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(Mt 5:13, 14).



With the intoning of the “Te Deum...” and the whole synod hall resounding with this hymn of thanksgiving at noon on 7th May 1994, the First Special Assembly for Africa of the Synod of Bishops formally came to a close. The Synod had been held under the theme: “The Church in Africa and her Evangelizing Mission Towards the Year 2000: ‘You shall be my Witnesses’ (Acts 1:9)”. It addressed a message to the Church and the world, which reflected the main thrusts of the synod proceedings, and voted on various resolutions, as propositions. From this point on, the synod fathers, and indeed the whole Church, awaited expectantly the Holy Father’s Post Synodal Apostolic Exhortation, which would gather the fruits of the synod in a message from him, as the President of the Synod, to mark the definitive conclusion of the collegial and consultative exercise of the synod. This the Holy Father did, when he issued the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia in Africa (“the Church in Africa”), and presented it to Africa and the world at Yaounde, Cameroon, on 14th September 1995, and then at Johannesburg, South Africa, on 17th September 1995, and finally at Nairobi, Kenya, on 19th September 1995.[1]



Pope John Paul II described the synod, which he concluded with the promulgation of his Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia in Africa, as a “synod of resurrection and hope”.[2] This synod assembly, which had been convoked against the background of a predominantly pessimistic world view of Africa, and against a background of a peculiarly challenging and a “deplorably unfavourable”[3] situation of the continent for the evangelizing mission of the Church in those closing years of the twentieth century, was nevertheless expected to mark a turning point in the history of the continent.[4]

When the Holy Father and the synod fathers gathered for this first synod, they had both “positive and negative elements (lights and shadows) in the ‘signs of the times’”[5] to consider. They had the successes of evangelization and the growth of local churches on the continent to both contemplate and celebrate; but they also had a catalogue of miseries and evils on the continent to decry and to bemoan. They had the heroism and the pioneering spirit of the missionaries to honour; but they also had the lack of commitment and pastoral zeal of church personnel, the emergence of syncretistic tendencies, proliferation of sects, the politicization of Islam and its intolerance to criticise. They had the emergence of democracies and the awakening of a profound cultural, social, economic and political consciousness on the continent to welcome with optimism; but they also had despotic and dictatorial regimes, bad governance, widespread corruption and an alarming increase of poverty to pine over.

The situation on the continent was as harshly ambivalent as it was paradoxical; and the close succession of such events as the collapse of apartheid and the sad outbreak of the Rwandan genocide typified this paradox very well.

In view of this paradoxical blend, in which evil and distress seemed to prevail over good and virtue, the Paschal setting of the First Special Assembly for Africa inspired a message of hope for Africa. With the publication of the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia in Africa, the Church in Africa received a new impulse and a new élan for its life and activity on the continent, as a missionary Church, namely, a Church with a mission. For, the synod in its Easter setting and the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation had given the Church in Africa a new impulse, which consisted in:

  • hope in the resurrected Christ, as a new impetus for living out her “programme” and evangelizing mission,

  • a new paradigm: Church as Family of God, to provide a perspective and value system for living out her “programme”, but, especially to underlie the unity and the communion of all despite differences,

  • a set of pastoral priorities: evangelization as Proclamation, evangelization as Inculturation, evangelization as Dialogue, evangelization as Justice and Peace and evangelization as Communication, to guide the implementation of her “programme” and mission in an Africa with a paradoxical blend of deplorable human miseries and darting heroisms outside and within the Church.[6]

Thus, the period after the publication of the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation was the time, as Pope John Paul II also believed,[7] to deepen this synod experience and to implement Ecclesia in Africa in a persevering and concerted effort to restore renewed strength and a more firmly-grounded hope to the continent in difficulty. This post-synodal period is now in its fourteenth year; and while the situation of the continent, its islands, and of the Church still bears some of the “lights and shadows”[8] that occasioned the first synod, it has also “changed considerably. This new reality requires a thorough study in view of renewed evangelization efforts, which call for a more in-depth analysis of specific topics, important for the present and future of the Catholic Church on the great continent.”[9]

Accordingly, gathered again in a Second Special Assembly for Africa, fifteen years after the First Special Assembly, we need to be rooted deeply in the first synod,[10] but cognizant of and keen to explore, most importantly, the “new ecclesial and social data for the continent”,[11] which now affect the Church’s mission there and require that the African Church, besides understanding itself as “a witness of Christ and “family of God, also understands itself as “salt of the earth, light of the world and “servants of reconciliation, justice and peace”.



Ecclesial Data:

a. Subsidia Fidei: It is important to note that the élan and impulse, which the First Special Assembly for Africa gave the Church in Africa to renew its strength and to ground more firmly its hope in the Lord, were greatly enhanced by several other subsequent Church events and activities of the Pope and the Roman Curia, which we may refer to as “subsidia fideifor the Church. Thus, the “Synod on the Eucharistaffirmed the centrality of the Eucharist in the life of the Church-Family of God, as a symbol of unity. The “Synod on The Bishop: Servant of the Gospel.....” recalled Bishops and Pastors to their essential ministry, as preachers of the Gospel, within the Church-Family of God; and the “Synod on The Word of Godreminded the Family of God of the eternal and imperishable seed of its birth. Additionally, the Encyclical Letters of the Pope: Deus caritas est”, “Spe salvi, Caritas in veritate, and his sermons and addresses during his recent apostolic visit to Africa (Cameroon and Angola) have offered catecheses of inestimable value to the Church in Africa. Finally, the Dicasteries of the Roman Curia have organized seminars on:

  • Liturgy” (Kumasi 2007) to provide guidance for the on-going work of inculturation in the liturgy,

  • The “Social Doctrine of the Church” (Dar-es-Salaam 2008) to promote knowledge of and diffusion of the social teachings of the Church,

  • “Migration” (Nairobi 2008) to discuss migration and new form of slaveries.

  • The “Work of Theological Commissions of Episcopal Conferences” (Dar-es-Salaam 2009) to remind Bishops of the importance of their teaching office in the Church, even if they make use of experts.

These meetings heightened the consciousness of the Church in Africa about her life and ministry.

b. The Exceptional Growth of the Church in Africa: In the past few decades (including the years after the First Special Assembly for Africa), it has become customary to talk about an exceptional growth of the Church in Africa; and the indicators, as the Lineamenta and the Instrumentum laboris point out, are many. However, what is really new among these signs of growth of the Church on the continent and its Islands are:

  • The ascendency of African members of missionary congregations to leadership positions and roles: council members, vicars general, and even superiors general.

  • Pursuit of self-reliance on the part of local churches, as they engage in economic and income-generating ventures (banks, credit unions, insurance companies, real estate and shops).

  • An observable growth in ecclesiastical structures and institutions (seminaries, Catholic universities and institutes of higher learning, on-going formation centres for the religious, catechists and the laity, schools of evangelization), as well as growth in experts and resource persons for research work in the areas of faith, mission, culture and inculturation, history, evangelization and catechesis.

Nonetheless, the Church in Africa also faces formidable challenges:

  • The talk about a thriving Church in Africa conceals the fact that the Church hardly exists in large parts north of the equator. The exceptionally growing Church in Africa is to be found generally south of the Sahara.

  • The fidelity and commitment of some clergy and religious to their vocations.

