Côte d’Ivoire: Christ stands by us in spite of the challenges on the continent.
Marcel Ariston Blé - Abidjan) and Christian Kombe, SJ - Vatican City.
The plenary assembly of the Ivorian Bishops officially began on Tuesday, 17 May, with a solemn Mass in the parish of Saint Marcel d’Akouai Santai. It was preceded by an opening ceremony in the auditorium of the minor seminary of Bingerville. The Eucharist was presided over by Bishop Jean-Jacques Koffi Oi Koffi of the Diocese of San Pedro-en-Côte d’Ivoire. He is also the Conference’s vice-president. Various priests, religious and the Catholic lay faithful attended the opening Mass. Many braved the traffic jam of Abidjan to commune and pray with their Bishops.
Do not be afraid
The homilist, Bishop Alexis Touably Youlo of the Diocese of Agboville and apostolic administrator of Yamoussoukro, spoke to the complex social and economic challenges that the country and the continent of Africa are going through. He encouraged those gathered not to lose hope.
“Do not be afraid,” Bishop Youlo said. He continued, “But then a question arises and imposes itself on us: How can we not be afraid today when suffering is becoming the daily lot of many? How can we not be afraid when our Africa is under a storm, the storm of repeated crises, inter-ethnic conflicts, the storm of misery in all its forms? How can we not be afraid when for many young people, the future seems uncertain?” he wondered.
Bishop Youlo, the newly elected RECOWA President (an association of West African Bishops), nevertheless assured that even in the face of these worrying situations, Africans must keep in mind that “Christ stands by us. The Lord helps us face these trials,” reassured the prelate.
“It is this message of encouragement that we, your Bishops, united and gathered around our dean, Cardinal Jean-Pierre Kutwa, come to communicate to you this evening. And this is our ministry, our mission: to strengthen you in the faith,” Bishop Touabli Youlo said.
Bringing the Good News to the world
The Apostolic Nuncio to Côte d’Ivoire, Archbishop Paolo Borgia, expressed his delight that the Bishops Conference was taking place soon after the visit of Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Secretary of State of the Holy See and after the episcopal ordination of Archbishop Jean-Sylvain Mambé Emien. The latter is the first Apostolic Nuncio of Ivorian origin. He has been assigned to Mali.
Archbishop Borgia added that the ordination of Archbishop Emien was testimony to the greater maturity of the Ivorian Church which “is thus opening itself to the universal Church in a unique mission of bringing Christ to the world,” he said.
This mission of evangelisation must be the work of all the baptised, he further affirmed. Each one must take part in this mission in line with their own calling. The Nuncio stressed that this must be according to the gifts received from the Spirit.
The opening ceremony of the plenary assembly was also an opportunity for the Apostolic Nuncio to Côte d’Ivoire to underline the collegial dimension of the episcopal mission.
“Conferences are the place for cooperation between Bishops for the common good of the Churches entrusted to them in the service of the mission,” said the papal representative.
During their meeting, the Bishops will listen to reports of the different apostolates and commissions in order to make resolutions for the revitalisation of the institutions and the Church in Côte d’Ivoire.