President of SECAM, Cardinale Fridolin Ambongo. President of SECAM, Cardinale Fridolin Ambongo. 

Cardinal Ambongo reflects on SECAM at 54 years.

As SECAM, the Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar (SECAM), turn fifty-four years this weekend, the current President has urged the African Bishops to rediscover the treasure behind the formation of SECAM.

Paul Samasumo - Vatican City.

Fridolin Cardinal Ambongo, the Archbishop of Kinshasa in the DRC and President of SECAM, has said the African Church through SECAM is a practical experience of synodality.

An African Church promoting synodality

“This year, we are celebrating SECAM Day with the theme: “SECAM, a practical experience of synodality.” Indeed, the ongoing synodal journey in the Universal Church motivates us to rediscover the treasure behind the formation of SECAM. In the mind of the Founding Fathers, this Symposium exists to preserve, foster and promote communion, joint action and collaboration among all the Episcopal Conferences of the entire Africa and Madagascar. The walking together that the synodal process invites us to now has been a reality that SECAM has sought to live since its foundation. In fact, by choosing the word Symposium, the Founding Fathers of SECAM wanted to emphasise their desire for communion and fellowship,” said Cardinal Ambongo.

The Cardinal further extolled the foresight of the founding fathers of SECAM for conceiving a Church that was modelled after the family and one that is constantly in dialogue.

Church in Africa as a family of God

“The bonds of communion, family hood, teamwork, community sharing, and togetherness, which has characterised SECAM since its foundation, led to the choice of the image of the Church as the family of God. In fact, ‘the Fathers of the Special Assembly for Africa of the Synod of Bishops recommended the image of the Church as the family of God because this image emphasises care for others, solidarity, warmth in human relationships, acceptance, dialogue and trust,’” said the Congolese prelate.

Cardinal Ambongo has urged all African Bishops to take ownership of the association of Bishops and said the continent’s prelates would be poorer without the continental SECAM.

“The African continental level provides a stage to experience communion, distil our thoughts and identify the main concerns and issues, whether pastoral, formative, political, or social. As individuals, we will be lost and rendered irrelevant at the universal level of the Church. We cannot express at the universal level of the Church our being African Catholics without SECAM,” he said.

Pope Saint Paul VI inugurated SECAM

SECAM was founded by African Bishops on 29 July 1969 and was then formally launched by Pope Saint Paul VI on 31 July 1969 at the Rubaga Cathedral, Kampala, Uganda.

SECAM was born out of the will of young African Bishops during the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965). The Bishops intended to build a continental pastoral structure that would bring forth the African vision to the whole Church. Acknowledging the importance of such an association for African Bishops, the Congregation for the Evangelisation of the Peoples (now Dicastery for Evangelization) invited the Presidents of the Regional Episcopal Conferences for consultations in 1968. A year later, the first-ever visit of a Pope to Africa was seen as an opportune time to launch the Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar.

African Bishops called to recommit to SECAM

At fifty-four years, Cardinal Ambongo calls on African Bishops and the African Church to take ownership of SECAM and recommit to its original ideals. This recommitment would include funding the association in full.

The Cardinal said it was the wish of the leadership of SECAM to remind all Bishops of Africa and the Islands that SECAM belongs to them and that the association is an expression of collegiality, solidarity and communion.

“In not supporting SECAM, we risk rendering the Church irrelevant at the continental level and indeed at the Diocesan and Conference levels, because the issues affecting the continent have an enormous impact at the local level,” emphasised Cardinal Ambongo in his message on the occasion of SECAM’s fifty-fourth anniversary.  

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27 July 2023, 16:30