La Croix Africa: What is the specificity of this 15th edition of the Ngukomba pilgrimage?
Cardinal Dieudonné Nzapalainga: A pilgrimage is always the expression of our faith. We need to meet the Lord and the Lord always comes through people and places to speak to us. On the occasion of the feast of the Immaculate Conception, the Virgin Mary was chosen and set apart to bring the Savior into the world and we, Christians of the Archdiocese of Bangui, have retained this date as a great day and where we meet is Ngukomba.
On December 8, 2008, pilgrims who came to celebrate the Immaculate Conception of Mary at the Ngukomba shrine claimed to have seen a white cross in the sky during mass. This year, for the 15th edition, a faithful offered us a cross. We saw a sign there. We are therefore going to do a catechesis on the Cross during this edition.
In addition, this year we have pilgrims from other countries: Cameroon and Congo Brazzaville who come, through the channel of the Virgin Mary, to receive the blessing of the Lord. But the greatest specificity of this year is that the Holy Father gives us a theme, synodality: communion, participation and mission. And we have taken the time, as pastoral agents, to broach the subject but also to broaden the debate with our Protestant and Muslim brothers.
How did you proceed for this opening of other denominations to the synodal process?
Card. D. N. : At the launch of the Synod in Bangui from October 24 to 31, we invited our Protestant and Muslim brothers. To do this, we invited them to a meeting upstream, to discuss synodality. We wanted to know how, among Christian brothers, authority is presented and how we accompany those who are responsible for it. This allowed us to discover another way of doing things, of governing, of praying within their Churches.
We have, in the same vein, invited Muslims. Together with them, we reflected on the place of authority in the Quran and how those who have authority are also supported in their functions. For our part, we Catholics are “salt and light of the earth” and we want those who engage in politics or other sectors of activity, not to hide their faith but to live it.
During this Ngukomba pilgrimage, we will have as speakers Pastor Simplice Nicolas Singa Gbazia, president of the Alliance of Evangelicals of Central Africa (AEC) who will comment on the Gospel according to Saint Luke, chapter 24, verse 18 to 65, the disciples of Emmaus. We will also have Imam Abdoulaye Ouasselegue who will evoke the place of the Virgin Mary in the Koran. In short, in the synodal process, we walk together with Protestants and Muslims.
Where are you in the consultation process within your diocese?
Card. D. N. : Concretely after the diocesan opening of the Synod from October 25 to 31, we gave the content of the questionnaires prepared by the secretariat of the Synod, accompanied by some recommendations. Parishes, fraternities and prayer groups have also launched the Synod in their midst to free speech, to listen to one another and to welcome others. It is the collection of exchanges within all these groups that the diocesan team of the Synod will provide.
With the socio-political situation which seems to be bogged down in the Central African Republic for several years, do you have any hope that this will change one day?
Card. D. N. : A Christian is characterized by hope. So in this time of Advent, we keep this flame of hope which prompts us to say that we must take responsibility for ourselves and overcome our difficulties, violence, disagreements, the forces of evil. Christ did not stay in the presbytery. Following him, we go out to meet others to disarm their hearts and minds and tell them that the path for the reconstruction of the country is that of love.