Missionaries of Africa
Seán O'Leary M.Afr.
Echos from African Synod,
Date: 21 Oct 2009
Subject: Synod Report No.5
We have entered the home stretch and there are two dynamics at play. The
first is what is called 'The Message'. This is the document that the
Synod Fathers take home with them, to show that they were doing
something in Rome for the last 3 weeks. The second dynamic is the
finalizing of 'Propositions' that will form the bases for 'The Apostolic
Exhortation' that will only come out in about a year and a half.
Let us begin with 'The Message'. A draft was written and presented by
Archbishop Onaiyekan from Nigeria, a few other Bishops and some of the
experts present. It has 42 paragraphs and is in general good. However,
out of the blue, like it fell from the sky, never mentioned in the Synod
to date, came the issue of 'the condom' only here in the Vatican it is
called 'a prophylactic'. It came in the context of HIV/AIDS prevention
and obviously was saying that was not the way to go. There were 17
interventions in Assembly (no group work) on 'The Message' and I was
amazed that a Bishop, obviously with no ecclesial ambitions, stood up
and said that if this is not removed the whole document will be hijacked
by the press around the 'condom', know in the Vatican as 'a
prophylactic'; a sentiment supported by many. Much of the good of 'The
Message' risks to be lost; which is a real pity.
The 'Curia' had strong reactions! The ex Secretary of State Cardinal
Sodano argued the text was far too long and too comprehensive taking
away as it does from the final 'Apostolic Exhortation', to which the
African Bishops replied it was not long enough and they wanted something
substantial to go home with. A second 'Curia' Bishops said the language
was too much like that of a politician and far too blunt, to which again
the African Bishops replied it was not blunt enough.
An example would be: 'A change is called for with regard to the burden
of debt against poor nations, which literally kills children.
Multinationals have to stop their criminal devastation of the
environment in their greedy exploitation of natural resources. It is a
shortsighted policy to foment wars in order to make fast gains from
chaos, at the cost of human lives and blood. Is there no one out there
able and willing to stop all these crimes against humanity?' That as you
can well imagine is music to my ears. 'The Message' ends with: 'Africa,
rise up, take up your pallet, and walk.
The final text of 'The Message' will be given to us on Friday October
23rd. Will 'the condom', 'prophylactic' in the Vatican survive remains
to be see. Watch this space!
There were in all 272 'proposotions' made by 12 groups, and over 3 days
and nights these were reduced by the Srecretariate to 54 and presented
in book form to us. Again in general they were good. There are for
example 'propositions' one after the other on the laity,family,priests,
seminarians, permanent deacons, consecrated life and catechists. At
first I thought they had left the women out, by no, low and behold there
they were tucked in after 'the proposition' on drugs and before care for
prisoners and the death penalty. They fall within the issues to be
addressed by the Synod Fathers and I mean 'fathers' not 'mothers'. The
'Sisters and women' present protested so much I thought they were going
to burn their veils.
I was a little sad to see my wonderful intervention on an 'African Peace
Council' was lost in the final propositions. But who do you think came
to my rescue. The Archbishop from the Philippians was so upset that the
Blessed Virgin Mary had been axed in the propositions that he intended
submitting a new proposition at this late hour. So says I to myself, if
'Our Lady' can be resurrected why can an 'African Peace Council' not be
resurected! But I had another problem; only full Synod Fathers could
make amendments or new propostions, Auditors like me could not. They had
to be hand written signed and voted for by the group. During all the
group work I was sitting beside the Archbishop of Lusaka, Teresfore
Mpundu and he kindly signed my proposition and present it to the group
as his own. Now Our Lady and the African Peace Council are back in and
neck and neck for acceptance by the assembly or the hatchet. All
propositions have to be voted on in assembly one by one. Saturday
morning the October 23rd we will know the outcome.
Finally, my new friend, the Pope, has invited us for another mighty
lunch on Saturday. The end is indeed near.
With best wishes,