Fifty years ago, African Bishops chose to come together in the spirit of collaboration and solidarity under the umbrella of the Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar (SECAM). On July 31, 1969, the Supreme Pontiff, His Holiness Pope (now St.) Paul VI officially inaugurated SECAM in Uganda. Against this backdrop, African Bishops have chosen to go back to Uganda to celebrate, reflect listen and meditate on the mission of evangelization over the past 50 years as well as to deliberate on issues affecting the continent collectively.
Delegates who include Cardinals, Archbishops, Bishops, Priests, Religious Men and Women as well as Lay faithful have travelled from all over Africa to be part of the Golden Jubilee cum 18th SECAM Plenary Assembly currently taking place in Kampala, Uganda. The week long event has also attracted delegates from the Vatican and other parts of Europe as well as the United States of America.
In his homily during the opening Eucharistic Celebrations held on Sunday July 21, Most Rev. Gabriel Charles Palmer-Buckle, Archbishop of Cape Coast, Ghana said that the Church in Africa has every reason to celebrate because she can now boast of native cardinals, archbishops, bishops, priests and Religious men and women ministering in Africa and the universal Church.
ÔÇ£From barely fifty bishops, archbishops and cardinals who were present at the inauguration of SECAM here in Kampala, today Africa has over 500 bishops and archbishops, and as many as 25 cardinals ministering to the Church on our continent and in the universal Church. From a population of about 40 million Catholics fifty years ago, we have every reason to celebrate a population of over 178 million on the continent, making about 17% of the Universal Church,ÔÇØ Archbishop Palmer-Buckle said.
According to Archbishop Palmer-Buckle, Church in Africa is the fastest growing in the world and also the most vibrant in her liturgical celebrations and her witnessing to the faith in Christ Jesus.
Another reason why Africa must celebrate is because of her fast growing population of local and indigenous Clergy, Religious and Consecrated Persons, a good number of whom are today on mission in countries in Europe, USA, Canada, Asia and Latin America, some as Fidei Donum and others as missionaries to the ÔÇ£old ChurchÔÇØ that one time sent missionaries to Africa.
ÔÇ£The Church in Africa must celebrate also because in nearly all our countries, we are contributing greatly to the integral human development of our peoples, through hundreds of hospitals and clinics, educational facilities like schools and training colleges, universities and professional formation programs where we are also involved in forming the consciences of the political and professional elite. Yes, Church-Family of God in Africa, celebrate your Jubilee!ÔÇØ Archbishop Palmer exclaimed.
The week-long event which started with opening Mass at Sacred Heart Cathedral, Lubaga, in Kampala on Sunday July 21, will be concluded on Sunday July 28 with another Eucharistic celebration at Namugongo Shrine.
The celebrations are being held under the theme ÔÇ£Church-Family of God: Celebrate your Jubilee! Proclaim Jesus Christ Your Saviour!ÔÇØ The activities of the week include prayers and reflections on the journey of faith in Christ and his mission of evangelization in the past fifty years of the life of the Church in Africa and Madagascar.
During the Plenary meeting, SECAM Members will also review their performance with regards to the mission entrusted to the Church in Africa and chart way forward to ensure that leaders of the Church in Africa take up their mission of evangelization with greater zeal and focus.