Catholic regions in Africa had a meeting with the Communications Manager of the Secretariat for the Synod of Bishops, Thierry Bonaventura, on the 13th of November 2021 to create an opportunity to hear about the opening of the synod in different countries in Africa. It was also meant to share the issues, challenges and difficulties that have emerged and possible future ones and hear the message message from the Secretariat for the Synod of Bishops.
In attendance were representatives from different regions including Recowa-Cerao, Amecea, Imbisa and some representatives from other conferences like SACBC. It was reported, in short, that all conferences have already launched their synods albeit challenges that had to do in some cases with social political situations in different countries and some covid-19 restrictions. In Mauritius and surrounding islands they have already produced a booklet of a synthesis of the synod to help the faithful easily understand what this synod is all about, focusing mainly on the eight objectives of the synod.
In his address to the participants Thierry Bonaventura said how important it was for him to have a meeting with the church in Africa because that shows that the Church is one, taking into account the difference in the incarnation of the Church. Bonaventura noted that he’s looking forward to seeing the African Church fully engaged in the communication processes of the synod because he believes Africa has something special to give.
The meeting also served to announce that there will be three members from Africa who will be joining the commission for communication for the synod. The three members will be from the English, French and Portuguese speaking regions of Africa. The task of the commission is to model the message that needs to be shared to help people understand what the synod is and what is about, but also to figure out communication tools that best fit the situation.
He noted that people need to be aware that synodality is not something new to the Church as some might be tempted to think that it was all decided recently in Rome to change how things work. “Synodality belongs really to the nature of the Church. We use the example of St. John Chrysostom who said that ecclesial and synodal are synonyms,” added Bonaventura also saying “This means that this project is rooted in the tradition of the Church. Bonaventura remarked that this is not an idea of Pope Francis nor of the General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops because synodality came forth from the last two synods, the synod on the family and the Amazonia. But in the end, “the Synod on synodality is the fruit of discernment of Pope Francis listening what the Holy Spirit has asked him to do.”
Getting to the main aim of the Synod, Bonaventura said, “synthetically, the aim is to help our faithful to rediscover their own baptism. This means their rights and duties. To renew relationships within the Church and with the world. It is the way of renewing the way of being church in the world today.” He added that it is really in the logic of incarnation, which is typical of the Second Vatican Council.
He highlighted also that synodality itself is the message, it is more than a concept; it is a way of being. “To understand what synodality is, we need to experience it,” said Bonaventura. Regarding the expectations of the synod he said there is no clear preconceived plan of what the outcome of the final decision of the synod should be, but rather the aim is to be surprised by the Holy Spirit. Hence the diocesan phase has been termed the listening phase as was emphasized by Pope Francis that “everybody has the right by virtue of baptism to say something on the Church.”