Speeches 1993 - Kampala (Uganda)
Sunday, 7 February 1993
My dear Brothers in the Episcopate of Uganda,
I had prepared a document to be read, it will be handed out personally to every one of you. Now I express my gratitude to you for this invitation to your house of the Episcopal Conference, my gratitude for the words of Archbishop Wamala, your President, and also my gratitude for your invitation to Uganda.
It was some months ago, in May, that you invited me. I was not so convinced that I should come. I thought, still Pope Paul was in Uganda, the first and only visitor, my great predecessor. Why should I go there the second time? But then comes a good, a very good fellow, a Cardinal, an African Cardinal, and he insisted on my going for the second time, but not to Uganda, to Benin, and so my limited conviction, my limited conviction at last became larger. Then I saw that all my collaborators, all the personalities in the Vatican, especially Archbishop Re – all the visits are in his hands – were convinced that it was necessary to go. So I became conviced also.
The last reason was Bakhita – Josephine Bakhita – the Uganda Martyrs, canonized; Josephine Bakhita, recently beatified. What does this name mean, this poor slave of Sudan, and Sudan is your neighbour? In this neighbourhood it was quite clear that it is an appeal of Providence to go to Africa, to go also to Benin for the second time, to go also to Uganda for the first time and for the second time, and to go only to Khartoum.
So I should say that after my visit here, especially today, this great celebration of the Uganda Martyrs, I am deeply convinced that it was necessary to be here, no doubt. No doubt, it was necessary to be here. It is a great moment in the evangelization of the world, not only of your continent, of the world. This witness, this witness, this martyrdom of the Uganda Martyrs.
So I express my gratitude for your invitation to come to Uganda. I am convinced it means that you have convinced me, you have won the contest, won the contest with the Pope! Since we have another plan to meet again this evening in the Nunciature, it is better not to make this meeting too long in order to have more time for the other meeting.
I should add that the whole visit is very nice, it is very warm, not only climatically, climatically it is not so warm as in Benin, but this warmth is psychological, a temperature of the heart... this very heart. Sometimes I think I cannot endure it, but then I am enduring it. Thank you for these good people, good, hearty people.
My last words are a remembrace of my visit today to the Shrine of the Uganda Martyrs and of the historic visit of Pope Paul VI to Uganda: I am pleased to elevate the Shrine to the status of a Minor Basilica. Your desire and your trust is over!
Monday, 8 February 1993
Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
1. It gives me great pleasure to meet the Ambassadors and personnel of the diplomatic missions and international organizations in Uganda. Gatherings such as this one have become a normal part of my journeys to the many nations which I have visited in the years of my Pontificate, I appreciate having such opportunities to share some of the Holy See’s concerns with men and women dedicated, as you are, to fostering understanding and cooperation among the world’s peoples. I am grateful to your Dean, Ambassador Kanyarushoke of Rwanda, for his kind remarks, and I assure him of my prayerful best wishes for stable peace in his own country.
My journeys, as the Successor of Saint Peter and head of the Catholic Church, have a primarily pastoral aim. This meeting with you today is not out of harmony with that purpose. I come to you as a friend, a friend who wishes to encourage you in your difficult tasks. I come as a friend of Africa, in solidarity with the men and women of this Continent at this time of change, when new possibilities for human development are emerging but when new threats to peace also loom on the horizon. They, like peoples everywhere, want peace and a dignified life for themselves and their children. But Africa today presents urgent challenges to all who in any way direct the course of world events. These challenges must be met if the international community is to make real progress in building a more just and humane world, established on the firm foundation of respect for human dignity and human rights. I refer in particular to the need to put an end to armed conflicts, to provide food for the victims of famine, and to care for the multitude of refugees.
2. Each of these problems is a source of profound anxiety. But they can be rightly considered together, for each is both a cause and an effect of the others. In Africa, hunger is seldom the result of natural climatic conditions alone. It is often the result of social disintegration caused by conflict. And among the victims of war and famine are those forced to abandon their homes and seek shelter elsewhere. The cumulative result has been a mass scattering of men, women and children throughout Africa during these last years of the twentieth century: the figures of six million refugees and another sixteen million persons displaced within their own countries are the commonly quoted statistics. The sufferings of these millions give rise to more wars, more starvation, more refugees – more suffering and death.
