Preparatory Meeting of the Congress on Africa
On November 9th, through the initiative of the Pontifical Council
"Cor Unum", a meeting was held in the Vatican of the Catholic agencies
most responsible for programs of human promotion in Africa.
The purpose of the meeting was to prepare a Congress on Africa and on the
relationship between Evangelization and Charity.
This is slated for 2003 and was proposed by numerous agencies, which
participated in the Congress of Charity (Rome, May, 1999); it is also much
awaited by the Bishops of the continent. The
following groups were represented at the meeting: Missio Aachen, the Association
of Volunteers for International Service (AVSI), Caritas Germany, Caritas
Internationalis, Caritas Italy, Caritas Spain, Catholic Fund for Overseas
Development (CAFOD-Caritas Great Britain), Catholic Relief Services (USA), Manos
Unidas (Spain) and Secours Catholique (Caritas France). Caritas Poland sent a
much appreciated written contribution, as it had not been able to assist to the
In the opening presentation, the President recalled the words of Cardinal
Bernardin Gantin, the current Prefect of the Congregation for Bishops, from the
recent Synod of Bishops on Africa. He underlined the necessity of dialogue
between Catholic agencies and local Bishops, so as to identify together
"the most pressing problems and solutions for rendering the most manifest
and genuine presentation of Christ through Charity, which He has entrusted to
The presentations and the entire working day focused on identifying the
challenges and priorities for the work of each agency in Africa, and proposed
efficacious solutions for the greater harmonization of relationships between the
agencies and the local Churches and to better build the relationship between
evangelization and charity.
The central argument of the discussion was the role of "Cor
Unum" on the platform of dialogue between the agencies and the Episcopal
Conferences, as well as the need for a new model of development which takes
greater account of the particular facets of Africa.
Among the major problems and challenges which face the agencies in
providing aid to the African continent, there were: the question of peace,
the lack of priority and minimum of planning on the part of those responsible at
the local level, the absence of a well-formed laity and the scarcity of
formation in general.
Among the proposed themes to be addressed in a Congress, the following
were offered: the planning of development, the priority of formation, the
reinforcement of structures within the local Church, the character of Christian
witness in the presence and action of Catholic agencies, and the reinforcement
of the tie between the Gospel and Charity.
As to the role of "Cor Unum" in this context, the participants
encouraged a number of possibilities, among them: "Cor Unum" must be
more visible and it must fulfill ever more frequently its function as a meeting
place between the Bishops and the agencies (as expressed by pope Paul VI when he
instituted the Dicastery); the clarification of the concepts of "agency",
"organization", "humanitarian" and "aid".
It was also suggested that another helpful opportunity for "Cor
Unum" would be to give added notes on the philosophy of each agency,
organization, or association included in the next edition of the Catholic
City, November 10, 2001