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AFRICA-SYNOD May-25-2010 (770 words) With photo. xxxi

African cardinal: Synod walked tightrope between political, pastoral

By Catholic News Service

MAPUTO, Mozambique (CNS) -- The Synod of Bishops for Africa, which focused on reconciliation, justice and peace, successfully walked the tightrope of the political and the pastoral, said the synod's recording secretary, Cardinal Peter Turkson of Ghana.

Just as Pope Benedict XVI "found reason to remind the synod that it was not primarily a 'study session,' so did the synod fathers repeatedly remind themselves that their gathering was not a 'type of U.N. General Assembly,' where some political line of action was to be discussed and adopted," Cardinal Turkson said in his opening address to the May 23-26 workshop for representatives of national justice and peace commissions in Africa to discuss the results of last October's synod.

The cardinal, who now serves as president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, said "one clear lesson" from the experiences of local churches in Latin America and their applications of liberation theology is that "addressing the justice and peace needs of oppressed and badly wounded peoples is a very tricky business."

It is a "tightrope to walk in a field of political and ideological landmines," the cardinal said, noting that churches in both Latin America and Africa "know of priests who have forsaken the pastoral ministry to pursue political options ... believing more in political solutions than in pastoral solutions to the miseries of their communities."

The synod "successfully walked the tightrope, considering their mission as servants of reconciliation, justice and peace, in the manner of shepherds and elders of a family," he said.

Cardinal Turkson celebrated Mass and opened the three-day meeting with his talk in a stadium in downtown Maputo.

The meeting was designed to "promote collaboration and synergy between various church structures in Africa, in particular Caritas organizations and justice and peace commissions, for a stronger and more effective contribution of the church in addressing some of the challenges identified by the synod fathers," said a press statement from the organizers, the Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar and Caritas Africa.

The statement also said the meeting was an opportunity for church leaders in Africa and their partners to examine "concrete ways of collaboration" and identify priorities.

Referring to the 57 pastoral proposals the synod delegates offered to Pope Benedict XVI as the synod concluded Oct. 25, Caritas Africa executive secretary Jacques Dinan said in the statement that the meeting hoped to translate these proposals "into a realistic and concrete plan ... to uphold the reconciliation process, promote justice and support the building of peace," which he said are "essential steps in the fight against poverty."

In his keynote address to workshop participants, who included SECAM's president, Tanzanian Cardinal Polycarp Pengo, and Caritas International's general secretary, Lesley-Anne Knight, Cardinal Turkson said that while "the fruits of the first synod" for Africa, held 16 years ago, "are still being gleaned in many local churches in Africa," the situation on the continent has changed considerably.

A survey done in preparation for the synod found that, "although the continent and its church are not yet out of the woods, they can modestly rejoice in their achievements and positive performance (in governance, improved well-being of peoples and growth of the church), and begin to disclaim stereotypical generalizations" about Africa's conflicts, famine, corruption and bad governance, he said. He noted that the 48 countries that make up sub-Saharan Africa "show great differences in the situations of their churches, their governance and their socio-economic life."

"The truth is that Africa has been burdened for too long by the media with everything that is loathsome to humankind, and it is time to 'shift gears' and to have the truth about Africa told with love," Cardinal Turkson said.

Noting that world leaders have called Africa "a continent of opportunities," mostly in economic terms, he said "this needs to be true also for the people of the continent."

In the 2009 synod, "the church in Africa recognized that she becomes truly the family of God and the brotherhood of Christ to the extent that she promotes an African church and society in which people are reconciled" no matter what their tribal and ethnic ties, their racial and class determinations and their gender differences, Cardinal Turkson said.

"The church in Africa recognized that she can become truly the family of God ... to the extent that she becomes and promotes an African society that is sincere in its respect for law and order, for the rights of others and for an equal access to the resources of the land, and therefore, a society that lives in communion and enjoys peace," he said.


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