Various examples could be quoted. In particular my thoughts turn to the next stage of my pilgrimage, which will take me to the Sudan. Conditions do not allow a full Pastoral Visit to the Catholic community of that country. Nevertheless in visiting the Capital City I wish to raise my voice in support of peace and justice for all the Sudanese people, and to comfort my brothers and sisters in the faith, so many of whom are affected by the conflict going on in the South. That dispute is largely the result of the quest for nationhood in a country where there are great differences between the North and the South – racial, cultural, linguistic and religious differences which cannot be ignored and which must be taken into account. Only a sincere dialogue, open to the legitimate claims of all parties, can build a framework of real justice in which all can work together for the true good of their country and its people. I pray that in some way my visit may contribute to such a dialogue.
3. Those who are concerned with Africa’s welfare, both as national leaders and as directors of international affairs, should spare no effort to ensure immediate relief to the victims of war, famine and displacement. All must work to stop these evils from spreading and to bring an end to them. In principle almost everyone agrees that violence must give way to dialogue, food must never be used as a weapon, and the unimpeded distribution of humanitarian aid must be recognized as the right of all who suffer. But the passage from declarations of principle and good intent to concrete achievements is often an arduous one. It is here that I appeal to you, distinguished Friends, to do all you can to make solidarity ever more effective. In the face of the grave trials besetting this Continent, those who love Africa, whether Africans themselves or true friends of Africa, deserve all our encouragement and gratitude.
At the same time we should gladly acknowledge everything that is being done to offer assistance to so many needy populations. Praise is due to the families and villages, the communities of believers, the regions and nations in Africa which have so generously extended hospitality to the dispossessed, at no little cost to themselves. In particular I pay heartfelt tribute to the missionaries and the staffs of International Relief Organizations, who labour heroically in the service of their less fortunate brothers and sisters. And who can measure the merits of so many dedicated men and women engaged in health–care? The injuries inflicted on the bodies and minds of Africans by violence, hunger and displacement will take long to heal. And yet, in many places medical services are at a bare minimum, and the alarming spread of AIDS could easily push them beyond the breaking point. Here, one must appeal to the developed nations and to voluntary organizations to come to the aid of the sick in Africa!
4. On another level refreshing signs of hope are not lacking. The initiatives promoting more democratic government are particularly gratifying, for most often they reflect a growth of respect for human dignity and for the rights and duties which flow from it (Cf. John Paul II, Centesimus Annus CA 46). The peoples of Africa are struggling to recapture the positive traditional values and the supportive social structures which have been eroded in recent years. They are seeking new ways of adapting their heritage to life in the next century. Are we witnessing a recovery of that optimism for building sound societies which accompanied the transition from colonialism to independence? Is Africa experiencing a second birth of freedom? This is certainly my profound hope. And in this enterprise the peoples of this Continent deserve the fraternal support of all men and women of good will.
What must be the foundation and guiding–principle of this vast enterprise? In the first place, the transcendent worth of every human person. In the new Africa now coming to birth this means that there is no place for exploitation or for discrimination based on ethnic or tribal differences. In the Africa of the future there should be no room for schemes which seek to fabricate national unity by forcing minorities to assimilate the culture or religion of the majority. Such a "community" would be counterfeit, not deserving of the name. And as one sprung from the soil of the Old Continent, Europe, I must testify from conviction confirmed by experience: false unity leads only to tragedy. In this regard, religious liberty must everywhere be respected, since the right freely to practise one’s religion is in fact the cornerstone of all human rights (Cf. John Paul II, Message for the World Day of Peace 1988, 8 December 1987).
In the Africa which we long to see, nations and ethnic groups will build bridges of mutual respect, not walls of suspicion and fear; no child’s dignity will be denied because he or she belongs to a certain ethnic group, for every child will be respected as a member of the human family. This is the Africa for which we pray, an Africa of Africans working together, in solidarity with one another, to build a better future.