  • The need to evangelize (or evangelize anew) for a conversion that is deep and permanent.

  • The loss of members to new religious movements and sects. Catholic youth travel outside (to Europe and America), and return non-Catholic, because they felt less at home in the Catholic Churches there.

  • Falling population growth indices in traditionally Christian Europe and America.

c. The African Synod and the “Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar (SECAM)”: The deepening of the African synodal experience on the continent and its islands has depended greatly on an implementation organ of the continental Church, called “SECAM”. It was at the Vatican Council II, where the African Bishops, in search of an appropriate means of cooperation, established a secretariat to coordinate their interventions and to present a common (African) point of view at the Council. After the Council and in the presence of Pope Paul VI at Kampala (1969), the African Bishops decided to make their means of cooperation at the Council permanent with the creation of SECAM. At that time SECAM was a desired permanent body or institution to foster the exercise of an organic pastoral solidarity on the continent by its Pastors. It was to be the Bishops’ means of promoting “Evangelization in Co-Responsibility” on the continent;[12] and it was to this body that Pope John Paul II attributed the original idea of a Synod for Africa.[13]

In the course of a Second Special Assembly for Africa, it may not be out of place for the continent’s Pastors to review their need for SECAM, and their commitment to it.

Social Data:

In its treatment of “some critical places (areas) in the life of the African Society”,[14] the Instrumentum laboris identified and discussed a lot of these new social data. We shall add a few footnotes, which may be significant, and leave it to the synodal assembly to complete the picture.

d. Socio-Historical Footnotes to the Instrumentum laboris: In 1963, at a meeting of the Organization for African Unity (OAU), African leaders decided to retain a vestige of the colonial rule, maintaining the colonial boundaries and descriptions of states, regardless of their artificial character. That decision, however, has not been followed by a corresponding development of a sense of nationalism that makes ethnic diversity mutually enriching, and that extols the common national good over parochial ethnic interests. Thus ethnic diversity continues to be a seedbed of conflicts and tensions, which even defy the sense of belonging together as members of a Church-Family of God.

Slavery and enslavement, which the Arab world initiated on the East African coast, and Europeans, with the collaboration of Africans themselves, took over into the 14th century and extended over the continent, represented forced movement of Africans. These days, the voluntary migration of Africa’s sons and daughters to Europe, America and the Far East for various reasons, land them in servile conditions, which require our attention and pastoral care.

e. Socio-Political Footnote to the Instrumentum, laboris: Closely related with post-colonial developments on the continent has been the celebrations of independence and the emergence of African states and nations with governance exercised manifestly by Africans. The character of the exercise of political power and governance has been generally criticised and flawed on several counts by despotism, dictatorship, politicization of religion and ethnicity, disregard for rights of citizens, lack of transparency and press freedom, etc.

But the period after the First Special Assembly for Africa, namely, the dawn of the Third Millennium, appeared to have coincided with an emerging continental desire on the part of African leaders themselves for an “African renaissance” (Thabo Mbeki), “a new contemporary African self-assertion to build an African civilization which would be responsive to the dictates of our times, namely, economic prosperity, political freedom and social solidarity”.[15]

African political leaders appear determined to change the face of political administration on the continent; and they have spearheaded a critical self-appraisal of Africa, which identified poor and bad governance on the continent as the cause of Africa’s poverty and woes. Accordingly, they have charted the path of good governance and the formation a political class, capable of taking the best of ancestral traditions in Africa and integrating them with principles of governance of modern societies. They have adopted a strategic framework (NEPAD) to guide performance, and to set the tone for Africa’s renewal through transparent political leadership.[16] Can the Church in Africa recognize these political efforts of her sons and daughters, and provide the stimuli of her Gospel message to challenge them to be the “light of their nations” and “salt of their communities”, providing “servant leadership”?

f. Socio-Economic Footnote to the Instrumentum laboris: The radical relationship between governance and economy is clear; and it demonstrates that bad governance begets bad economy. This explains the paradox of the poverty of a continent which is certainly the most richly endowed in the world. The spin-off of this “governance-economy equation” is that there is hardly any African country that can meet its budgetary obligations, namely, its planned national financial programme, without outside assistance in the form of grants or loans. This continual underwriting of national budgets by means of loans inflates a bludgeoning debt burden. The universal Church joined the Church in Africa in a campaign to eradicate it during the Great Jubilee year.

The traditional economic alliances between African states and their colonial masters, for example, “the Commonwealth”, have been replaced by other powerful economic alliances between African nations individually or en bloc with the USA (Millennium Challenge Account), the European Economic Community (Lomé Culture, Yaoundé Agreement and the Cotonou Agreement)[17] and Japan (TICAD I-III). Lately, China and India, hungry for natural resources, have emerged on the scene, displaying interest in every conceivable aspect of African national economies. At the centre of most of these protocols and agreements is the debate on “trade and aid”, seeing that countries, which have developed, have done so through trade (not only in “raw material”), and not in an “aid-dependency syndrome”. It is, therefore, of great concern to the young trading economies of Africa, what decisions and “conditionalities” the World Trade Organization (WTO) and the developed world impose.

As mentioned above, African leaders have lately crafted a strategic framework (NEPAD)[18] to guide Africa’s economic partnership and its emergence from poverty, and its attainment of the Millennium Development Goals. As Dr. Uschi Eid puts it, “Only stimuli and efforts coming from within Africa will lead to success”.[19] In a sense, Africa’s emergence from its economic throes should be the work of Africans and be spearheaded by them.[20] Thus hearts must be converted and eyes healed to appreciate new ways of administering public wealth for the common well-being; and this is the remit of the evangelizing mission of the Church on the continent and the islands.

g. Social Footnotes to the Instrumentum laboris: The fall-out from the above situations (historical, political, economic) determine how healthy (stable, peaceful, prosperous) the African society is; and they also constitute the traditional sources of challenges for the evangelizing mission of the Church on the continent and the islands.

There are also certain global phenomena and international initiatives, whose impact on the African society and some of its structures, are worth assessing, and which pose new challenges to the Church. While the prominence, which is increasingly being given to the place and role of women in society is a happy development, the global emergence of life-styles, values, attitudes, associations, etc., which destabilize society, is disquieting. These attack the basic props of society (marriage and family), diminish its human capital (migration, drug-pushing and arms’ trade) and endanger life on the planet.

Marriage and the Family have come under strange and terrible pressures to re-define their nature and functions in modern society. Traditional marriages, which founded families, are threatened by an increasing proposal of alternative unions and relationships, devoid of the concept of lasting commitments, non-heterosexual in character, and without the aim of procreation. These already have advocates within the Church in certain parts of the continent.

This onslaught on marriage and family is propelled and sustained by groups that churn out a glossary which is meant to replace traditional concepts and terms about marriage and family with new ones. The aim is to establish a new global ethic about marriage, family, human sexuality and the related issues of abortion, contraception, aspects of genetic engineering, etc.

Drug-Trafficking and Arms-Trafficking: Certain parts of the continent have become established pathways for the trafficking of drugs from Latin Americas into Europe. In West Africa, drug trafficking is cited as the underlying cause for the instability and political turmoil in Guinea Bissau, and now, also Guinea. When early in July, Guinea’s military declared a maximum state of alert, it was because of threats of invasion, supported by drug cartels.

