The Synodal Continental Assembly for Africa opened this morning in Addis Ababa (Ethiopia) with the Holy Mass presided by Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich, Archbishop of Luxembourg and Relator General of the XVI General Ordinary Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, who reminded that “Synod is not about power.

It is not about democracy. It is about the Holy Spirit. It is about a Church which is open to the world. Its mission is to all humanity. It is a Church which knows how to pray. It is a Church in line with the Holy Spirit” (more on his homily here).

The four-day event under the theme: “For a Synodal Church: Communion, Participation and Mission” has gathered 206 participants from across the continent all determined to deliver a document that will represent the true voice of Africa. Among them are nine cardinals, 29 bishops, and 41 priests. The rest are consecrated people and lay people including women, men, and the youth, and representatives of the other faith.

The meeting is being presided by Cardinal Fridolin Ambongo, the newly elected President of the Symposium of the Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar (SECAM), and attended also by Cardinal Mario Grech, Secretary General of the Synod.

The morning session started with a welcoming address by the SECAM Secretary General, Fr. Rafael Simbine Junior, who urged participants to share the African experience of the Synod on Synodality (more on his address here).

For his part Bishop Lúcio Muandula, SECAM’s first Vice President introducing works through a time of prayer has invited participants “to listen to each other about what the Holy Spirit is commanding the Church Family of God in Africa in order to start a new era of evangelization” (more on his address here).

Work proceeded with the presentation of the «spiritual conversation” method by Fr Giacomo a Consultor of the General Secretariat of the Synod (more on his address here).

The opening ceremony which was scheduled for the morning hours had to be rescheduled to the afternoon hours due to a road blockade that drastically slowed traffic flow in the city of Addis Ababa curtailing delegates’ movement to the venue- as the country celebrated the Adwa Victory Day.

In his greetings to the plenary President of the Ethiopian Bishops’ Conference Cardinal Berhaneyesus Demerew Souraphiel make a call “to listen deeply to the voice of the Holy Spirit and to listen to each other to be instruments of peace”.

The Apostolic Nuncio to Ethiopia Bishop Antoine Camilleri reminded that “Walking together, which is part of continuity, does not exclude discontinuity, especially for a Church which concerned by paying particular attention to everyone, even beyond the divisions that our societies live and in which we learn to listen to each other. This is why synodality means solidarity, mutual support, attention to others… Therefore, it is not a new structure of the Church: it is a matter of doing things which have always been done, but in a renewed way inspired by the Gospel” (more on his address here)

Cardinal Fridolin Cardinal Ambongo, SECAM President, expressed gratitude to the Holy Father for this pastoral initiative to call the whole Catholic Church to rediscover the precious value of synodality. “This synodal process, under the sign of communion, participation and mission, constitutes a time of grace and a great moment of ecclesial communion for the Church”, he said, and proceeded “this synodal process confirms the Church’s way of doing things in Africa. Indeed, rooted in African anthropological principles, especially palaver, Ubuntu and Ujamaa, which emphasize community spirit, a sense of family, teamwork, solidarity and conviviality, the Catholic Church in Africa has grown as a Family of God”.

The meeting was also attended by Dr. Monique Nsanzabaganwa, Deputy Chair African Union who represented the Secretary General of the African Union, Dr. Moussa Faki Mahamat. She said that “Synodality is an essential principle of the Catholic Church and its relevance extends beyond religious institutions. Synodality emphasizes the importance of inclusivity and dialogue in decision-making processes. It also has the potential to contribute to addressing the various challenges of the African continent” (more on his address here).

In his greetings, Cardinal Mario Grech, told the participants that “the Church in Africa, Madagascar and the Islands possesses significant resources to contribute to the Universal Church engaged in this process of synodality. An African theology of synodality – he noted – could be a lasting contribution to the development of a synodal church in the Third Millennium”. And he pointed out “when I refer to your distinctive African theology, I’m referring not only to the valid contribution that academics can offer but also to the theology elaborated by the entire people of God considering that the holy people of God are the subject of the theological and pastoral discernment – the holy people of God is the protagonist of this Synodal process. If we need to make theology we must listen to the people of God, even to the people of God in the African continent” (more on his address here).

In tomorrow’s working session, participants will deepen the practice of the spiritual conversation method. A new release will be issued at the end of the day.