5. But who is to solve Africa’s problems? No doubt the peoples of Africa themselves must bear the responsibility of building their own future. There is a growing conviction that African problems must have African solutions. How could it be otherwise? Could they again accept subjection to subtle forms of economic or political colonialism which, though not de iure, would be nonetheless real? No, Africa could never accept a new colonialism. Its nations are independent, and must remain so. This does not mean that help from other members of the family of nations is not needed and desired. On the contrary, help is needed now more than ever. But to be truly effective, it must reflect a relationship not of subjection but of interdependence.
In this context, the unsolved problem of the foreign debt of the poorer countries of Africa and of the whole developing world deserves serious attention. As I have written eleswhere: "It cannot be expected that the debts which have been contracted should be paid at the price of unbearable sacrifices" (Cf. John Paul II, Centesimus Annus CA 35).
Long–term assistance is equally important. Such aid should aim at helping the peoples of Africa to face, by themselves, the deeper causes of their underdevelopment. This is true solidarity: when one people shares with another the knowledge which enables the latter to become an equal partner in the task of producing the material and cultural assets which sustain adequate standards of living. And in this regard, high illiteracy rates are a special concern, for the data clearly point to a deficiency in a skill which is absolutely basic for living a fully human life.
The aspiration of millions of human beings was well described by the Second Vatican Council: "Man as an individual and as a member of society craves a life that is full, autonomous and worthy of his nature as a human being; he longs to harness for his own welfare the immense resources of the modern world"! (Gaudium et Spes GS 9)
6. Ladies and Gentlemen: in our day, the development of the means of social communications and progress towards a world economy have increased to a remarkable degree the mutual dependence of nations. Today therefore the service rendered by diplomats and statesmen must look beyond the boundaries of their own national interests. A paramount aim of diplomacy is to work towards a social order which will be just and will bring peace and prosperity to all the peoples of the earth. It is clearer than ever that the good of every individual society exists as part of the common good of the whole international community (Cf. John XXIII, Pacem in Terris PT 130). You therefore are truly servants of the cause of universal justice, peace and development. This worthy aim is also the reason for the Holy See’s continued participation in international diplomacy and for its support of all efforts which advance the cause of peace. Men and women of good will have a right to expect no less from those who testify that their Lord is the Prince of Peace.
It is my fervent hope that Almighty God, whose Providence guides the destiny of nations, will sustain you in your work as peace–makers. I pray especially that he will strengthen you and all those who exercise leadership in public affairs to work tirelessly for the good of all the peoples of this Continent.
May the God of peace watch over you and your families. May he abundantly bless the nations you represent. May he protect the peoples of Africa, especially the citizens of Uganda, our kind hosts and dear friends.
Archdiocese of Kampala (Uganda)
Tuesday, 9 February 1993
Dear Brother Bishops,
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
1. It is with "joi inspired by the Holy Spirit" that we gather in this Cathedral of the Archdiocese of Kampala for the opening session of the Council of the General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops for the Special Assembly for Africa.This is the seventh meeting of the Council and the third to take place on this Continent. I offer cordial greetings to all its members and to the other Bishops who have joined us. This occasion has profound significance not only for the local Churches in Africa but also for the People of God throughout the world. Through my presence here I wish to support both what has already been accomplished and what will be achieved in the days ahead.
Praying Vespers together we give visible expression to the bonds of communion which unite the See of Peter and the particular Churches on this Continent, and the reality of that collegialitas effectiva et affectiva gives intensity to our prayer for the African Bishops as they prepare with their flocks for the Special Synodal Assembly.
With deep affection in our Lord Jesus Christ, I wish to greet the representatives of the priests, men and women Religious, and seminarians of the Dioceses of Uganda who are with us this evening. Through you, dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ, we are able to pay tribute to all who work to bring the Gospel to those for whom the Good Shepherd laid down his life. It is indeed fitting that you should be here with Bishops from all over Africa, for you remind us of the hopes and expectations that so many people have for this Special Assembly.
2. You are the workers whom the Lord is sending into the harvest to make ready the "great springtime of Christianity" (John Paul II, Redemptoris Missio RMi 86) which he is preparing for his Church! The abundance of vocations to the priesthood and consecrated life in Uganda reveals the Church’s vitality and fervour–a gift for which we must give thanks and praise to God!