Drugs do not simply pass through parts of the continent and its islands, they have found users everywhere. Drug use and addiction among the youth is fast becoming the major source of dissipation of human capital in Africa and its islands, next to migration, conflicts and disease, such as, HIV-Aids and malaria.

Closely related to drug-trafficking and political adventurism is the trafficking of arms: small scale and heavy. The Church in Africa, gathered in Special Assembly associates itself with the Holy See to gladly welcome UN initiatives to stop illegal arms-trafficking, and to make all legal arms’ trade more transparent. It supports particularly the on-going study into the preparation of a treaty with a juridical binding force on the importation, exportation and the channelling of conventional arms through Africa.

Environment and Climate Change: The occasional cover of smog which hangs over most of East Africa, accompanied by diminished rainfall, drought and famine are usually considered an El Niňo effect. But, it points to how harsh climatic conditions on the continent generally are, and how adversely the precarious ecological balance in parts of Africa can be affected by the observed “climate change” on the planet. Thus UN and world summits on climate change, green gas emission, depletion of the ozone layer, such as the one coming up in December in Copenhagen must enjoy the prayerful support of Africa, while it braces itself to explore and to develop alternative sources of clean energy (sun, wind, sea-waves, biogas, etc.).

At the end of this survey, which is admittedly incomplete, it is clear that, although the continent and the Church on the continent are not yet out of the woods, they can still modestly rejoice in their achievement and positive performance, and begin to disclaim stereotypical generalizations about its conflicts, famine, corruption and bad governance. The forty-eight countries that make up Sub-Sahara Africa show great differences in the situations of their churches, their governance and their socio-economic life. Out of these forty-eight nations, only four: Somalia, Sudan, Niger and parts of Democratic Republic of Congo are presently at war; and at least two are at war because of foreign interference: the Democratic Republic of Congo and Sudan. Indeed, there are fewer wars in Africa than in Asia.

Increasingly, war mongers and war criminals are being denounced, held accountable for crimes and prosecuted. An official of the Democratic Republic of Congo has been prosecuted, Charles Taylor of Liberia is before the international court.

The truth is that Africa has been burdened for too long by the media with everything that is loathsome to humankind; and it is time to “shift gears” and to have the truth about Africa told with love, fostering the development of the continent which would lead to the well-being of the whole world.[21]The G-8 countries and the countries of the world must love Africa in truth![22]

Generally considered to occupy the tenth position in world economy, Africa is however the second emerging world market after China. Thus, it is as the just-ended G8 summit labelled it, a continent of opportunities. This needs to be true also for the people of the continent. It is hoped that the pursuit of reconciliation, justice and peace, made particularly Christian by their rootedness in love and mercy, would restore wholeness to the Church-Family of God on the continent, and that the latter, as salt of the earth and light of the world, would heal “wounded human hearts, the ultimate hiding place for the causes of everything destabilizing the African continent”.[23] Thus, will the continent and its islands realize their God-given opportunities and endowments.


As already observed, when the First Special Assembly for Africa gathered to consider evangelization on the continent and its islands on the threshold of the third millennium of the Christian faith, it adopted Church-Family of God as its guiding principle for the evangelization of Africa.[24] The imagery of Church-Family of God evoked such values as care for others, solidarity, dialogue, trust, acceptance and warmth in relationship. But it also evoked the socio-cultural realities of parenthood, generation and filiation, kinship and fraternity, as well as networks of relationship which are generated by these social realities and in which the members stand. The relationships build the life of communion of the family; but they also make their demands on the members, the fulfilment of which both constitutes their justice and makes the relationships harmonious and peaceful. When, however, the demands of the relationships are not fulfilled, justice is infringed upon, relationships are broken and the life of communion is hurt, damaged and impaired.

The Instrumentum laboris observes this and points out the many challenges to communion and social order which the disregard for the just demands of relationship causes on the continent. The restoration of communion and just order in such cases is what reconciliation stands for; and it takes the form of the re-establishment of justice, which only restores peace and harmony to the Church-Family of God and the family of society.

The following intends to contribute to the synodal discussion of its theme by providing brief biblical underpinnings of the terms of the theme, with the view of rooting instances of the terms and their interplay in human relationships (in human society) first and foremost in God’s relationship with man (humanity).

a. Servants (diakonoi) of Reconciliation as the Re-Establishment of Justice

In Scripture, reconciliation is a divine initiative, a free and a gratuitous move, which God initiates towards humanity; and its purpose is to repair and to restore the communion that covenant establishes, but which sin threatens and breaks up.

The teaching of St. Paul to the Corinthian church on this matter is very instructive: “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old order has passed away, behold the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. So, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We beseech you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.” (2 Cor 5:17-20).

Reconciliation, then, is a divine act, which we (humanity) experience, and in whose experience we become its instruments and ambassadors.

The Apostles’ Experience of Reconciliation

The Gospels had presented the life and ministry of Jesus as the Father’s work of salvation for humankind. The disciples of Jesus were the first to be called to make an experience of the Father’s offer of salvation in Jesus; and they did this in various ways, including forgiveness and reconciliation. Jesus’ greeting of “peace” to the disciples on the morning of the Resurrection (Jn 20:19-21), for example, was both the pardoning of their betrayal and abandonment of Jesus, as well as the restoring of friendship.

Jesus did not require an admission of guilt on the part of his disciples. There was no request for pardon; and no apology was proffered. There simply was a benign glossing over of all unpleasantness. In its place are given a free pardon and a conciliatory greeting of peace.

Reconciliation here is a free and an unmerited conciliatory gesture, which the offended (Jesus) initiates towards the offender (the disciples). Now commissioned to preach the Gospel to the ends of the earth, the disciples-apostles of Jesus carried out their mission as “evangelizers who had been evangelized” and as “ambassadors of reconciliation who had experienced reconciliation”.

Paul’s Experience of Reconciliation

Later, Paul came after the disciples-apostles of Jesus as a preacher of the same offer of salvation in Jesus. But having received this commission to preach Jesus in the particular circumstances of his encounter with the risen Lord on the road to Damascus, Paul would also understand the offer of salvation in Jesus by the Father as the Father’s act of reconciliation.[25] For, as he would admit: “I was once a blasphemer, a persecutor, a man filled with arrogance; but because I did not know what I was doing in my unbelief, I have been treated mercifully, and the grace of God has been granted me in overflowing measure....” (1 Tim1:13-14).

For Paul, then, the experience of salvation was also a passage from hostility and enmity towards Christ and his Church to belief in Christ and fellowship with his Church. This passage from enmity to fellowship constitutes reconciliation; and it is an undeserved experience which only God brings about and leads a person to make. In this, Paul considered himself an example for those who would later come to faith in Christ (cf. 1 Tim1:16).

Reconciliation with God (vertical) and among Human Beings (horizontal)

In Jesus: in his life and ministry, but, especially, in his death and resurrection, Paul saw God the Father reconcile the world (all things in heaven and on earth) to himself, discounting the sins of humankind (cfr. 2 Cor 5:19; Rom 5:10; Col 1:21-22). Paul saw God the Father reconcile Jews and Gentiles to himself in one body through the cross (Eph 2:16). But Paul also saw God reconcile Jews and Gentiles, creating one new man in place of two (Eph 2:15; 3:6). Thus, the experience of reconciliation establishes communion on two levels: communion between God and humanity; and since the experience of reconciliation also makes us (reconciled humanity) “ambassadors of reconciliation”. It also re-establishes communion between men.

