Paul Samasumo – Vatican City
The Rubaga Cathedral in Kampala, Uganda was on Sunday transformed into a hive of activity as the Catholic Bishops of Africa gathered to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of SECAM.
It was on 31 July 1969, when Pope Saint Paul VI inaugurated the Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar known by its acronym SECAM. Fifty years later, the Bishops have returned to the Rubaga Cathedral for the commemoration and a week of meetings and deliberations.
A colourful opening Eucharist
Ugandans put up an elaborate and colourful opening ceremony that included majorettes, brass band and traditional musical groups. All this culminated in a lively but dignified Eucharist. The singing at the Mass was animated by a graceful and elegantly dressed ‘Jubilee Choir.’ Most of the women in the congregation wore the elegant traditional Gomesi while the men were in the white Kanzu worn with either a suit jacket or blazer.
Ugandans pleased that SECAM remembered to come back
President Museveni said so much had happened in the last 50 years, but he was pleased that the Bishops had remembered to return to Uganda to celebrate the milestone.
“I am very happy, on behalf of Uganda to be here to welcome all the Bishops of Africa and Madagascar who belong to this organisation known as SECAM. I congratulate you on the 50 years of SECAM,” the President said.
The principal celebrant was the Metropolitan Archbishop of Lubango in Angola, Archbishop Gabriel Mbilingi, C.S.Sp. He is also the current President of SECAM.
An African Church that is missionary
During the Mass, Ghana’s Archbishop of Cape Coast and SECAM Treasurer, Archbishop Charles Gabriel Palmer-Buckle said that at its founding, the SECAM leaderships was predominantly expatriate-missionary. Now the association was in the hands of local and indigenous Bishops.
“The Church in Africa today has a fast-growing population of local and indigenous clergy, religious and consecrated persons. The leadership of the Church in Africa has moved from an all-expatriate missionary Church to a deeply inculturated African leadership. The Church in Africa has a good number of religious clergy, consecrated persons on mission in Europe, UK, US, Canada, in Asia, in Latin America et cetera. Some of these are working as ‘Fide Donum’ priests (gifts of faith) from the Church in Africa. Others are (working) as (religious) missionaries to the old Church that at one time sent us missionaries. In addition to the phenomenal and exponential growth, the Church in Africa must celebrate because in nearly all our countries we contribute greatly to the integral development of our people where we run hundreds of hospitals and clinics,” Archbishop Palmer-Buckle said.
Museveni: Low productivity and low consumption in Africa retards development
For his part, President Museveni took the opportunity to share his concerns about low productivity and low consumption in Africa. He said these two were significant factors retarding the development of the African continent
“You are Africans and are Bishop of Africa. I am very glad that spiritually Africa is doing much better than other continents. Other continents are in deep spiritual crises. I do not have to go into details … (however) one of the points I wanted to mention here is how we need to reinforce the spirituality of Africa with the welfare of the Africans. In matters of welfare, Africans are still behind. This is about the welfare of your parishioners – the people whom you lead spiritually and whom some of us lead with regard to temporal matters,” he said.
He continued, “Africa is a land of great wealth, but this wealth is not as developed as it should be, and the main reasons are cultural,” said the Ugandan President. According to President Museveni, low productivity and subsistence farming means that there is never enough money for health care, clothing and housing. He told the Bishops that Africans need to produce food for the market and then use the earnings for other needs.
“Modern life needs money,” and the African farmer needs a range of skills and knowledge for them to evaluate the profitability of what they do, President Museveni said.
Church in Uganda thanks Government
The Archbishop of Kampala Archdiocese, Cyprian Lwanga thanked President Museveni and the government for the “tremendous support” given to the Church in the preparations of the golden jubilee.
The Bishops on Monday began their plenary assembly at the Speke Resort and Conference Centre, Munyonyo. The closing Mass will be on Sunday 28 July at at the Uganda Martyrs’ Shrine in Namugongo.