. The message also addresses the question of “migrations”. They “are another challenge, which raise questions within our societies. They may cause social imbalances and fears”. To this regard the prelates indicate a perspective: A true pastoral care for migrants is a must for our Churches, which should pledge to be a sign of brotherhood in Christ: ‘I was a stranger and you welcomed me’”. The bishops conveyed their concern over the proliferation of sects: “We should ask ourselves whether our language may sometimes be excessively complex and abstract. We must be more daring in our proclamation of Jesus Christ, and call for a personal and communal adhesion to faith”. Ultimately, the bishops warned against “the illegal exploitation of the soil and subsoil of the earth”, “paying the high price of a huge rate of corruption, along with the ensuing violence, or even wars”. “It is important to act together before the eyes of our rulers, and speak out with one voice, calling for more justice”.
Commitments. The message ends with the assurance of a shared commitment: “We want to participate together - in mutual support - in the universal mission in order for Christ to be better welcomed, known and celebrated. We want to find together new momentum - responding to Pope Benedict XVI’s invitation in the Apostolic Exhortation Africae munus (the commitment of Africa) – to ‘become a greater blessing for the noble African continent and the whole world!’ e want to commit ourselves – with the youth of Africa, with the hopes of the WYD, with local communities, movements and fraternities – for an Evangelization with a new quality!”.