Reconciliation between God and Humanity

The creation of humanity in the image and likeness of God, the election of Israel to be “God’s portion and inheritance”, and the redemption of humanity by Christ and its sealing with the Holy Spirit (cf. Eph 1:13; 4:30) draw humanity into communion with God.

When humanity is alienated and estranged from God through sin (disobedience, idolatry, rejection of Jesus), reconciliation takes the form of forgiveness; and it is the work of God.[26] It is God who initiates reconciliation with sinful and estranged Israel and humanity, bringing them back to himself (Ps 80:3, 7, 19; Hos11; 14) “to live for the praise of his glory” (Eph1:12) and according to “the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness” (Eph 4:30); and Jesus, “who did not know sin, but for our sakes was made to be sin” (2 Cor 5:21; Gal.3:13; Rom.8:5) remains our means of reconciliation. This, however, is the work of God’s love.

Reconciliation within the Human Family

Briefly referring to the story of Jesus and Zacchaeus (Lk19), one recognizes that the encounter between Jesus and Zachaeus did not only lead to a conversion that established communion between Zacchaeus and the Lord. That encounter led to a conversion which also restored Zacchaeus’ relationship with his own people. In this new relationship, his vision of his people also changed: they were brothers not to be exploited or defrauded.

Reconciliation, then, is not limited to God’s drawing of estranged and sinful humanity to himself in Christ through the forgiveness of sins and out of love. It is also the restoration of relationships between people through the settlement of differences and the removal of obstacles to their relationships in their experience of God’s love. This, indeed, is the distinctive feature of reconciliation in the ministry of Jesus Christ. Otherwise, Scriptures attest to several forms of reconciliation through settlements,[27] such as:

  • the offender admits wrongdoing and asks for pardon, thus recognizing the offended to be in the right (righteous);[28]

  • the offender disclaims wrongdoing and thus initiates an arbitration to establish who is in the right;

  • the offended pardons unilaterally and sees to the cessation of hostilities, establishing peace and reconciliation.

In all of these cases though, reconciliation, as a passage from hostility to peace, from alienation to communion is not a sacrifice of rights; and it does not replace justice. Rather, it is the re-establishment of justice and is the fruit thereof.

In sum, the reconciliation of hitherto estranged people may take the form of Jews and Gentiles coming together as heirs of the kingdom (Eph 2:13-15). It may take the form of members of a worshipping community settling their differences and being at peace with each other (Mt 5:23-26; 1 Cor 3:3); and it may also take the form of community members forgiving each other for offences (Mt 18:15; Lk17:3-4), and not harbouring anger and grudges (Eph 4:26). Through forgiveness, members of the human family build a community of the reconciled (Eph 2:16-19), whose mutual forgiveness reflects that of their Father in heaven (Mt 6:12; Lk 11:4), who initiates our reconciliation out of his love and mercy.

A Perspective for the Instrumentum laboris

Here is a spirituality of reconciliation which can inspire its discussion in the Instrumentum laboris, and which must become the disposition of the servant of reconciliation. For, in a Church, which is a family in communion, reconciliation becomes not a state or an act, but a dynamic process, a task to be undertaken everyday, a goal to strive after, an unending setting out to re-establish, through love and mercy, broken friendships, fraternal bonds, trust and confidence.[29]

b. Servants (diakonoi) of Justice (Righteousness):

The fruit of reconciliation between God and men, and within the human family (between man and man), as observed above, is the restoration of justice and the just demands of relationships. It is at once ethical and religious; and it is motivated by love and mercy.

False Forms of Justice

The concept of justice has been secularized before to mean:

  • merely “the law of the stronger,

  • a social compromise to avoid greater evils, and

  • the virtue of impartiality in the general application of the one law, without any regard for natural justice.[30]

The surge of the “Spirit of Capitalism” also added to the alienation of the concept of justice from any transcendental roots.[31] The ethics of economics, for example, was rationalistic and individualistic. Its central concern was profit; and it was separated from the demands of solidarity, an “ordo amoris” and from all ethical religious bonds. Accordingly, the whole notion of social justice was eliminated; and justice applied to the conventions of negotiated contracts within the framework of the law of supply and demand, with no restrictions on individualistic enterprise. The state merely enforced public order and the fulfilment of contracts, while remaining rigorously neutral as regards their content.[32]

By contrast, the justice of Christian diakonia is the right order of things and the fulfilment of the just demands of relationships. It is the justice and righteousness of God and of his kingdom (Mt 6:33).

In the present state of human sinfulness and wounded hearts, however, the Old Testament is strong in its outlook that justice cannot come to man through his own strength, but is a gift of God; and the New Testament develops this outlook more fully, making justice the supreme revelation of the salvific grace of God.

The Sense of “Righteousness of the Kingdom”[33]

The righteousness or justice of the kingdom is not quite retributive justice, although that is sometimes the sense of its attribution to God (Rev 15:4; 19:2,11; 16:5-6; Heb 6:10; 2 Thess 1:6). It does not also have the sense of “conformity to a norm or a set of norms”. At least, this is not its primary sense; and it can never be applied to God in that sense.

Variously presented as tsedaqah and tsedek, justice (righteousness) is the fulfilment of the demand of relationship, whether that relationship be with God or with men;[34] and when God or man fulfils the conditions imposed upon him (her) by the relationship, he (she) is, in terms of the Bible, “righteous” (tsadiq / dikaios).

Fundamentally, three events account for all the relationships which exist between God and man, and between man and man; and they are:

  • the creation of humanity “in the image and likeness of God” (Gen 1:26-27), which makes human beings creatures of God. The same act of creation, however, posits for humanity a common origin and a common parenthood, which radically relates all members of the human family, one to another, as brothers and sisters.[35]

  • God’s covenant-election of Israel, which makes Israel “God’s firstborn”, “his inheritance”, his portion”. It also makes the sons of Israel “brothers” (Dt 15:11,12).

  • the new covenant in the blood of Christ; wherefore all followers of Christ bear the “seal of the Holy Spirit” (Eph 1:13-14), which makes them “temples of the Holy Spirit” and “households of God”.

These constitute the basis of relationships between God and humankind, at its various points in history; and they are initiatives of God and acts of his love. In this sense, righteousness is a radical and comprehensive justice of a religious character, which requires that humanity surrender itself to God, in obedience and in faith, and which makes every sin an “injuria”, an injustice and impiety. It also requires that man fulfils the just demands of the relationships he/she stands by reason of creation and universal brotherhood of men, and by reason of salvation and a common call to holiness and sonship in Christ.

Righteousness (Justice) based on Creation

The question about the paying of taxes to Caesar (Mt 22:15-22; Mk 12:13-17; Lk 20:20-26) gave Jesus the opportunity to define the basic relationship between God and man as justice (righteousness).

In the response of Jesus, the denarius belonged to Caesar, because it bore Caesar’s mark of ownership, namely, his image and his inscription. In justice, Caesar’s ownership of the coin had to be recognised and upheld; so “give to Caesar that which is Caesar’s”.

The second part of Jesus’ answer addressed the more fundamental issue of whether God is given his just due by those who bear his “image and likeness”, namely, human beings (Gen 1:26-27).

