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Tuesday, June 27, 2006


VATICAN CITY, JUN 27, 2006 (VIS) - Holy See Press Office Director Joaquin Navarro-Valls released the following declaration at midday today:

  "I have no comments to make on news that has appeared in various organs of the press concerning ongoing contacts between a Holy See delegation and the Chinese authorities."
OP/HOLY SEE:CHINA/NAVARRO-VALLS                    VIS 20060627 (60)


VATICAN CITY, JUN 27, 2006 (VIS) - This morning, the "Lineamenta" (or draft guidelines) for the Second Special Assembly for Africa of the Synod of Bishops were presented in the Holy See Press Office. Participating in the press conference were Cardinal Francis Arinze, prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, and Archbishop Nikola Eterovic, secretary general of the Synod of Bishops.

  Cardinal Arinze began by pointing out that, in order to better understand the "Lineamenta," it would be helpful "to reflect briefly on signs of good news about Church life in Africa," to study the problems and challenges in the areas of reconciliation, justice and peace in African societies, and to consider "what the Catholic Church in Africa has done, or can do, to help."

  "There are great differences in the situation of the Church in each of the 53 countries on the African continent," he said. "Growth is a fact. Experts tell us that Africa is the continent with the highest annual percentage growth for Christianity in the world. Many more Africans get baptized each year. In some African countries seminaries and sisters' novitiates have more candidates than they can conveniently accommodate. ... Several beatification causes are being promoted, one of the latest being that of President Julius Nyerere of Tanzania."

  "But the Church in Africa is not closed in on herself. She shares the joys and hopes, problems and challenges of the wider society in Africa. The painful situation of violence and even war in Somalia, the tragedy of Darfur and the not yet totally resolved situation in the Ivory Coast, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and to some extent in the Great Lakes region, are causes of concern."

  He continued: "The challenge of building up a nation in harmony and peaceful development out of peoples from many ethnic groups put together as a country by colonial masters remains present, as in Nigeria. Moreover, poverty, disease and especially HIV/AIDS, are real threats and have wiped out large numbers or crippled them."

  The prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments also noted some positive signs: "a smooth passage from apartheid to democracy in the Republic of South Africa, the opposition party winning elections without tears in Senegal, Ghana, Malawi and Zambia, and significant steps towards greater democratization in several countries."

  "The Catholic Church," Cardinal Arinze concluded, "without any pretence at having a political or economic mission, knows that she has to contribute first by preaching the Gospel to call to a conversion of hearts, respect for the rights of other people, repentance and reconciliation, forgiveness and harmony. ... The dioceses in Africa take practical steps to show Christian solidarity to the poor and the needy. Most bishops' conferences have justice and peace commissions. ... Refugees and displaced persons, find the Church as one of the few institutions that care for them and that can put a smile on their faces."

  For his part, Archbishop Eterovic affirmed that for this Second African Synod (the first was held in 1994) Benedict XVI, "accepting the advice of the African episcopate," has approved the theme: "The Church in Africa in Service to Reconciliation, Justice and Peace. 'You are the salt of the earth. ... You are the Light of the World'."

  Going on to refer to the "Lineamenta," the secretary general of the Synod of Bishops explained that the document is made up of an introduction and five chapters.

  The first chapter, entitled "Africa at the Dawn of the 21st Century," gives a brief description of the social, economic, political, cultural and religious situation of the continent, and examines the role of religions, especially the question of relations between Christianity and Islam.

  "Jesus Christ, the Word and Bread of Life, our Reconciler, our Justice and our Peace," is the title of the second chapter which highlights how, in the face of today's serious problems, "Jesus Christ also presents Himself as the Savior of African men and women."

  Chapter three: "The Church, Sacrament of Reconciliation, Justice and Peace in Africa," explains how in a continent ravaged by wars "the Church is called to play a prophetic role of reconciliation."

  "The Witness of a Church Reflecting the Light of Christ on the World," is the title of chapter four of the document, which focuses on the urgent need to educate lay Catholics who, "guided by Christian principles of service, and concerning themselves with the promotion of the common good," may "change the political and social situation in various countries."

  The fifth chapter, "Spiritual Resources for the Promotion of Reconciliation, Justice and Peace in Africa," calls on all members of the Church to announce the Gospel, "both with words and with the example of their lives. The source of this spirituality is to be found in liturgical life, especially in the celebration of Mass, adoration of the Eucharist and other forms of prayer of the Church."

  Archbishop Eterovic then pointed out that the document containing the "Lineamenta" ends with a questionnaire containing 32 queries and aiming "to facilitate reflection and debate," and lead to "concrete proposals which will then be examined during the synodal assembly." The two synods of the Eastern Catholic Churches (the Patriarchate of Alexandria of the Copts, Egypt, and the Council of the Ethiopian Church) as well as the 32 episcopal conferences of the African continent must send in their replies no later than November 2008.

  On this basis, the Secretariat General of the Synod of Bishops, with the help of the Special Council for Africa, will then prepare the "Instrumentum laboris" or working document for the Second Special Assembly for Africa of the Synod of Bishops. "The Holy Father," the archbishop concluded, "will then officially announce the date of its celebration."

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