3rd PLENARY ASSEMBLY OF RECOWA-CERAO, Ouagadougou (BURKINA FASO)
Let’s keep Hope
Cardinals, Archbishops and Bishops of RECOW A / CERAO to the people of God and to people of good will, at the end of their 3 General Assembly held in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, from May 13 to 20, 2019
Dear Brothers in the ministerial priesthood, Dear Brothers and Sisters in Consecrated Life, Dear Lay faithful,
All of you, men and women of good will,
- At the end of our third General Assembly on the theme: “The new evangelization and the promotion of integral human development in the Church Family of God in West Africa,” we are pleased to send you this message of peace, encouragement, and hope.
- In this year when the Church Family of God in Africa celebrates.a double Jubilee – the Silver Jubilee of the first Special Assembly for Africa of the Synod of Bishops and the Golden Jubilee of SECAM
- we give thanks to the Lord who has gathered us here in Ouagadougou to pray together, listen to his Word, live a moment of fraternity and reflect on some urgent issues that challenge our mission as pastors.
- This country that has welcomed us for a whole week is a wounded country, whose sons and daughters are deeply concerned by the terrorist attacks and assaults that, for some time, spread desolation and disarray within populations, especially in Christian communities. With hearts full of emotions and sadness, we think in particular of Fr. Antonio César Fernändez, SDB, Fr. Siméon Yampa and the lay faithful of his parish Dablo (Diocese of Kaya), and those of Bam (Diocese of Ouahigouya) who paid with their lives for their fidelity to the Gospel and their devotion to the Virgin Mary. We cannot forget the members of other religious denominations who have suffered the same fate.
- To the priests who are still being held hostage, namely, Fr. Pier Luigi Maccalli, SMA (on a mission to Bomoanga in Niger) and Fr. Joel Yougbaré (on mission to Dori in Burkina Faso), we express the moral and spiritual support and closeness of the entire West African Christian community.
5. Faced with this disturbing wave of violence that is blowing not only in Burkina Faso but also in Niger, Mali, and Nigeria, we express our strongest condemnation and want to assure our suffering brothers and sisters of our solidarity, of our communion in prayer and our compassion. By holding our assembly here in Burkina Faso, despite the unpleasant information that we had received, we wanted to give you a sign of our effective and affective proximity. In the name of our entire Church Family of God in West Africa, we offer you our sincere compassion while recommending to the mercy of God the innocent victims of these barbaric acts. In the face of violence, we have only one answer to give, that which our Teacher has taught us and which is inspired by our faith: trust in God, forgiveness and selfless love. “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Mt 5: 44).
Our mission following Christ
- We are disciples of Christ and nothing will prevent us from following His example. Sent by the Father, “nof to judge the world, but that through him the world might be saved” (John 3:17), Jesus has revealed to us the merciful face of this Father who already in Exodus, spoke to Moses as one who has seen the misery of his people, who has heard their cries and came down to save them (Ex 3:7-8).
- Inaugurating the fullness of time and the day of salvation, Jesus appeared in the synagogue of Nazareth as the prophet sent to take away the misery of humanity. For this reason, he revealed his identity and mission as one “consecrated by the Spirit to bring good news to the poor … proclaim liberty to captives and to the blind new sight, to set the downtrodden free, to proclaim the Lord’s year of favour” (Lk 4:18-19).
- Thus engaged alongside men and women in their deepest aspirations, Jesus has offered to the Church and its pastors the model of his own ministry in favour of the promotion of integral human development. That is why, continuing the work of our divine Master and Lord, we too stand side by side with all who suffer, making ours their joys and hopes, their fears and pains (GS 1).
The troubling situations in our sub-region
- Thanks to the determination and selflessness of her sons and daughters, Africa has begun to correct in the eyes of the world her age-old image as the man who went down from Jerusalem to Jericho (Le 10: 29-37), who was attacked, wounded by robbers and abandoned on the way, waiting for the passing-by of a hypothetical good Samaritan. Unfortunately, in recent years new threats and unheard-of tragedies, new disasters that appear to wipe away the efforts of social development and human promotion accomplished by the Church in decades.
- These tragedies are multifaceted: mysterious and deadly epidemics against which our countries are fighting in vain, ecological disasters, new hotbeds of social tensions, with communal and interreligious violence that contradict the age-old traditions of tolerance and hospitality, elections organized under chaotic conditions that lead to deadly crises and threats to democracy, difficult national reconciliations, new forms of internal or cross-border terrorist attacks that strike indiscriminately, the drama of migration that especially affects the youth of Africa attracted by the thirst for a better life that is Suddenly cut short in the waves of the Mediterranean or in the Libyan desert, the appearance of new forms of poverty and misery that affect the most disadvantaged in spite of our natural and human resources, the politicization of schooling and university education.
New Evangelization and Development.
- In such a context, we, Bishops of the RECOWA/CERAO zone, gathered in the spirit of episcopal collegiality and the Church Family of God in Africa, reaffirm that our task is “to proclaim hope to the word, hope based on the proclamation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ: a hope “which not only concerns penultimate matters but also and above all that eschatological hope which awaits the riches of the glory of God (cf. Ep 1:18), which surpasses anything that the human heart has ever conceived (cf. 1 Co 2:9), and to which the sufferings of the present cannot be compared.” (Pastores Gregis, 3)
- In the face of the striking contrast of our Continent seemingly so poor but yet so rich with natural wealth by the Creator, we are united in prayer with Pope Francis, in this month of May, “so that through the commitment of its members, the Church in Africa may be leaven of unity between peoples, a sign of hope for this continent.” Looking again at our mission as prophets, witnesses and servants of hope, already welcoming the fruits of the Spirit promised by the Risen Lord and bestowed upon his followers at Pentecost, we want to reach out fraternally to each and everyone of you, our brothers and sisters, because we have for you, in the name of Christ and his Church, a message: the Good News.