This vigorous evangelizing effort would be impossible without the courageous men and women who, impelled by the love of Christ (Cf. 2Cor. 2Co 5,14), have been coming to this land for over a century on the mission ad gentes. I make my own the tribute of my beloved predecessor Pope Paul VI, who wrote: "The action of the missionaries was always disinterested and animated by the charity of the Gospel, and... in order to help the African peoples to resolve the complex human and social problems in their countries, they spent themselves generously" (Paul VI, Africae terrarum, 24). Esteemed Brothers and Sisters, you are heirs of a great tradition–a heritage shaped by the grace so powerfully at work in the White Fathers, the Mill Hill Fathers, the sons and daughters of Bishop Comboni, and all members of Missionary Congregations. Convinced that the Gospel is "the power of God for salvation" (Rm 1,16), these men and women came here out of love for the people of Uganda, a love which has been heroically confirmed in recent years by your standing faithfully with your people in times of trial.
In you we see that the Church’s mission to evangelize is not for a season past but is for ever valid (John Paul II, Redemptoris Missio RMi 66). Do not count the cost of being servants of Christ and his Gospel (Cf. 1Cor. 1Co 4,1). Never grow weary of extending the boundaries of the Kingdom of God. How blessed you will be to see, as Père Lourdel did, the mystery of Christ’s dying and rising lived out in those you bring to the Lord.
3. Dear Brother Priests: I address to you a word of heartfelt affection. You are the chief co–workers of your Bishops in fulfilling the apostolic ministry handed on in the Sacrament of Holy Orders (Cf. Presbyterorum Ordinis PO 2). By your sacramental consecration you have been configured "to Jesus Christ as Head and Shepherd of the Church" (John Paul II, Pastores Dabo Vobis PDV 21). You continue our Saviour’s own mission of sacrificial love for his Bride, the Church, for whom he gave up his life (Ep 5,25). This pastoral charity requires you to make a total gift of yourselves to the Church–a gift which you renew daily in offering the Eucharistic Sacrifice (Cf. John Paul II, Pastores Dabo Vobis PDV 21). And as you well know, your effectiveness as ministers of Christ’s reconciling love and as preachers of the Gospel of repentance will be increased by frequent reception of the Sacrament of Penance.
I urge you, as Saint Paul exhorted Timothy, his beloved son and brother in the faith, "to rekindle the gift of God that is within you" (2Tm 1,6). The dynamism of pastoral charity needs to be constantly rejuvenated and nourished by the God who makes all things new (Cf. Rev. Ap 21,5). Participation in programmes of permanent formation are means by which the Spirit leads you to an "ever deeper knowledge of the mystery of Christ... and of the mystery of Christian priesthood" (John Paul II, Pastores Dabo Vobis PDV 70). In such experiences you will gain the strength to persevere in your service to the flock. In this respect the National Diocesan Clergy Renewal Centre here in Kampala will surely be of great service to the whole Church in Eastern Africa.
4. Dear Seminarians: you who are aspiring to take your places alongside the priests as workers in the Lord’s vineyard, to you I extend the embrace of a loving father. Prepare yourselves well for the priceless gift that you will receive from God through "the laying on of hands". In order to grow into the "stature of the fullness of Christ" (Ep 4,13), you must give yourselves completely to the programme of spiritual, academic and pastoral formation set forth by those entrusted with your education. Do not waste a moment. In the time between now and your ordination day, you must diligently study the faith handed down to us by the Apostles, and allow yourselves to be fashioned by the Holy Spirit into fitting vessels for this treasure (Cf. 2Cor. 2Co 4,7). Through prayer, "form the habit of drawing close to Jesus as a friend" (Cf. Optatam Totius OT 8), so that God’s grace may bear abundant fruit in you (Cf. Jn. Jn 15,8).
