The official Correspondent of RECOWACERAO NEWS AGENCY, RECONA based in Lagos, the commercial capital of Nigeria has delved into what the Church in Africa Can Learn from Eastern Churches on Living Synodlity. The Church in Africa can tap from the experience of Eastern Churches on the continent on living the Synod on Synodlity, participants at a virtual conversation have said.

In his presentation at the weekly online conversation that seeks to deepen the understanding of the Synthesis Report of the Synod on Synodality ahead of the 2-29 October 2024 session in Rome, Nigerian-born Theologian, Fr. Oseni Ogunu said the Eastern Churches have contributed to the “rediscovery of the very notion of synodality.”

“The present awareness that we have today is in great part thanks to their practice and living of synodality over the centuries. We in the Latin Church are gradually rediscovering and appreciating this aspect of being church,” Fr. Ogunu said during the June 28 virtual conversation that the Pan-African Catholic Theology and Pastoral Network (PACTPAN) organized in collaboration with the Conference of Major Superiors of Africa and Madagascar (COMSAM).

The Eastern Catholic Churches or Oriental Catholic Churches, also known as the Eastern-Rite Catholic Churches, Eastern Rite Catholicism, or simply the Eastern Churches, are 23 Eastern Christian autonomous particular churches of the Catholic Church, in full communion with the Pope in Rome.

Fr. Ogunu pointed out that the Eastern Churches have over the centuries learned that “synodality is based on the ecclesiology of communion.”

“It is through contact, for example, with the Orthodox Church that the Catholics have become more aware of the synodality based on communion and rooted in the sacramental understanding of the church,” the Nigerian-born member of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate (OMI) said.

The broad conception of synodality is another aspect the Church in Africa can tap from the Eastern Churches.

“Synodality is not just a meeting of the Bishops. In the Orthodox Church, for example, synodality is limited, not to the Bishop, but the active participation of all the faithful in the life and the mission of the church,” Fr. Ogunu explained.

He continued, “We are beginning to learn more and more as we undertake this journey of synodality, and when we speak of the involvement of the laity, the involvement of Priests, the involvement of the young and old, the involvement of women and all of that it may seem new to us but it is being lived in many of the Eastern churches.”

Another thing we learn from the Eastern churches, Fr. Ogunu said is that the Catholic theologians “have become more and more aware of the close interdependence between synodality and primacy at all levels of the ecclesial life.”

“The primacy not only of the Pope and other members of the curia but also at the level of the local church, with the relationship between the Bishop and the members of the Diocese and the head of the Episcopal Conference about the other members of the community of the church,” the Nigerian Catholic Priest said.

Fr. Ogunu added, “This growing theological awareness is something we are gradually learning from the eastern churches. For example, there is the Permanent Episcopal Synod that exists in Eastern Churches.”

“Apart from the regular periodic synod to address an issue, there is a permanent Episcopal Synod which is lived and the involvement of the lay people at the different levels of the church,” he said.

For example, Fr. Ogunu continued, “The election even of the Patriarch involves the laity in some Eastern churches.”

Participants at the June 28 virtual conversation explored the topic, “Some aspects of the relationship between the Eastern Catholic Churches, Pentecosals and African Independent Churches and the Roman Catholic Church in Africa”.

Also speaking during the event, Sr. Josée Ngalula underscored the need to “integrate into theological studies on the African continent, that is, in seminaries and theology faculties, the study of the Eastern Churches in Africa.”

“The study of the Eastern Churches in Africa that is the Coptic Church, the Ethiopian Church. These churches have withstood the great challenges of history, they have withstood the force of Islam,” the Congolese member of the sisters of St. Andrew said.

She said the Church in Africa needs to tap from the “resilience of the Eastern Churches.”

Rev. Fr. George Nwachukwu