In celebrating 50 years of their continent-wide umbrella organization for the bishops, prelates marvel at five decades of growth.
Africa has every reason to celebrate, according to an archbishop of Ghana, because in the last 50 years, Church membership there has gone from 40 million to 178 million, meaning that Africa’s Catholics now make up about 17% of the universal Church.
Archbishop Gabriel Palmer-Buckle of Cape Coast, Ghana, said this during a homily for the 50th anniversary celebrations of what is known as SECAM, the Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar.
Pope Paul VI officially inaugurated SECAM in Uganda at the end of July in 1969, during the first visit of a pope to Africa in modern times.
SECAM grew out of the Second Vatican Council, when the pastors of Africa found that they wanted a forum that would enable them to speak with a united voice, to share the vision of Africa with the universal Church.
Now, 50 years later, the umbrella organization includes many native African cardinals and prelates.
“From barely 50 bishops, archbishops and cardinals who were present at the inauguration of SECAM here in Kampala, today Africa has over 500 bishops and archbishops, and as many as 25 cardinals ministering to the Church on our continent and in the universal Church,” Archbishop Palmer-Buckle said. “From a population of about 40 million Catholics 50 years ago, we have every reason to celebrate a population of over 178 million on the continent, making about 17% of the Universal Church.”
The headquarters of SECAM is in Accra, Ghana, and there are three official languages: English, French and Portuguese.
The organization aims to facilitate fruitful collaboration among the Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar, working through the eight regional conferences (Central Africa region, West Africa region, Egypt region, etc).
The jubilee year to celebrate its 50 years has just wrapped up. It was dedicated to the theme “Church-Family of God in Africa, Celebrate your Jubilee! Proclaim Jesus Christ your Savior.”
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