The Church in Africa hopes to see a synodal process that does not allow the Universal Church to “modify divine laws and precepts to create room for all”, members of the Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar (SECAM) have said ahead of the second session of the Synod on Synodality scheduled to take place in October this year.

In a presentation made at the four-day joint seminar involving the representatives of SECAM and the Council of European Bishops’ Conferences (CCEE), Catholic Bishops in Africa underscored the need for the Church to follow Jesus Christ “not on their terms but on the Lord’s terms and standards.”

“The Church in Africa expects that the synodal process will help the Universal Church to not modify divine laws and precepts to create room for all,” the bishops said in a presentation that Fr. Rafael Simbine, SECAM Secretary General made on behalf of the bishops’ first Vice President, Bishop Lucio Andrice Muandula.

He added, “Our Lord and Master Jesus Christ extends his invitation for discipleship to all. However, all who respond to become his disciples are to follow him not on their terms but on the Lord’s terms and standards. The Jesus call to discipleship involves the challenge to ongoing conversion of turning away from a sinful life to embrace a life of holiness.

The bishops who attended the four-day seminar that was held at the Mariapolis Retreat Centre in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi highlighted other expectations from the Synod on Synodality, including a process that fosters a sense of belonging, one that doesn’t flee from the continent’s realities, and one that recognizes the youth as well as women’s gifts and talents in the Church. The bishops expressed optimism that the synod comes to give every baptized Catholic a sense of belonging to the Church.

They said every member of the Church in Africa can have this sense of belonging by participating in the Church’s mission and life.

At the seminar that ran from January 23-26, the Bishops in Africa also expressed optimism that the Synodal process will not provide any opportunity for the Church on the continent to flee from its people’s “lived realities”.

The bishops want the Synodal Church to “feel the pain and suffering” of the people of God in Africa, saying, “The wounds of Africans are also the wounds of the Synodal Family of God.”

“May the Church in Africa walk with those who are affected by war, ethnic strife, religious intolerance, terrorism, and all forms of conflict, tension, and violence,” the bishops said.

During the joint seminar of the representatives of SECAM and the Council of European Bishops’ Conferences (CCEE), the Bishops in Africa implored, “May the Synodal Church in Africa journey with our sisters and brothers in distress.”

The bishops also expressed their hope that the synodal process would remind the Church in Africa of the importance of including young people in Church activities, failure to which the future of the Church is at risk, they said.

“The future of the church lies in the hands of the youth and for effective participation of the youth in the church, their programs and activities must be made priorities,” SECAM members said.

The bishops said that the primary way to make the youth part of the Church is by “attentively listening” to their contributions. They added that the Church in Africa is vibrant because of the “energy, passion, and creativity of the youth.”

The bishops also foresee a synodal journey that recognizes the gifts, talents, charisms, and contributions of women, saying, “Women hold the Church together; they are the majority. They are the backbone of the Church. Women are a gift to the Church.”

They explain that the synodal process should play a vital role in interculturality as “it helps us walk together with others, appreciating cultural differences and understanding these particularities as elements that help us to grow.” They further hope that the synodal process will introduce a culture of listening in liturgical celebrations of the Church in Africa.

“The Church in Africa hopes that the ongoing synodal process will help to put the people at the forefront, to strengthen their active participation, and to make them more actors than spectators,” they say, expressing regret that the current liturgical celebrations in the African Church sometimes leave Africans themselves unfulfilled.

“A synodal Church should take into consideration the nature of Africans to have a more participatory liturgy, in line with authentic liturgical theology and doctrine,” the bishops say.