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Holding African Synod in Rome miffs Africans.

NEW YORK -- Unhappiness has grown over the Vatican decision, announced in February, to hold the 1994 African Synod in Rome rather than Africa.

People for peace in Kenya -- in a letter published June 1 by the Nairobibased New People Feature Service, which is funded by the Comboni Fathers -- noted that "people were very discouraged" by the decision, and that "naming Rome as the venue has given people the signal that their contribution is not valued. The feeling is that the synod has been taken away from them."

The letter criticized the synod working paper for placing "more emphasis on Africans learning from the church's teaching than on the church learning from the African tradition," adding that "African traditional ways for peacemaking and reconciliation are not even mentioned."

The group particularly decried the few working paper references to the "importance of the church's role in peacemaking", noting that "peacemaking is crucial to the future of Africa, and more and more, people are looking to the church for leadership in this area." It noted that "the problem of refugees, for example, one of the biggest problems on the continent, is only given a couple of sentences. Pastoral implications and responsibilities are not dealt with at all."

"There is life and energy within the African church which can only have come from the Holy Spirit," it concluded. "We do not know what the Spirit intends to do with the synod, but we know the African church will not be abandoned."

Notre Dame Sr. Maura Browne, head of the African Faith and Justice Network, wrote the New People Feature Service after reading the working paper to ask "is there still some creative way to recapture the valuable input from the grassroots? God intends that we all feel at home in his church."

Noting that "at AFJN we believe that Africans are called to change injustices originating in Africa, while we in the U.S.A. must change injustices toward Africa which arise in the U.S.A.," Browne said that AFJN had chosen the synod's themes as the basis for its 1993-94 work.

She noted that in advocating more just trade and financial links, increased food aid and greater media coverage for Africa, AFJN was "attempting to shift the balance so that Africans have the justice and respect they deserve as members of the human family."

Chinhoyi Bishop Helmut Reckter, president of the Zimbabwe bishops' conference, called in mid-April for the synod to "take as its starting point the experience of the people of Africa and of the Christian believers of Africa. The history of the African peoples, their cultures and beliefs, their aspirations and their achievements, their suffering and their oppressions, must be the agenda of the synod."

He urged the church to move beyond "a word of consolation to the suffering masses -- it must address specifically the causes of injustice and oppression, and boldly take this chance to voice its own analysis of the roots of evil and make the world listen, just this once at least, to what the people of Africa ask from their brothers and sisters elsewhere."

"We are disappointed," he added, "that the special assembly is not to be held in our own soil, in circumstances in which we feel at home, amongst our own people. We hope that the bishops of Africa will not be intimidated, as perhaps they have been intimidated in the past, by the grandeur and the splendor of an architecture constructed in the style of a vanished empire which once dominated parts of this continent.

"Rather, let us make those marble halls ring with the music, the songs, the drums and the dances of Africa, and let the voice of the African church resound around the dome of St. Peter's, so that the whole world will hear that the church of Africa is alive with the Spirit of the risen Lord."
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Author:Collins, Carole
Publication:National Catholic Reporter
Date:Jun 18, 1993
Words:648
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