To the priests and the persons in consecrated life
- The new evangelization calls us to new choices and new attitudes. In the current situation of our Continent, the Church must be a sign of hope, a place of unity of the human family willed by God the Father, brought together by the precious blood of Jesus Christ. To do this, she needs credible pastors, witnesses, who proclaim the Gospel not only in words, but also and above all in the witness of their own lives. The Church in Africa cannot be a sign of hope if those who animate her life and give it a concrete face are not credible. We call for an awareness of what pastors are called to be and of the trust that Christ has placed in them, as “salt of the earth … and light of the world” (Matthew 5:13-14).
- In particular, we urge you to give young people their rightful place in the Church and in society. Let us be available to listen to them, to accompany them by cultivating in them the love of our Continent and a sense of duty. Let us help them to become more aware of the dangers of irregular migration. Let us help them believe in themselves and their ability to succeed in Africa. Let us welcome them when they are in a difficult situation and offer them pastoral and spiritual support, and help them to find opportunities to earn a living. For all those who come back from the unhappy experience of migration, let us endeavor to make sure they can always find in the Church a place of welcome where they can live their faith fully, pastorally and spiritually.
To the other religious leaders
- To you, the other religious leaders who believe in God, our fraternal greetings. An urgent task for Africa challenges all of us: the resurgence of new forms of fundamentalism, sources of radicalism, which cause terror and destabilize our nations. Together, we must stand up to denounce any instrumentalization of religion, especially assassinations perpetrated in the name of God. Ours is a loving God and we must serve Him by loving and not by killing innocent people in His name. Those who do so hope undoubtedly to plunge us into inter-religious or inter-ethnic strife. We should not give in to their manipulations and let us stay determined to cultivate interreligious dialogue and to live together in mutual acceptance and harmony.
To our Youth: the vibrant forces of our countries
- You are the present and future of Africa which must struggle with all her resources for the dignity and happiness of her sons and daughters. In this context, we cannot be silent about the phenomenon of your migration, especially to Europe. As pastors and fathers, our hearts suffer at the sight of boats overloaded with young people, women and children that sink in the waves of the Mediterranean. Definitely, we understand your thirst for happiness and a well-being that your countries do not offer you. Unemployment, distress, poverty are sources of suffering that humiliate and revolt. However, these must not lead you to sacrifice your lives along such dangerous routes and for uncertain destinations. Do not let yourselves be misled by false promises which will lead you into slavery and an illusory future! With hard work and perseverance, you can still succeed in Africa and make of this Continent a prosperous one.
To rulers and politicians
- In the name of Christ, we commend your commitment and mission to serve our peoples in very challenging and complex international environment. Beside your political functions, you are especially the caretakers of your brothers and sisters and of your nations. In their aspirations for development, in their deep desire for betterment, in their struggle for better living conditions, in their aspirations for peace, education and happiness, your peoples look up to you.
- At this particularly sensitive epoch of our Continent, faced with the challenges of globalization, your responsibility is grave and your mission has become more demanding as it is true that your political choices determine the present and the future of millions of people for whom you are responsible. The multiple and multifaceted challenges our countries face in terms of development, protection of the environment and the planet, creation of opportunities for young people, adequate training for citizens, reconciliation, justice, and peace, require of you a dedicated commitment. God has blessed Africa and endowed her with so much human and natural wealth to be able to offer what is needed to all her children.
- We pray with you and for you so that personal privileges and interests do not gain the upper- hand in your hearts but instead, that you do your work, giving absolute priority to the common good, in a spirit of service, like Jesus Christ who “did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mk 10: 45). In this sense, we urge you to fight everything that puts in danger the common good and thwarts the dignity of the person, namely corruption, bad governance and human trafficking in all its forms. Furthermore, you should never relax your efforts in providing security for the life and property of your fellow country men and women. This is your primary duty. We are conscious of the fact that these serious challenges on which depend the success of the various strategic plans for the development of our countries are not simple to confront. We nevertheless encourage you to put together all your capabilities within the sub-region (of information and defense force) in order to confront this commun enemy of the well-being of Africans.
- Without wishing to take your place in your political responsibilities, the Church, whose mission is of a different kind, however, stands by your side. With you, she wants to work to build peaceful nations and more cohesive communities around new values of the Kingdom of God that transcend ethnic and political, religious and geographical barriers. She wants to collaborate with governments to promote good governance, democratic rule of law, transparent, fair and credible elections, respect for national constitutions, for election results and democratic change.
- We also call for a more just international order so that our continent will not be continually plundered for the benefit of a minority. We advocate for a better distribution of the wealth of the world, for a more just remuneration of the efforts of each one, and for true social justice both within our States and at the international level.
Acknowledgments and prayer
- At the end of our assembly, a true moment of grace, we wish to express our sincere gratitude to God and to the Church Family of God in Burkina Faso and Niger, to the political, civil, administrative and religious authorities, particularly to the President of Burkina Faso, to the Forces of Defense and Security, to the whole organizing committee, to our partners, to the men and women of the media and to all of you who have accompanied us with your prayers and services.
- Relying on Christ’s promise to remain with us until the end of time (cf. Mt 28: 20), we invite you to keep the hope. With all our hearts, we bless you and entrust you to the maternal solicitude of Mary, Our Lady of Africa.