5. Dear Men and Women Religious: it is a cause of great joy that this land, made fruitful by the Martyrs’ blood, has favoured the growth of Religious Life. In addition to the older Congregations which have found a home here, the establishment of flourishing new Institutes is a clear sign of the growing maturity of the Church in Uganda. Indeed, all of you are in some sense "sons and daughters" of Saint Charles Lwanga and his Companions. By the vows of chastity, poverty and obedience, you as Religious, like the Martyrs, bear witness to the truth that "the People of God has no lasting city here below, but looks forward to one which is to come" (Lumen Gentium LG 44). Called to be signs of the new world of the future Resurrection (Cf. John Paul II, Familiaris Consortio FC 16), you evangelize above all by offering your lives to Christ as a "gift" (Cf. Perfectae Caritatis PC 1), and making manifest to all the new life won for us by the Cross.
The witness of self–giving is borne not only by the members of Institutes of active life but also by those whose lives of silent contemplative love burn at the heart of the Church – the Carmelites, Poor Clares, Cistercians, Benedictines and the Sisters of Perpetual Adoration. To all of you, Men and Women Religious, I repeat the invitation which I made in my Apostolic Exhortation "Redemptionis Donum": "Renew your religious consecration according to the model of the consecration of the Mother of God" (John Paul II, Familiaris Consortio FC 17). Like Mary, place all that you are and all that you have in the Father’s hands (Lc 1,38).
Since Religious Life is a powerful instrument for spreading the light of Gospel truth, I wish to call attention once again to the importance of the example given by Women Religious, especially for missionary Churches. In the lives of Religious Sisters, "virginity for the sake of the Kingdom is transformed into a motherhood in the spirit that is rich and fruitful" (John Paul II, Redemptionis Missio, 70). They show that the vocation of every woman – not only those in consecrated life, but also those in the married state – is to make a sincere "gift of self" to another. This truth about "the being of woman" – that she is a person created for self–giving to another person – is the basis for the respect rightly accorded her and for the role she is to play in the family and civil society (Cf. John Paul II, Mulieris Dignitatem MD 7 MD 21).
In the name of the Bishops gathered here, I wish to thank all the priests, Men and Women Religious and seminarians in Uganda for your selfless commitment in bringing the liberating truth of the Gospel to the people whom you serve. You are chosen instruments of evangelization. With the Lord’s help and Mary’s prayers, your labours will bear a rich harvest for the Kingdom of God!
6. Now I want to draw your attention to the African Synod. When my predecessor Pope Paul VI came to Kampala for the dedication of the Shrine of the Martyrs, whom he himself had canonized, he spoke in this very Cathedral to an assembly very much like the one gathered here now. He spoke of the Church as a communion. He encouraged his listeners to bear witness to this mystery by their example, and he placed particular emphasis on the role of the Bishop as the "sign and minister of unity". Is it any wonder that the figure of the Bishop came to his mind as he stood here, close to the tomb of Bishop Joseph Kiwanuka, the first African Bishop of modern times? A Ugandan by origin, Bishop Kiwanuka was indeed a sign of hope as the Church was beginning to become again truly African.
Pope Paul VI saw great prospects for the Church and for the African people deriving from the Church’s faithfulness to her vocation to share the gift of God’s Trinitarian life. He encouraged all present on that occasion in these words: "Strive truly to live that ecclesial communion which makes us all one in Christ (Cf. Jn. Jn 17,21-23), all one Mystical Body (Cf. 1Cor. 1Co 10,16-17), for we are the Church, all one thing with Christ and among ourselves" (Paul VI, Address at the Cathedral of Rubaga in Kampala, 2 August 1969).
It is very natural, then, that on this occasion our thoughts should turn to the Synod of Bishops, as a particularly beneficial instrument of ecclesial communion.Established by Pope Paul towards the end of the Second Vatican Council, the Synod strives to express and foster the communion of the Bishops throughout the world with one another, under the leadership of the Successor of Peter. The principle underlying the institution of the Synod of Bishops is simple: the more the communion of the Bishops in the worldwide episcopate is enhanced, the more the communion of the Church as a whole is enriched. In these days, the Church in Africa is seeing at firsthand the truth of these words, as it experiences the enthusiasm and practical benefits which are accompanying the preparations for the Special Assembly for Africa of the Synod of Bishops.