The belongingness of humanity to God, by reason of its creation in the “image and likeness of God” is the basis of the life of communion between God and humanity; and it takes the form of justice: humanity giving God his just due. In Scriptures, humanity gives God his just due when man “obeys God’s voice”, “believes in Him”, “fears” and “worships Him”; and where these are lacking, humanity needs to show “repentance” (Acts 17:30).

Correspondingly, humanity’s common parenthood (Acts 17:28-29) enjoins on it an “ordo amoris” of solidarity and universal brotherhood, which is sustained by justice in their relationships.

Righteousness (Justice) based on God’s Covenants

The different covenants in the Old Testament established various relationships between God and:

  • individuals: Abraham (Gen 17:4), Isaac (Gen 17:19,21, Jacob (Ex 6:4), David (2 Chr 21:7),

  • households and families: Abraham (Gen 17:11), David (2 Sam 7) and

  • the people of Israel (Dt 4:12-13; hence, Ex 19-20; 24:8; Lev 24:8; Is 24:5).

Some of the OT covenants also express relationships between human beings: Isaac and Abimelech (Gen 26:28-29), Jacob and Laban (Gen 31:44), David and Jonathan (1 Sam 20:16).

The covenants established special relationships which made demands on the partners. Keeping and upholding the demands of a relationship made a party just and righteous[36]; and justice (righteousness) was the observance of the demands of relationships, which ensured fellowship and communion, vertically, between God and humanity, and horizontally, among people. The opposite terms in the Bible are “wicked (evildoer)” and “wickedness” (rasha‘); and they denote evil committed against one, with whom one stands in relationship. Thus, the “wicked” destroy the community (communion) by failing to fulfil the demands of community relationship.[37]

The covenants between God and individuals and the people of Israel represented God’s initiatives, which drew the individuals, families and people of Israel into a special relationship and required them to live the demands of the relationships towards God and towards themselves. The demand(s) of the relationship, on the one hand, was submission in faith and trust to God’s offer, expressed sometimes through the performance of a simple rite of circumcision (Gen 17:10-11), but often through the observance of the laws (torah) of God (Ex 19:5; Dt 7:9, etc.). On the other hand, the Israelites had to fulfil certain demands among themselves (social justice) by reason of their covenant relationship with God.

With her many sins and infringements of the demands of her covenant relationship with God, Israel acted unjustly (injuria) and set herself outside the relationship. She had no claim anymore on God as a covenant partner. If God continued to treat her as covenant partner, it was because God overlooked her infringement, “causing her to return” (Ps 80:3, 7, 19). Israel, on her part, could only confess her sins and allow God to bring her back. This was the principal theme of Hosea and the post-exilic prophets. God’s righteousness now consisted in his justification of Israel: bringing back Israel into covenant relationship despite her failures. On her part, Israel’s righteousness consisted in confessing her sins, in acknowledgment of her failures, and accepting in faith God’s gracious offer of salvation.

Righteousness (Justice) based on the New Covenant in Christ

It is on this note that John the Baptist begins his ministry; and his ministry fulfilled all righteousness in the sense that the repentance and confession of sins, which it demanded, were Israel’s (and humanity’s) acknowledgement of her inability to be faithful to the covenant demands, her undeserved experience, nonetheless, of God’s justifying pardon and favour, and the recognition that God acts only out of love and mercy. When, therefore, Jesus underwent the baptism of John, he joined humanity to confess all the above as God’s righteousness. It is in this that Jesus is said to have fulfilled all righteousness!

In Jesus and in his ministry, one sees two things:

  • The revelation of justice as God’s justifying grace that overlooks the just demands of the covenant relationship and re-instates humanity out of mercy[38] and love in a covenant relationship. For, “by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your doing; it is the gift of God” (Eph 2:8).

  • The bestowal of the Spirit of Jesus on the Church and her members, enabling them to respond to God’s justice (righteousness) in faith and to become the “justice of God in Christ” (2 Cor 5:21), “justifying”, in their turn, one another out of mercy and love[39]: overlooking their sins and injuries to their rights, socio-political relationships etc, and restoring thereby the communion of the family of God and the family of society.

This sense of justice and righteousness suggests that the call of the Instrumentum laboris to be servants of justice is first and foremost a call to a spiritual experience: the experience of God’s justification (justifying grace) in faith, and to its witness in the Church and in society, justifying others. How else can the hurts and the many injuries with which people live on the continent be repaired and communion restored?

c. Servants /Ministers (diakonoi) of Peace:

The Catechism of the Catholic Church repeats the teaching of St. Augustine that “peace is the tranquillity of order”.[40] It goes on to affirm how “respect for and development of human life require it”, and how it is “the work of justice and the effect of charity”. [41]

Peace as the work of Justice

Justice (Righteousness), as observed above, is a concept of relationship; and the righteous is he/she who fulfils the demands laid on him/her by the relationship in which he/she stands.

In the case of sinful Israel and fallen humanity (Rom 5:6ff.), whom God has justified in Christ, imputing to them righteousness, their justice (righteousness) consisted in the recognition of their need for God’s justifying grace, and their submission to it in faith; and this appears precisely to be the attitude which disposes people for God’s peace in the Gospel. For, when at the birth of Jesus the angel announced the coming of God’s peace on earth, it was to be bestowed only on those “on whom God’s favour rested” (Lk 2:14).

Peace” is bestowed, on earth, “on whom God’s favour rests” (Lk 2:14); and the sense of the phrase: “on whom God’s favour rests”, is, according to some authors, “any who will receive God’s grace and respond with faith”.[42] This understanding of the phrase, as one may recall, coincides with the sense of the “just” and “righteous” above; and it would seem then that the “just (righteous)”, as those who are disposed to accept God’s works in faith, are also those on earth, on whom God’s “peace” rests. It would seem also that it is those who experience God’s peace who are disposed to make peace on earth, fulfilling the demands of relationships they stand in.

There is here an underlining of a close relationship between peace and justice (righteousness), which Isaiah sees (Is 32:17), which the Psalmist sings about (Ps 85:10), and which Paul sees in every Christian who is set aright (justified) with God in Christ: “Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, ....” (Rom 5:1). Thus peace comes from heaven. It is God’s gift; and it is closely related with his justice/righteousness. On earth too, it is revealed as God’s gift from on high; and it is bestowed also on the just/righteous (“those on whom his favour rests”).

Peace as the effect of Charity (the Love of God in Christ)

Because “peace” was so closely related with the covenant and with the living out of its demands, when God’s people failed to keep the covenant, “peace” was also put to flight. It required God’s intervention again out of his loving mercy to bring “peace” to his people; and it was in this sense that the post exilic writings of Israel began to see “peace” brought about by the chastisement of God’s servant: “Upon him was the punishment that made our peace Is 53:5).

Jesus Christ, in his mission and ministry, fulfilled the vision of the later prophets of Israel. “God so loved the world that he gave his son..” (Jn 3:16); and having been “handed over to death for our trespasses” (Rom 4:25), the Son of God became our “peace”. Thus, if “peace” comes from God (Gal 1:3; Eph 1:2; Rev 1:4) and is of God (Phil 4:7; Col 3:15; Rom 15:33), it is Christ who is that “peace” (Eph 2:14). It is he who proclaims and establishes it (Eph.2:17); and he is the presence of God, which brings the peace the world cannot give.

