More than 500 Cardinals, Bishops and prominent delegates from all over Africa met, from the 20 to 29 July, in Kampala, Uganda for their Plenary Assembly entitled: “Church – Family of God in Africa, Celebrate Your Jubilee! Proclaim Jesus Christ Your Saviour”.
The meeting, which takes place every 3 years, was particularly significant because this year marks the 50th anniversary of the birth of SECAM (Symposium of the Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar) which was instituted by Pope Saint Paul VI during his visit to Uganda in 1969.
Attending to represent the Church of the European continent was Fr Martin Michalíček, CCEE General Secretary and David Topping from the Secretariat in St Gallen. In his intervention, Fr Martin expressed the closeness and congratulations of the European Bishops for this important Jubilee and presented the message of best wishes from Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, CCEE President, in which the prelate underlined the strong bond and the particularly fruitful collaboration that has always united SECAM and CCEE. He noted that, “the Church of Africa was born from the blood of the Martyrs” and also hoped that today’s persecutions can bring “new fruits of conversion and peace for all the peoples of Africa and of the whole world”.
During the Plenary Assembly H. Em. Cardinal Philippe Ouédraogo, Archbishop of Ouagadougou in Burkina Faso was elected as the new President of SECAM; H. E. R. Mgr. Sithembele Anton Sipuka of Umtata Diocese in South Africa and H. E. R. Mgr. Lucio Andrice Muandula of Xai-Xai Diocese in Mozambique were elected as the new Vice-Presidents. Finally, Fr. Terwase Henry Akaabiam of Nigeria was nominiated as the new General Secretary.
The work started on Sunday 21 July with the celebration of Mass presided by outgoing SECAM President H. E. R. Mgr Gabriel Mbilingi in the Sacred Heart Cathedral of Kampala. The whole week saw the continuation of the work which included presentations and interventions from Bishops of various regions throughout Africa, that recounted the particular challenges that are currently being faced.
The themes contained in the working days were many: Evangelisation- then and now; globalisation and ecological challenges; socio-cultural, political and economic challenges; missionary activity in today’s Africa and new mentalities, new spiritualities and pastoral strategies. Furthermore, these days also saw the compilation and approval of the Kampala document on the future of the Church in Africa.
The work concluded on Sunday 29 July with a solemn celebration of the Mass presided over by the newly elected SECAM President, H. Em. Cardinal Philippe Ouédraogo, at the Shrine of Namugongo, the site at which the 22 Ugandan Martyrs lost their lives which, and which is now visited by millions of Christian faithful every year and has become a destination for numerous pilgrimages from all over the world.