We, the Catholic Bishops of the Reunion of Episcopal Conferences of West Africa RECOWA-CERAO have held our third plenary assembly from 13 May to 20 May, 2019 at the «Centre National Cardinal Paul Zoungrana » CNCPZ » » in Ouagadougou Burkina Faso. The theme of the meeting was: “The New Evangelization and the Promotion of Integral Human Development in the Church Family of God in West Africa’. Conscious of the current pressing realities on our African continent and especially in our sub-region, we held seminars and workshops on the sub-themes: ‘The Youth, Faith and Migration’, ‘Integral Human Development and the Social Service of the Church Family of God in West Africa’. At the end of our meeting, we issue the following communiqué:
- Gratitude for a successful Meeting:
We give thanks to Almighty God the Father who has given us all the spiritual graces needed to make our meeting a huge success. We gratefully acknowledge the warm welcome accorded our meeting by the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Burkina Faso and Niger and by the people of God who prayed and worked for the success of our meeting. We note with appreciation the cooperation and support of the Government of Burkina Faso and we thank especially His Excellency Roch Marc Christian KABORE, President of Burkina Faso, who was present at our opening ceremony with members of his cabinet and addressed us. We also recognise with gratitude the presence of the President of ECOWAS Commission, His Excellency Jean Claude Kassi Brou, at the opening ceremony along with other dignitaries of Church and State. We thank in a special way, His Eminence Peter Cardinal Turkson, Prefect ofthe Dicastery for the Promotion of Integral Human Development who conducted a workshop on the theme of the assembly. The same appreciation goes to Archbishop Protasse Rugambwa, Secretary of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples (Propaganda Fide) and the President of the Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar (SECAM), Most Rev. Gabriel Mbilingi, Archbishop of Lubango,Angola, for their presence at our meeting. We also thank specially the two representatives from the Vatican Dicastery in charge of migrants and refugees, Rev. Frs. Lambert TONAMOUR and Ikenna IKECHI who did justice to their topics. Their interventions provoked many questions and resolutions for a better approach.
- Terrorism and Security:
We commiserate with the government and people of Burkina Faso, Niger, Mali and Nigeria, who even in the course of our meeting, experienced yet again the horrors of terrorist attacks and violence. We denounce completely all forms of terrorism and violence which continue to inflict pain and sorrow on our families and peoples under whatever guise. Authentic religion respects the sanctity of life and does not impose itself on anybody. We therefore demand that the freedom of movement and of religion of all Africans be protected under the law, and call on our governments to guarantee security of life and property on our continent, especially in the West African sub-region. We pray that God grant eternal rest to all who were killed in the recent attacks and comfort all who are bereaved.
- Migration, Youth and Good Governance:
We express deep concern for the phenomenon of irregular migration and the refugee problems with their attendant challenges which have brought much suffering, pain and death to hundreds of our brothers and sisters especially the youth. It is a sad fact that many of our people have fallen victim to kidnappers, slave traders and human traffickers in their effort to seek greener pastures abroad. Many have died on the high seas and in the desert without any trace. This terrible situation must not be allowed to continue. Among the major causes of these misfortunes are poor govemance and public accountability, insecurity, a dysfunctional education system and the dearth of job opportunities in our sub-region. We, therefore, again urge our governments to imbibe a new culture of leadership of service, justice and patriotism and provide the conducive environment for Africans to live and thrive in our continent. We declare that African migrants and refugees constitute rich human capital and spiritual resources for the countries or places to where they migrate and we therefore demand that the dignity of migrants and refugees be respected always and everywhere. We solicit for a better welcome and pastoral care for our migrants and refugees so that they can be helped to integrate into the society of welcome. While we urge our youths to engage only in legitimate enterprise wherever they are, we remind them to remain steadfast in their faith and urge them to be agents of evangelization and the Good News. On our part, we also commit to providing better pastoral and spiritual formation for them in collaboration with other willing religions and confessions in our sub-region.
- Building on our unity:
We thank God for the historic initiative of 2007 in Abuja, Nigeria which united under RECOWA CERAO, our various Episcopal Conferences, formerly grouped according to linguistic identities. We acknowledge the immense pastoral and spiritual dividends accruable from this collaboration and recommit ourselves to ensure its success for the growth of the Church and for the evangelization of God’s people in our region.
- Integral Development and Entrepreneurship.
As Bishops of RECOWA-CERAO we undertake to pursue the integral development of our people and to educate them accordingly. We desire to work with all politicians, social activities, religious bodies, young people, women, men and all people of good will to realize this vision of integral human development. As a modest sign of this commitment we have held workshops on entrepreneurship, as impetus for the Church to empower the needy in our societies. Through this we hope to alleviate poverty and reduce crimes, despair, and unemployment in order to help all, especially our youth who are victims of societal neglect.
- The Message from The Youth:
We appreciate the message delivered by the delegates of the Catholic Youth with their Chaplains who were present with their message. We recognise their appeal for a rebirth of the African Youth through a transcultural convention which will be pastoral, missionary and spiritual.
- Election into Offices:
At the elections held during the meeting the President of RECOWA, Most Reverend Ignatius Ayau Kaïgama, Coadjutor Archbishop of the Archdiocese of Abuja and Administrator of the Archdiocese of Jos was re-elected president of RECOWA/CERAO for a second three-year term. So were the first Vice President Most Reverend Jose Camnate Na Bissing, Bishop of Bissau, Guinea Bissau as well as the second Vice President, Most Reverend Alexis Touabli, Bishop of Agboville, lvory Coast.
In addition, the following were appointed and approved by the Plenary to serve RECOWA-CERAO in these capacities: Secretary General- Fr. Joseph Aka, First Deputy Secretary- Fr. Vitalis Anaehobi, Second Deputy Secretary and Director CCPM- Fr. Celestine Sagna and Communications Officer- Fr. George Nwachukwu.
We call on all our faithful to remain steadfast and hopeful in prayer for in no distant time God will establish peace and save his people. ‘Yes, people of Zion living in Jerusalem, you will weep no more. He will be gracious to you when your cry for help rings out. he will answer you’ (Is. 30:19). May Mary, Mother of Africa intercede for us all as we put our trust in Jesus Christ our saviour, Amen.