The sense of the Peace of Christ

Peace does not have just a secular sense, it being the absence of conflict (Gen 34:21; Jos 9:15; 10:1,4; Lk 14:32), the presence of harmony in the home and within the family (Is 38:17; Ps 37:11; 1 Cor 7:15; Mt 10:34; Lk 12:51), individual and communal (national) security and prosperity (Judg 18:6; 2 Kg 20:19; Is 32:18). “Peace”, is not just when human beings and their societies fulfil their respective duties and recognize the rights of other persons and societies”;[43] and it is not just one of the results of working for justice.[44]Peace” essentially transcends the world and human efforts.[45] It is a gift of God (Is 45:7; Nm 6:26) bestowed on the “righteous/just”.

Generally expressed as “shalom” (Old Testament) and “eirēnē” (LXX & New Testament), “peace” of any kind is a wholeness determined by God and bestowed on “whom his favour rests”, namely, the just and righteous.

Thus, when Jesus forgave the sinner (Lk 7:50) and healed the sick (Mk 5:34), he sent them away “in peace”: “go in peace”. “Go in peace” was not a mere parting blessing. It was the bestowal of shalom. The forgiven and the cured were not restored only to wholeness in their body; they were also set at peace with God by means of their faith, and made totally wholesome before God and community.[46]

The latter is also the sense of Jesus’ greeting of “peace” to his disciples on the morning of the resurrection (Jn 20:19-21). It was the pardoning of their betrayal of Jesus as well as the restoring of friendship. Jesus did not require an admission of guilt on the part of his disciples. There was no request for pardon; and no apology was proffered. There was simply a benign glossing over of all failings. In its place are given a free pardon and a conciliatory greeting of “peace”.

The “peace” of Jesus is our peace for which he bore our chastisements (Is 53:5). It is thus a free and an unmerited restoration to wholeness and to communion with God and with men; and it is received by all who welcome it as God’s grace and respond with faith.... ie, “those on whom God’s favour rests” (the just / the righteous).

It is as such righteous bearers on earth of Christ’s peace that Paul exhorts his Christian communities to pursue peace (Rm 14:19; Eph 4:3; Heb 12:14) and to be at peace with each other (Rm 12:18; 2 Cor 13:11), just as the Instrumentum laboris now wishes the Church in Africa to do. But it is also as such righteous bearers on earth of the peace of Christ that we need to recall, as we did with “justice”, that “peace” is an activity that goes beyond strict justice and requires love.[47] It derives from communion with God and is aimed at the wellbeing of man (humanity).

Thus, in inviting the Church in Africa and on the Islands to be “ministers (servants) of reconciliation, justice and peace”, following the first synod’s invitation of the Church to live in the communion of Church-family of God, the second synod invites the Church to make an experience of those virtues which establish our communion with God, and to witness to/live the same, namely, reconciliation, justice and peace out of love and mercy, on the continent. The implications of this ministry are what the (theme of the) synod now lays out in the symbolisms of salt and light: salt of the earth and light of the world.

AND “LIGHT OF THE WORLD” (Mt 5:13, 14):

Gathering the fruits of the first Synod in Ecclesia in Africa, Pope John Paul II extolled “witness” as an essential element of missionary cooperation, and recalled to the African Church that Christ does not only challenge his disciples in Africa to witness to him, but he gives them the same mandate he gave to his apostles on the day of his Ascension: “You shall be my witnesses” (Acts 1:8) in Africa.[48]

Thus, likening the disciples of Christ in Africa to salt and light, the Holy Father says: “In the pluralistic society of our day, it is especially due to the commitment of Catholics in public life that the Church can exercise a positive influence. Whether they be professionals or teachers, businessmen or civil servants, law enforcement agents or politicians, Catholics are expected to bear witness to goodness, truth and justice and love of God in their daily life. The task of the faithful lay person is to be salt of the earth and light of the world, especially in those places where only the lay person is able to render the Church present”.[49]

Salt of the earth” and “light of the world” then were the images/metaphors under which the Pope captured his vision of the missionary activities of the Church in Africa and the Islands. This synod now invites the Church in Africa to understand her rendering of the services of reconciliation, justice and peace on the continent as being “salt of the earth” and “light of the world”.

Servants (diakonoi) of Reconciliation, Justice and Peace as “Salt of the Earth”:

The metaphor, “salt”, which Jesus uses in the Synoptic Gospels (Mt 5:13; Mk 9:50; Lk 14:34) to describe the distinctiveness of the life of his disciples, is polyvalent. It has many senses. Thus, since the “Dead Sea” is also referred to as “sea of salt” (Gen 14:3), for those who dwelt close to the “Dead Sea”, “salt” can signify “death” (cfr. Gen 19:26). God, the Lord of life, however, will heal the waters of the “sea of salt” with the water from the temple and give it life (Ezech 47). In another sense, salt has a preservative power. It seasons and preserves food (Job 6:6; Mt 5:13; Lk 14:34); and in a related sense, as in the case of Elisha’s purification of the waters of Jericho (2 Kg 2:19-22), salt also has a purifying power.

The use of salt to seal friendship and pacts in the world of the Old Testament (Ezra 4:14) seems to underlie God’s use of the imagery to express the permanence and stability of the arrangement regarding the livelihood of priests in the Old Testament: “It is a covenant of salt forever before the Lord....” (Nm 18:19). The use of salt in covenant situations may also underlie Jesus’ invitation to his disciples to “have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another” (Mk 9:50), namely, to observe the mutual loyalty of covenant relationship and to live at peace.

But, salt also symbolizes “wisdom” and “moral strength”; and it is what gives value to things. That is what happens, for example, when salt is used to fertilize the soil.

Accordingly, when Jesus refers to his disciples as “salt of the earth”, and when the synod exhorts the Church in Africa to be “servants of reconciliation, justice and peace” as “salt of the earth”, both Jesus and the synod are making use of a polyvalent symbol to express the multiple tasks and demands of being a disciple and of being Church (family of God) in Africa. And so, as in the case of the prophets, the rejection of the Church and her Gospel is also the passing of judgement and the turning of the land into “salt land” (Dt 29:23; Jer 17:6; Ps 107:34). On a continent, parts of which live under the shadow of conflict and death, the Church must sow seeds of life: life-giving initiatives. She must preserve the continent and its people from the putrefying effects of hatred, violence, injustice and ethnocentrism. The Church must purify and heal minds and hearts of corrupt and evil ways; and administer her life-giving Gospel message to keep the continent and its people alive, preserving them in the path of virtue and gospel values, such as reconciliation, justice and peace.[50] But most importantly, the “salt” symbol invites the Church-Family of God in Africa to accept to expend herself (dissolve) for the life of the continent and its people.

Servants (diakonoi) of Reconciliation, Justice and Peace, as “Light of the World”:

The reference to the disciples as “light of the world” is recourse to an imagery, whose origins lie in the Old Testament as an attribute and mission of Zion, the city on a hill. Subsequently, the Servant-Messiah will be called upon to assume this as his vocation; and in Jesus, this will be fulfilled. Jesus, then, as “light of the world”, indeed, as the “true light which enlightens everyone” (Jn 1:9) would constitute his disciples also as “light of the world”.

