La Croix Africa: What particularities of this synod do you identify after this workshop in Nairobi?
Mgr Coffee Roger Anoumou : The Nairobi meeting showed that this synod has something special and new. First, let us note that it raises concerns. Among the “conservatives”, there is concern that this synod will open the door to disorder, to chaos in the Church. For the “progressives” on the other hand, this synod does not yet shake up enough; we need more openness to modernity.
Furthermore, according to delegates accustomed to past synods, we now sense something new. Formerly, the delegated bishops were, at the synod, the spokespersons for their national episcopal conferences. Their concerns were limited to their countries. This time, the method seems different: local consultations in the diocesan phase, then national synthesis, then continental phase (Addis Ababa followed by Nairobi for Africa) and finally, phase of the universal Church in Rome.
Our meeting in Nairobi, which allowed me to get to know the other delegates, left me with the feeling of belonging to a large team. I am not going to Rome alone, but together, within the African delegation that I represent with the others. Before the production of texts and the final document, the primary objective of the Synod on synodality consists first of all in experimenting with a new way of being Church.
“A new way of being Church”but how?
Mgr C. R. A. : We are not going to Rome with questions and positions already fixed, but rather to listen to the Holy Spirit. It will be about experiencing being together, listening to the Spirit and listening to each other.
This is how the synod moves us, from a very hierarchical pyramidal Church towards a rather synodal Church where we walk together. Hierarchy still has its place but the emphasis is more on being–together and co-responsibility. The Church is not just the business of bishops and priests, but that of all the baptized. This is not an apology for indiscipline, but a reminder of the identity of an institution where everyone has their role to play, their contribution to make.
Against indifference and exclusion, co-responsibility promotes the sharing of charismas and skills, stimulates creativity, liberates genius and awakens self-care. Co-responsibility leads from passivity to active commitment. This is the new way of being Church, according to the wish of Pope Francis. This, however, does not mean that we should abandon our concrete concerns.
Going to listen to the Holy Spirit does not mean that we will go to Rome empty-handed. We will listen to the Spirit and others, but we will also make the voice of the Church in Africa heard. We have priorities to present as an African delegation to this synod.
What are these priorities of the Church in Africa retained during this workshop in Nairobi?
Mgr C. R. A. : The continental phase of the synod held last March in Addis Ababa had already developed, on the basis of national syntheses, a document presenting current priorities of the Church in Africa. First point: deepen synodality according to the values of the Church-family of God, which has been the African vision of the Church since the synod of 1994. Second priority: in the development of the doctrines and teachings of the Church, take take into account African values such as family, solidarity, community life, dialogue, hospitality, etc.
Another priority: the Church must work for peace. It cannot remain indifferent to the conflicts shaking the African continent. It must engage in conflict resolution through dialogue; it must fight against economic colonialism. After more than 60 years of independence, we are still under domination. Illegal exploitation of the continent’s resources, good governance, justice and peace are all issues that Church delegates in Africa plan to present to the synod.
Inculturation and liturgical renewal are also among the concerns. Furthermore, the formation of the clergy, consecrated persons and lay people, youth and family ministry, the situation of polygamous Christians, ecology with climatic upheavals, these are all questions that the African delegation will address at this synod. .
What, ultimately, is the synodal Church that Pope Francis dreams of in your opinion?
Mgr C. R. A. : In Pope Francis’ vision, a synodal Church is a Church that listens, welcomes and offers hospitality to all without exclusion. Listen to the Holy Spirit, listen to others: the Spirit blows where he wants, he can also speak to us through the little ones.
This listening requires attention, humility, open-mindedness but above all, discernment. In this mutual listening, everyone learns something from the other and brings something to the other.