7. The word "Synod" literally means a walking together: "synodos". It provides a powerful image which can be applied not only to the actual Synod Assembly but also to all the phases of preparation which precede that gathering. All the members of the Church in Africa–clergy, Religious and laity–are making a common journey, "walking together", placing their gifts at the service of the Church in Africa, for the sake of the forthcoming Special Assembly. At this moment, the journey has reached a significant point with the publication of the working document, the Instrumentum Laboris. The remote preparation for the Special Assembly has come to an end. The phase of immediate preparation has begun.
I am particularly pleased that this document is being released in Africa itself at the opening session of this meeting of the Council of the General Secretariat of the Synod. In its own way the publication of the Instrumentum Laboris is an expression of the mystery of ecclesial communion which links together the Pastors and people of Africa in their service of God’s Kingdom. It is a response to the exchanges begun by the presentation of the earlier Lineamenta document to the Church in Africa. That document was also presented in Africa itself, at a meeting of Bishops on 25 July 1990 at Lomé, Togo, for the Ninth Plenary Session of the Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar (SECAM). A further sign of the communion of life shared by the local Churches in Africa in the various stages of their history is the fact that this synodal document is being released in the very place where almost twenty–five years ago SECAM solemnly concluded its first plenary session, held on the occasion of Pope Paul’s historic pilgrimage to Uganda.
8. Assessing the past in the light of the present is always helpful. Looking back today on the work done during the last two years in preparation for the Special Assembly, we can give thanks to God for what he has accomplished on the Continent of Africa. Even in this brief time, both the Church and society in Africa have been enriched by the Church’s mystery of communion, as manifested in the exchange of gifts which has gone into the preparation of the Synod. There are many positive signs which bring us encouragement and inspiration as the journey reaches its final stage.
These two years of intense communal prayer and reflection on evangelization have brought spiritual renewal, a deeper sense of the Church and her teachings, and a greater awareness of the responsibility of all the People of God to respond in faith to situations which are uniquely African. The understanding gained through dialogue has enabled the clergy, Religious and laity to cooperate more effectively in sharing the faith and in addressing the needs of our times. They have focused on truly impor tant questions and are working together to find appropriate responses.
The energy generated by the preparations for the Synod has also resulted in a greater openness to ecumenical and interreligious dialogue. It has likewise borne fruit in a renewal of mutual cooperation in programmes promoting the dignity of the person, advancing human development and fostering justice and peace.
9. It seems providential that the announcement of the Special Assembly for Africa of the Synod of Bishops–the first "Special Assembly" announced under the recently revised Code of Canon Law–took place on 6 January 1989, the Feast of the Epiphany. This Feast, while recalling the biblical events which led to the Holy Family’s visit to the African Continent, highlights the universal mission of Christ and thus suggests the Special Assembly’s theme: "The Church in Africa and Her Evangelizing Mission Towards the Year 2000: ‘You will be my witnesses’" (Ac 1,8). Ultimately, ecclesial communion is both a vocation and a mission to bear witness to Christ, the "Light of all Nations" (Cf. Lk. Lc 2,32).
On the basis of this theme, the ante–preparatory Commission, and later the expanded Council of the General Secretariat, engaged in the study and discussion which led to the preparatory document or Lineamenta. This two–part document began with a general treatment of the topic of evangelization and was followed by five chapters, each devoted to various aspects of the topic: the proclamation of the Good News of salvation; inculturation; dialogue; justice and peace; and the means of social communication.
The Council’s untiring work bore fruit in the enthusiastic reaction given to this document on the African continent, both within and outside the Church. A clear expression of this enthusiasm was the practically unanimous response of the Episcopal Conferences of Africa, the highest number of replies to date for any synodal assembly. Each of these replies represents in its own way the vital energy and practical results of the communion existing in the Church in Africa. Each reply bespeaks a prayerful dialogue initiated by the Episcopal Conferences with each Bishop and carried on by communities and individuals: a dialogue expanding from local communities to the diocesan, national, international and continental level. From the wealth of information gained in this process, the Episcopal Conferences in turn formulated the official responses sent to the General Secretariat. These were in turn collated with replies and observations from other concerned Church bodies.