  • Zion, the city on a hill and Light to the Nations:

Zion was the mountain of the house of the Lord (Is 2:2); and it was the dwelling place of the Ark of the Covenant (2 Sm 6; 1 Kg 8:20-21) and the Name of the Lord (Dt 12:5). The Ark of the Covenant contained the Law of God; and the Law was “a lamp and its teaching a light” (Prov 6:23; Ps 19:8; 119:105; Baruch 4:2).

God’s Name, however, represented “God’s presence”; and the light of God’s presence referred to God’s saving power and action (Is 10:17; Ps 27; 36:9) to save Jerusalem and his people.[51]

Thus, on account of her possession of the light of knowledge of the Law and the light of God’s salvation, Jerusalem became a light to the nations and kings.[52]

  • The experience of Zion became the Vocation of the Servant-Messiah:

In the hands of Isaiah, the experience of Jerusalem: light to the nations and kings, is presented as the vocation of a servant-figure. The servant of Yahweh, who is endowed with Yahweh’s Spirit to bring justice to the nations (Is 42:1; 51:4), is also given as a covenant to the people and “light to the nations” (Is 42:6; 49:8ff.). His call to be “light to the nations” entailed his own experience of Yahweh’s salvation (Is 49:7); and it was to enable Yahweh’s salvation to reach the ends of the earth. In these servant passages, light” is knowledge of the Law and of the salvation of God; and it is a gift destined to reach all people.

  • Jesus fulfils the vocation of the Servant-Messiah:

The figure of the Servant-Messiah is fulfilled in Jesus. Mt 4:16 quotes Is 9:2 and alludes to the star at the birth of Jesus to underline the fulfilment and the continuation, in Jesus, of the revelatory and salvific symbolism of light in the Old Testament. Jesus is the “light of God’s salvation” (Jn 1:5; 3:19; 8:12; 12:46); and he is the “light of God’s Word/Law/Wisdom” (Jn 1:4; 9:5; 12:36, 46). Jesus is the “light of the world” (Lk 2:32; Jn 1:9), and he dies and rises to “proclaim light both to the people and to the gentiles” (Acts 26:23).

  • Jesus’ Disciples and Christians as Light of the World:

Thus the reference to the disciples as “light of the world” is nothing less than Jesus making his disciples his extension and representation in the world. “You are the light of the world”, then expresses the lofty vocation of the disciples of Jesus: a call to fulfil, in Christ, Israel’s vocation in the Old Testament to be witness of the light of knowledge of God’s Law (Gospel) and of his salvation in the world.

This lofty vocation of the followers of Jesus is what this Synod also proposes for the Church in Africa; and it begins with their call (baptismal), which makes them “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people of his own, so that (they) you may announce the praises of him who called (them) you out of darkness into his wonderful light” (1 Pt 2:9). Responding to the call, they yield to enlightenment by the Word of truth (Eph 1:17ff.), the light of the Gospel of salvation (2 Cor 4:4) and its call to repentance. The resultant life of discipleship makes them “light in the Lord and children of light” (Eph 5:8), “sons of the light and sons of day” (1Thess 5:5; cfr. Rom 13:12). “For God who said: Let light shine out of darkness, has shone on (their) our hearts to give the light of the glory of God in the face of Christ” (2 Cor 4:6). It leads to faith in Jesus and a sealing with the promised Holy Spirit (Eph 1:13) for the living of a blameless life; for “the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true” (Eph 5:9).

Conclusion: What Earth? What World?

In the days of Jesus, the earth and the world for which the disciples had to be “salt” and “light” were the earth and world outside the circle of the twelve, “those outside, for whom “everything comes in parables” (Mk 4:11).

At this synod, the earth and the world, for which Catholics on the continent and its islands must be “salt” and “light”, as servants of reconciliation, justice and peace are Africa of our day, as described in the Instrumentum laboris and as sketched above.[53] It is there that, Jesus Christ, after revealing himself through Scriptures as our reconciliation, justice and peace, now calls and commissions his disciples in Africa and its islands to expend themselves, like salt and light, to build the Church in Africa as a veritable family of God through the ministries of reconciliation, justice and peace, exercised in love, like their master.

[1] JOHN PAUL II, Address in the Cathedral of Christ the King (17 September 1995), Johannesburg, South Africa: “Here in Johannesburg in South Africa, in union with the whole Church in this southern part of the continent, we are meeting to promulgate the Apostolic Exhortation “Ecclesia in Africa”, which contains the proposals made by the synod fathers at the end of the working session in Rome in April and May 1994. With the Apostolic Authority, which belongs to the Successor of Peter, I present to the whole Church of God in Africa and Madagascar, the insights, reflections and resolutions of the synod…”

[2] Cfr. JOHN PAUL II, Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia in Africa, #13.

[3] Cfr. JOHN PAUL II, Address to the Participants at the 12th Meeting of the Post-Synodal Council of the General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops for the Second Special Assembly for Africa, 15th June, 2004.

[4] FIRST SPECIAL ASSEMBLY FOR AFRICA, Instrumentum laboris, 1993, #1. The same document believed: “An hour of Africa appears to have come, a favourable hour which calls on Christ’s messengers to launch out into the deep in order to haul in an abundant yield for Christ”: Instrumentum laboris, 1993 #24.

[5] Ibidem., #22-24. “Signs of the times” refers to the African context, in which the Gospel has to be proclaimed.

[6] Cfr. The heroic lives of African martyrs and saints, on the one hand, and the heroic lives and struggles for independence of Africans in post-colonial Africa, South Africa, Sudan, etc., on the other hand.

[7] Cfr. JOHN PAUL II, Address to 12th Meeting of the Post-Synodal Council of the General Secretariat (15th July, 2004).

[8] Cfr. JOHN PAUL II, Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia in Africa, #13-14, 39-42, 51; SECOND SPECIAL ASSEMBLY FOR AFRICA, Lineamenta, # 6-8.


[10] This is what the Instrumentum laboris refers to as “a continuing dynamic” and illustrates copiously in #14-20.

[11] Cfr. JOHN PAUL II, Letter to Archbishop Eterovic on the occasion of the Meeting of the Special Council for Africa of the General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops (23 February 2005).

[12] Cfr. JOHN PAUL II, Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia in Africa, # 4.

[13] Cfr. Ibidem., # 2-5. Indeed, it was SECAM, which “studied ways and means of planning a continental meeting of this kind. A consultation of the episcopal conferences and of each Bishop of Africa and Madagascar was organized, after which I was able to convoke a Special Assembly for Africa of Synod of Bishops.” (Ecclesia in Africa #5).

[14] SECOND SPECIAL ASSEMBLY FOR AFRICA, Instrumentum laboris, #21-33.

[15] Nana Akuffo-Addo, Foreign Minister of Republic of Ghana (2001-2008) AU Summit. Pres. Kikwete of Tanzania says: “ existe déjà en Afrique des diregeants forts qui sont prêts à aller de l’avant; et nous souhaitons être à leurs côtés” (Fraternité Matin, Friday, 10/07/09, pg.1)

[16] NEPAD means New Economic Partnership for African Development. NEPAD requires that there is respect for democratic governance, and no tolerance of coup d’état. There is the setup of a Peer Review Mechanism to vet the performance of governments. Admittedly, the pace of work of the African Union Parliament and the implementation of the requirements of NEPAD by member states have been criticised of late for their slowness.

