In the Message on the occasion of the synodal encounter between Pope Francis and University Students from Across Africa, prepared by Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle, the Cardinal said in spite of several remarkable achievements registered over decades of evangelization, the Church in Africa faces unique and numerous challenges that affect and threaten her journey of faith.
Those unique and numerous challenges will be part of the discussion the Holy Father will have online with the students from across Africa on Tuesday 1st November 2022. In the message Cardinal Tagle reminds that salvation embraces all dimension of human existence: be it economic, political, socio-cultural, ecological, or ethical. He believes that “young people can transform their respective local Churches and societies, making them more prosperous and more just.”
The Cardinal said among numerous socio-ecclesial challenges facing Africa he would like to highlight three of them, firstly, “The lack of unity and harmony due to the manipulation of identities, particularly to ethnic, religious, regional, linguistic and racial differences.” About this he said “it appears that Africans are still greatly influenced by their ethnic affiliation than their belonging to the same Catholic Church. For many Christians in Africa, ethnicity and NOT CHRISTIANITY, defines their identity.” To Cardinal Tagle it seems that natural ties, based on ethnic affiliations, flow deeper and stronger than the waters of baptism. He points out that this unfortunately concerns not only lay faithful but also some priests and some religious brothers and sisters. The Cardinal said it is against this background that the Church promotes inculturation, which should be understood as “the incarnation of the Gospel in native culture and also the introduction of these cultures into the life of the Church.” Diagnosing where the challenges may emanate Cardinal Tagle noted that he inter-ethnic tensions and conflicts are often triggered by political manipulations. “In some countries there have been deep tensions and intense antagonism between Christianity and Islam.”
Secondly, The Cardinal mentioned the Crisis of leadership. About this said, “In spite of the huge potential and human resources, the continent has remained underdeveloped even after decades of independence.” To him is it evident that African nations are badly lacking the leadership that can bring together the resources and point their people towards development. Looking at the cause of this challenge Cardinal Tagle is of the opinion that the major reasons seems to be the egoism on part of some leaders who loot their nations in complicity with foreigners. “Africa needs qualified people to take positions of leadership and promote the rule of law. The specific task of the Catholic Laity, especially young people, is to apply the Gospel values to the economic, social and political sphere,” said the Cardinal.
Thirdly, Cardinal Tagle said the challenge is Insecurity and immigration. On this matter he said, “The absence of security and stability leads young people to losing confidence in building successful futures in their home country, thus opting to immigrate somewhere else.” He pointed out also a disastrous consequence of brain-drain on the continent, particularly in Sub-Saharan Africa. To him, emigration has exacerbated the scourges of human trafficking, new forms of slavery, and forced labour.
Cardinal Tagle advised that Political leaders of African nations and all stakeholders have the responsibility to make African countries more attractive to the citizens, so that young people can believe they have a future there. Regarding the Church’s responsibility in this he said “The Church on her part, must play a prophetic role by firmly and clearly denouncing situations of insecurity and their causes.” Cardinal Tagle is the Pro-Prefect for the Section of Evangelization of Dicastery for Evangelization (formerly the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples)
This encounter between Pope Francis and University Students from Across Africa will start at 3pm Italian time. The invitation for participating was extended to the Latin American students who had their similar encounter with the Pope in February.