Why we are holding Congress in Enugu, by Catholic Bishops

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A  four-day Pan-African Catholic Congress on Theology,Society and Pastoral life has kicked -off  at the  Bigard Memorial Seminary,  Enugu, Nigeria, with the Theme, “What must we do to perform the works of God”?

In a pre-congress briefing held at the  Seminary, President of the Congress and Archbishop of Cape Town,  Ghana , His Grace,  Charles  Palmer-Buckle, said that the aim of the Congress is to reflect on the faith and fate of the Catholic  Church , evaluate different pastoral and theological approaches and jointly develop some best pastoral practices for the renewal and reform of the Catholic Church in Africa. 

He added that the congress will also  celebrate the  50 years  of the Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar (SECAM), 25 years of the First Special Assembly of the Synod of Bishops for Africa, and 10 years of the Second Special Assembly of the Synod of Bishops for Africa.

Archbishop Buckle, who spoke on the SECAM side, hinted that the first Catholic Church Council was held in Rome in 1962 to discuss the fate of the Catholic Church in Africa. There were so many African Bishops and Cardinals and the outcome of the Congress  led to  the  second Synod of Bishops  convoked by Pope Paul VI  in 1969  on the theme ,“The Church in Africa at the Service of Reconciliation, Justice and Peace” during which Church leaders on the continent deliberated on, among other themes, transforming “theology into pastoral care,” 

 He disclosed that the  first ‘Papal visit” to Africa between  July 31-August 3rd, 1969 in Kampala,  Uganda saw the canonisation of the 22 black African  Martyrs  of Uganda at the middle of the Congress and that Pope Paul VI said that Africa should be home of Christian, which has been  carried through. 
The Cleric said that in 1994, Pope John Paul 11 called for a special assembly African Bishops.

The Archbishop  noted  that the Congress will bring together African clerics, laity, religious and scholars to develop best practices and new approaches for doing theology and pastoral ministries in the changing faces of faith and life in Africa. 

Speaking on the humanitarian services side,  Dr Sussan  Nezda  Lastret, a Professor  of  medicine, Emergency Physician assistant said that their services cover health,  education and others.  They provided charity services in places there were genocide,  epidemics,  Ebola among others.
 She  expressed the hope that her participation at the Congress will will help them to find out where they provide services and reconnects with  what God wants them to do. 

Chairman of the Local Organising Committee,  Very Reverend Fr  Clement Obasi, commended the Rector of Bigard seminary for his support to his committee. He said the closure of the Akanu Ibiam international airport affected the movements of participants who had to pass through Asaba Airport, plied on road. 

Rector of Bigard Memorial Seminary, Very Rev. Fr(Dr) Albert Ikpenwa expressed joy over the choice of Bigard which was established in 1922 and has trained priests in Theology and Philosophy.  He added that the Major  Seminary has produced 3 Cardinals,  34 Bishops and thousands of priests working in different  parts of the world. 

On his part,  the Convener,  Reverend Fr  Prof  Stan Ilo expressed hope that the Congress will be a “Congress of action””I hope that the Congress will offer the Church in Africa  and all the delegates  to the Congress,  the spiritual and collegiality atmosphere  to listen to  God and to one another  in an atmosphere of love and respect”, he said. .
He said that  a communique will be issued  at the end of the Congress on Sunday, December 8. It is hoped that the  document will be a guide on pastoral and theological work in Africa as well as in other contexts of faith and life in the Universal Church.
Some of the key documents to inspire deliberations during the Congress include SECAM’s “ Pastoral Letter” issued at the end of the Bishops’ plenary in July 2019, Pope St. John Paul II’s 1995 Post Synodal Apostolic Exhortation “Ecclesiastical in Africa ”, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI’s 2011 Post Synodal Apostolic Exhortation “ African  Munus”, Pope Francis’ 2016 Apostolic Exhortation “ Evangelistic Gaudium” as well as documents from the Second Vatican Council.
Among the conveners of the Congress are the African Catholicism Project at the Centre for World Catholicism and Intercultural Theology (CWCIT), Chicago-based DePaul University, the Association of African Theologians in collaboration with the Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar (SECAM), Bigard Memorial Seminary, Enugu and various Catholic Seminaries and Universities across Africa.

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