By Cardinal Philippe Ouedraogo Nakellentuba: President of SECAM
“Pray constantly: and for all things give thanks to God, because this is what God expects you to do in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:17-18)
It is SECAM Day again, July 29th 2021. Like last year (2020), we the people of Africa and the Islands (as elsewhere) are going through distressing and traumatizing experiences caused by different variants of Coronavirus (COVID-19). Ongoing wars, terrorist attacks and other violent clashes have resulted to loss of life and property in different African countries. Countless numbers of our sons and daughters have been brutally murdered and numerous others are living in dehumanizing conditions, perpetual fear and anxiety. While we bemoan the plight of our people everywhere, we also call for renewed courage and trust in our omnipotent, loving and merciful God.
We turn God in Prayer
ln line with Paul’s counsel to the Thessalonians (quoted above), let us all turn to God our Father today, 29th July 2021 and on 1st August 2021 to thank him for his sustained blessings and protection, for the gift of one another, the gift of mother Africa and the gift of our Catholic faith Let us also solemnly beseech him for the end of the Coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19), so too violence, torture, kidnapping and other crimes committed by individuals and groups in Africa and beyond.
SECAM Day a Reminder of Our Oneness
Consistent with the concept of Church as God’s Family, and following the desire of SECAM members to preserve, foster and promote communion, solidarity and episcopal collaboration among its members and the Episcopal Conferences in Africa and the Islands, SECAM Day reminds us of our ONENESS “with God and with each other in Jesus Christ, which transcends all our differences and puts them in the proper perspective.” (Kampala Document nos. 80-81, see nos 13, 83, 98, 101 etc.)
From the begriming, God envisioned and destined all humankind to be ONE single family, under ONE Father (cf Gn 1-2). It is the same ONENESS that the Holy Father Pope Francis has underscored in his third Encyclical, Fratelli Tutti (issued in October 2020) and has fervently pleaded with humankind all over the world for a renewed commitment to universal brotherhood, friendship and solidarity.
We, therefore, passionately appeal to all the peoples of Africa and the Islands to eschew anything that divides us, and imbibe everything that puts God first in our lives, and nurtures true brotherhood and sisterhood (see FT nos. 274,281) throughout the continent and the Islands Let us adopt an inclusive culture and worldview rooted in Christ, where there is neither Jew nor Greek master nor slave (cf Gal 3:27-28).
ln this regard, we remind all brother Bishops in Africa, Madagascar, the Islands and beyond that SECAM is an Episcopal Association and so our collective property. All Bishops are members of the Symposium and have shared responsibility for it. They are ambassadors of SECAM, with a leading role in its spiritual, financial and material welfare. Our collective interests in, and sacrifices for the Symposium are necessary to achieve its goals. To this end, we earnestly urge each brother Bishop to strengthen our communion and commitment to SECAM, and to ensure that Kampala Document and its exhortations are reflected in the pastoral programme of the local or particular Church.
Similarly, we sincerely appeal for a briefing session to be held on SECAM at one of the annual meetings of each Regional, Inter-territorial or National Episcopal Conference. SECAM day is important for the Church Family of God in Africa and the Islands. So, we reiterate our plea for prayers for the Symposium on Thursday, 29th July and Sunday 1st August 2021 The challenges posed by the Coronavirus pandemic notwithstanding we also urge for financial and material support for SECAM this year, 2021.
The last one year was largely grief-stricken but we also experienced joyful moments. So we thank God for his blessings and benevolence. We are also profoundly grateful to our brother Bishops, the clergy, consecrated persons and lay members of the Church Family of God in Africa and the Islands for their commitment to Evangelization in all its forms, in spite of the prevailing trials on different fronts.
We recognize and appreciate the efforts that have been made since 2020 by respective governments on the continent and the Islands to contain the vicious spread of Coronavirus (COVID-19) and we encourage the leaders to continue working hard to protect the health of our population. We also thank all the people, including priests and consecrated persons which have shown extraordinary dedication to alleviating the suffering of the sick.
We are indebted to all those within and outside Africa and the Islands who have shown solidarity with us and supported the Symposium over the past year. We are equally grateful to all those who, with dedication and diligence, keep SECAM running (Presidency, the Treasurer, the Standing Committee, Comitheol and secretarial staff).
To all our brothers and sisters in Africa, Madagascar, the islands and beyond, we say: your generosity broadens SECAM’s mission, increases its influence, and helps us to serve the Church and society better.
May the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God and Queen of Africa, and Saint Joseph Patron of the Universal Church, intercede for the Symposium.