At the 7th Seminar of Bishops of Africa and Europe in Nairobi, 20 bishops from the Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar (SECAM) and the Council of European Bishops’ Conferences (CCEE) gathered for a three-day seminar from January 23 to 26, 2024. The meeting held discussions on the enduring and evolving commitment to a shared journey, enriched and invigorated by the Church’s current emphasis on synodality.
In his opening address, Cardinal Ambongo, President of SECAM and Archbishop of Kinshasa, spoke on the relationship between SECAM and the CCEE, two continental bodies that have been meeting in symposium settings since 2004. The cardinal noted that the meeting in Nairobi marked the 20-year anniversary of the first thematic reflection, which took place in Rome.
He then listed the meetings and themes between the two groups over the last two decades. In 2007 the Cape Coast, Ghana, meeting focused on “New Forms of Slavery,” and the 2008 Liverpool, England, meeting, with an emphasis on “Migration.” In 2010, the Abidjan meeting concentrated on “African Pastoral Agents in Europe,” and in Rome, the 2012 meeting focused on the theme of “Evangelization.” The fifth meeting, in Mozambique, discussed the “Family,” and the sixth discussed “Globalization,” in Portugal.
Explaining the significance of the seminar in Nairobi, Cardinal Ambongo pointed to two “pivotal developments” in the universal Church.
The first of these is the culmination of Pope Francis’ efforts to make Church reforms: the Apostolic Constitution, “Praedicate Evangelium.” He said that this constitution “encapsulates a journey of transformation and renewal within the Church.”
The second “pivotal development” is the concept of synodality, which has been brought to the forefront in recent years. He said that synodality emphasizes “the Church as a mystery of communion.” Cardnial Ambongo explained that together, these developments “beckon the Church to revisit and reengage with the profound insights of the Second Vatican Council.”
“In our collaborative journey, the synodal process inspires us, particularly as Continental Organizations, to preserve the faith and culture of diverse peoples. This approach is essential to mitigate the risks of uniformity and centralism, as highlighted in Chapter 19, Section D of the Synthesis of the First Session of the Synod on Synodality,” said Ambongo, adding, “Our goal is to boldly relinquish any practices or approaches that hinder our collective progress.”