Vatican City, 29 July 2015 (VIS) – The African Year of Reconciliation, convoked by the Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar (SECAM), opens today with a solemn celebration in Accra, Ghana. It will focus on the theme “A Reconciled Africa for Peaceful Co-existence”, and will conclude on 29 July 2016 during the SECAM 17th Plenary Assembly, to be held in Angola. The SECAM was instituted by Blessed Paul VI in 1969 during his pastoral visit to Uganda, and comprises 37 national episcopal conferences and eight regional conferences.
The initiative responds to Pope emeritus Benedict XVI's 2011 invitation to the African episcopates in his post-Synodal apostolic exhortation “Africae Munus” to “promote a continent-wide Year of Reconciliation to beg of God special forgiveness for all the evils and injuries mutually inflicted in Africa, and for the reconciliation of persons and groups who have been hurt in the Church and in the whole of society”. This would be “an extraordinary Jubilee Year during which the Church in Africa and in the neighbouring islands gives thanks with the universal Church and implores the gifts of the Holy Spirit, especially the gift of reconciliation, justice and peace”. The exhortation, signed by Benedict XVI on 19 November in Cotonou, Benin, during his apostolic trip to the country, followed the Second Extraordinary Assembly for Africa of the Synod of Bishops held in the Vatican in 2009 on the theme “The Church in Africa in the service of reconciliation, justice and peace”.
The archbishop of Accra, Charles Palmer Buckle, on behalf of the president of SECAM, Bishop Gabriel Mbilingi, C.S.Sp., of Lubango, Angola, has sent a letter to all the African episcopal conferences, inviting them to organise programmes and initiatives on reconciliation throughout the year, in collaboration with the commissions of Justice and Peace in their countries. He also encouraged the bishops of the continent to carry out a special collection on a Sunday of their choice for the second SECAM Day. The Day was instituted two years ago by the association's 16th Assembly in order to finance evangelisation projects, the promotion of justice and peace, and the Catholic media.