“Africa was very active at the Council”

The Cross Africa : Tuesday, October 11 will mark the 60th anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council. How has it changed the way the Church works? What are the great contributions of the Council?

Sister Anne Beatrice Faye : The Second Vatican Council was at the origin of a decisive turning point for the Church in the world, attentive « to the signs of the times ». This expression used by Pope Saint John XXIII underlined the many changes that had taken place in human life. The Church therefore had to take this into account in her evangelizing mission.

Let us remember, in particular, the pastoral constitution Gaudium and speswho has developed a careful analysis of the complexity of the contemporary world, seeking appropriate ways to bring the Gospel message to people today.

Reforms have been undertaken by the Church to date to better respond to this mission. I would even say that it is the start of a new understanding of the Church that is both universal and plural, taking into account the diversity of local Churches. She entered into dialogue with the other Christian Churches as well as the other religions of the world and all men » of good will « . With Vatican II, the Church became aware of the need to be at the service of the whole human community to promote a world of justice and peace.

Moreover, in the Church, it was from Vatican II that a more in-depth theological reflection developed on the subject of the vocation and the dignity of women, but also of their role in the Church.

Africans participated in the Council, which was held just after independence. What were their contributions?

Sister Anne Beatrice Faye: When the Second Vatican Council was announced, many African countries were living their first years of independence and their Churches were still for the most part led by missionary bishops who had founded them. Of the 260 bishops in Africa, only about sixty were natives of the continent. If we think that the first African bishop was appointed in 1935, we see that the road traveled is beautiful.

Some think that, lost in the anonymity of an assembly bringing together more than two thousand participants from all over the globe, the bishops of Africa have said or done nothing that deserves to be remembered. Their interventions would have been limited to “Lapidary comments and reactions” or specific questions. In my opinion, this is a big mistake because Africa was very active in the Council, not only through the bishops, but also through the laity, in particular the African Culture Society (SAC) with Alioune Diop.

It is worth mentioning some great figures of the African episcopate, such as Joseph Albert Malula from the former Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of the Congo), Jean Zoa from Cameroon, Bernardin Gantin from Dahomey (now Benin), Bernard Yago from Côte d’Ivoire, Paul Zoungrana from Upper Volta (Burkina Faso) Hyacinthe Thiandoum from Senegal and Denis Hurley from South Africa. All have contributed to giving birth to a profoundly African and evangelical Christianity at the service of the salvation of all mankind.

Cardinal Malula also considered the advent of African independence and the holding of the Council as a kairos. For him, these two events represented a new beginning in the history of Africa and of the Church.

This Council is misunderstood by a large number of African Christians. What initiatives are being taken to remedy this?

Sister Anne Beatrice Faye: It is true that outside academic circles, this ecumenical council is little known by a large number of African Christians. I think we should take the opportunity of the synodal process launched by the Church since October 2021 to recall its importance. Because, we can never say it enough, Pope Francis has given his vision of a « Synodal Church »based on a “listening dynamics”. He clearly imprints a direction taken from the Second Vatican Council, that of a Church where deliberation prevails at all levels – parochial, diocesan, continental and universal. Synodality, as a historical event, is a new dynamic with an important extension and ecclesiological significance. Dear Africans, let us not miss the appointment with the Synodal Church.

Many initiatives have been taken since its launch. The result of the exchanges around the proposed questionnaire resulted in parish, diocesan and national summaries. This synodal Church also invites us to rediscover the fundamental place of the particular Churches, fruit of a salutary decentralization, the importance of pluralism and of the diversity of charisms in the Church. For this, four attitudes are necessary: ​​to assume, to purify (synodal conversion), to strengthen and to elevate the wealth of our people today.

If I am allowed to dream, I dream of a Church where the Holy Spirit can act and bring about novelty, ready to accompany the changes in our societies, rid of a certain number of heavinesses in its functioning, advancing resolutely towards unity, where speech is free, always attentive to the little ones and the marginalized. A prayerful Church trusting in its Creator and in its Saviour.


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