[17] The Lomé Culture is the name given to a bundle of development cooperation agreements between countries of the European Economic Community (EEC) and their former colonies. It began in 1957 at the “Treaty of Rome”, which established the EEC. Lomé I – Lomé IV arranged for Aid through Trade between EEC countries and 46 ACP countries (respect for human rights, democratic principles and rule of law).. The Yaoundé Agreement was signed in 1975 between EEC and ACP countries to help with infrastructure development in Francophone countries. Cotonou Agreement was signed in 2000 between EU and 77 ACP countries to last for 20 years. Aimed at poverty reduction, sustainable development, progressive integration of ACP economies into the world economy.

[18] The Primary Objectives of NEPAD are: to eradicate poverty; to place African countries on the path to sustainable growth and development; to halt the marginalization of Africa in the globalization process; and to accelerate the empowerment of women.

[19]Cooperation means to realize a vision together with the people of Africa: the vision of an Africa that is modern and independent, where self-confident African men and women shape their own life, their own future and pursue their own path of sustainable and democratic development. Only stimuli and efforts coming from within Africa will lead to success.” (Address by Dr. Uschi Eid, Parliamentary State Secretary in the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development of Germany, at TICAD III, [Tokyo International Conference on African Development], Tokyo 2003).

[20] Barack Obama made the same point to African leaders in his address to the Parliament of Ghana during his visit to the country this past July.

[21] In 2003, when President Clinton visited Ghana, The Herald Tribune wrote: “We have been told that Clinton is coming to change the way Americans think about of Africa, from a continent of despair to a place of opportunity and hope”.

[22] Cfr. BENEDICT XVI, Encyclical Letter Caritas in veritate, Vatican 2009.

[23] JOHN PAUL II, Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Reconciliatio et Poenitentia, # 2.

[24] Cfr. JOHN PAUL II, Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia in Africa, #63

[25] Cfr. Paul’s confession: “You have heard, I know, the story of my former way of life in Judaism. You know that I went to extremes persecuting the Church of God and I tried to destroy it.... But the time came, when he who had set me apart before I was born and called me by his favour chose to reveal his son to me,.... (Gal 1:13-16).

[26] In this sense, God is like the shepherd who searches for a lost sheep. He is like the woman who searches for a lost coin; and he is like the father whose love provokes the return of his prodigal son (cfr. Lk 15). It is like Jesus who finds Zachaeus in the sycamore tree and calls him down (Lk 19:5).

[27] Cfr. Pietro Bovati, Ristabilire la Giustizia, Analecta Biblica 110, PIB Roma, 1986.

[28] Sometimes, the request for settlement elicits and entails a concrete gesture, such as the recognition of the existence of rights, whose denial or abuse had precipitated the situation of conflict or hostility (cfr. Abraham and Abimelech in Gen 21:25-34).

[29] In this sense, there are factors, which can promote reconciliation, which servants of reconciliation must espouse; and there also factors, which can impede reconciliation which servants of reconciliation must eschew:

a. Hindering Factors: Impiety and disregard for one’s relationship with God; the denial of the rights of others, deception and prejudices, hypocrisy and false peace, selective attention, silence of complicity and failures of state structures.

b. Promoting Factors: Forgiveness, brotherly love, communication, dialogue, education for peace and reconciliation.

[30] Sacramentum Mundi 3, 235.

[31] Cfr. PAUL VI, Encyclical Letter Populorum Progressio, #26.

[32] Sacramentum Mundi 3, 236.

[33] Cfr. The Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible, vol. 4, 88-85, 91-99.

[34] “Justice”, in whatever form it occurs, has the basic sense of all that is due a person by reason of his dignity and vocation to the communion of persons (cfr. Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, #3, 63).

[35] This, incidentally, is also the basis for that fundamental imperative which calls for a positive respect for the dignity and rights of others, and contribution in solidarity to the meeting of necessities (cfr. Gaudium et Spes, # 23-32, 63-72; Pope John XXIII, Encyclical Letter Mater et Magistra). The common sonship of humanity requires men to be righteous, acting in conformity with God’s will, and bound in solidarity by God’s love, as by a Father’s love.

[36] Thus Tamar was more righteous than her father-in-law, because he would not fulfil family custom (Gen 38:26), David would not kill Saul, “for he is the Lord’s anointed” (1 Sam 24:17, 6) and a “father” to him (1Sam 24:11). When a relationship changes, demands also change. One who cares for the fatherless, the widow and defends them is righteous (Job 29:12,16; Hos 2:19). One who treats servants humanely, lives at peace with neighbours, speaks well is righteous/just (Job 31:1-13; Prov 29:2; Is.35:15; Ps 52:3 etc.

Righteousness/Justice as a conduct, which devolves on members of a community, is sometimes safeguarded and enforced by judges when they settle cases at tribunals. This is the forensic sense of justice; wherefore, both God and the king play the role of judges (Dt 25:1; 1Kg 8:32; Ex 23:6ff; Ps 9:4; 50:6; 96:13). Righteous judgements restore a community to wholesomeness; and it is in this sense that righteous judgment and rule are made attributes of the Messiah-King.

[37] The “wicked” רשע)) is one who exercises force and falsehood, ignores the duties which kinship and covenant lays upon him, tramples underfoot the rights of others (The Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible, vol.4, 81).

[38] Pope John Paul II defines “mercy” as “a special power of love, which prevails over sin and infidelity of the chosen people(Dives in Misericordia, #4.3).

[39] Thus, Pope John Paul II teaches that in relationships between individuals and social groups etc., “justice is not enough”. There is need for that “deeper power, which is love” (cfr. Dives in Misericordia # 12).

[40] THE CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH, #2304. Cfr. also, Gaudium et Spes, #78.

[41] Ibidem.

[42]Throughout Luke’s Gospel, ‘peace on earth’ comes to outcasts, disciples, foreigners, any who will receive God’s grace and respond with faith” (cfr. Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels, ed. Joel B. Green et alii, InterVarsity Press 1992 pg. 605).

[43] JOHN XXIII, Encyclical Letter Pacem in Terris, #172.

[44] Gaudium et Spes #84.

[45] Although it is a task , something to work for, “peace” is a gift of God, something our earthly peace only dimly anticipates.

[46] In the case of the woman with haemorrhage (Mk 5:24-34), for example, Jesus did not only heal her religious and social uncleanness (issue of blood), he also exposed the woman’s secrecy and made a public disclosure of her faith (Mk 5:34; 2:5; 10:52) and healing. Her healing became a restoration to wholeness, to her community and to the God of her faith.

[47] Gaudium et Spes, #78.

[48] JOHN PAUL II, Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia in Africa, # 86

[49] Ibidem., #108.

[50] Cfr. SECAM, Seminar on the Synod, Abidjan Côte d’Ivoire, 2009: Carrefour Groupe # III.

[51] Thus the great restoration and vindication of Jerusalem by Yahweh was described by Isaiah in terms of the return of Yahweh’s light: Yahweh will be your everlasting light, and your God will be your glory. Your sun shall no more go down nor your moon withdraw itself; for Yahweh will be your everlasting light (Is 60:19-20).

[52] The Testament of Levi would extend Jerusalem’s light to her children, the Israelites, and exhort them saying: “Be ye lights of Israel, purer than all gentiles... What would the gentiles do if you are darkened by transgressions” (14:3).

[53] Cfr. pages 3-10 above.