10. With the presentation of the Instrumentum Laboris or "working paper" of the Special Assembly, the Church in Africa has reached a particularly significant stage in her preparation for the Special Assembly. The Lineamenta reports, which expressed the communion experienced at various levels of ecclesial life in Africa, were carefully studied by the Council of the General Secretariat. With the help of theologians from Africa, they were then synthesized and further refined so as to present a composite picture of the present state of affairs and the general views of the Christian community in Africa with regard to the theme of evangelization. This document, following the same two–part structure and five–chapter treatment of the Lineamenta, has, therefore, a particular importance. On the one hand, it represents in a certain sense the "first fruits" of communal prayer, study, and reflection on the theme of the Synodal Assembly. On the other hand, it serves as a broad agenda which will be used in the meeting itself, within the framework of dialogue and communion.
Although the primary purpose of the document is to prepare those who will take part in the Special Assembly, its release to the public represents a way for the whole Church in Africa to benefit further from the process of preparing for the Synod. At the same time, the document can serve as a general encouragement to study and a means of generating enthusiasm for this Special Assembly, which, because it takes place at this moment in the history of the Church in Africa, has a crucial role to play in its passage to the Third Christian Millennium. Through the dynamism of communion and through discussion and prayer on the topic of evangelization, the special Synodal Assembly will seek to formulate a pastoral plan of action for the Church, as she seeks to be faithful to her vocation to communion and her mission to preach Christ to all nations.
11. The particular nature of this Assembly has also required certain adaptations of the Ordo Synodi, the rules governing the Synod. These adaptations, dealing for the most part with the criteria for the representation and participation of Episcopal Conferences at the General Assembly, have received my approval and are also being issued at this time. Copies are being sent to the Episcopal Conferences so that the process of determining the actual participants at the Synodal Assembly can begin.
Considering the importance of the publication of the Instrumentum Laboris and the new stage of immediate preparation for the Synod which it signals, I am pleased to announce, after much consultation, that the Special Assembly for Africa of the Synod of Bishops will begin on Low Sunday, 10 April 1994.
Because the Special Assembly is of keen interest not only to the Church in Africa but to the Church as a whole, the following arrangements have been made concerning its actual celebration. The working sessions of the Special Assembly for Africa of the Synod of Bishops will take place in the Vatican where all assemblies of the Synod of Bishops have been held, showing as it were the communion of the Bishops with the Successor of Peter. Furthermore, recognizing the intensity of participation, through prayer and study, of people and institutions of the Church across the whole Continent in preparing the Synodal Assembly, and wishing to continue their association with the process of the Synod, I have the intention of coming to Africa for a celebration phase to solemnly promulgate the fruits of the Special Assembly. That phase will be an occasion to encourage the Catholics of Africa in the implementation of the Synod’s proposals, and to express the solidarity of the universal Church with the particular Churches of Africa in the pastoral tasks to be faced in evangelizing this Continent on the threshold of the Third Millennium.
12. In the mystery of the Church’s communion, the Special Assembly for Africa has importance for the universal Church, not only because of the great interest which this event has evoked but above all because of the very nature of ecclesial communion which transcends all temporal and spatial boundaries. It has inspired many prayers and good works whereby members and communities of the Church on other continents are accompanying the Synod process. Indeed, we may be confident that in the mystery of communion the Synod will be supported by the prayers of the Saints in heaven.
In this regard, I gladly recall the witness to the Gospel of Christ given in this land made precious by the blood of Martyrs, a witness which has brought forth much fruit for the Church in Uganda. Making my own the words of the hymn sung by the Martyrs as they bore supreme testimony to Christ by their death, I commend to their powerful intercession the work of the Council meeting which is about to take place, as well as the Special Assembly itself:
"Grant that our eyes be open,
Here to see Our Saviour King,
And our hearts be ever eager,
Him to hear, his praise to sing".
From Uganda, from the heart of Africa, may this hymn go forth and the chorus swell in every part of the continent in these final phases of preparation for the Special Assembly, which holds so much promise and hope for the Church on the threshold of the Third Millennium.
Maria, Regina Martyrum, Ora Pro Nobis!
Speeches 1993 - Kampala (Uganda)