The President of the Pan African Episcopal Committee for Social Communications (CEPACS) and the Catholic Bishop of Oyo Diocese, Most Rev. (Dr.) Emmanuel Adetoyese Badejo has unveiled thirteen new growth strategies to foster sustainable growth in the communications apostolate across Africa at the just-concluded Assembly in commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the Continental Committee held at Lumen Christi Televiosn Network, Lekki, Lagos, Nigeria. Presenting his paper entitled “CEPACS at 50: History, Goals, Programmes, Challenges and Opportunities in the Light of the Synod,” Bishop Badejo said the celebration of the golden jubilee of CEPACS opens fresh windows to confront the challenges of the high ranking committee coordinating social communications in the African continent and enhance its performance in communicating the Church’s mission. He listed them as follows:
• Redefining the role of CEPACS as a continental Committee and defining its relationship with the regional and national episcopal conferences for the future.
• Reviving the Regional Communication structures and rekindling the interest and commitment of the bishops of the various conferences in Africa.
• Taking stock and proposing strategies and policies for promoting a more synodal Church in Africa, that is, a more listening, responsive family.
• Aligning the work of CEPACS with the key themes of the Synod on Synodality. Namely: Communion, Participation and Mission.
• Disseminating and Translating Church teachings on communication into pastoral practice, for building a more participative Church and co-opting the African world view and values in this task. One can only rue how much a better-organised CEPACS could have enriched the Church through the teaching of Pope Francis in the past few World Communication Day messages.
• Reconnecting the academic institutions of communication with the work of CEPACS and providing opportunity and resources for the formation and networking of pastoral agents (even digital missionaries) in Communication.
• Empowering available human and material resources of the Church in traditional and digital communication for a synodal outreach to others and thereby promoting the Church universally and as Family of God in Africa.
• Establishing and sustaining a database on the situation of Catholic and secular media in Africa.
• Organising periodic seminar/ workshops on Management and Pastoral communication for African Bishops who go for Ad Limina visits to the Vatican or those who participate in the quinquiennal orientation for young Bishops. His paper outlined them further;
• Building a new alliance with the young people to evangelise contemporary digital media space for creating communion and community. Refer to the Synodal assembly’s call for the formation of “digital missionaries.” (A Synodal Church in Mission: Synthesis Report, 14e). Recall the pastoral reflection of the Dicastery for Social Communication: “Towards Full Presence” a guideline for engagement with the digital space. These can surely boost the building of a more just and fraternal world.
• Managing alliances and partnerships that can enhance the communication project of the Church in Africa like the APO, ACI Africa, Radio Vatican, Lumen Christi Satellite Television Nigeria, EWTN, etc. Each of these dispose of formation programmes and opportunities that can boost the voice and profile of the Church in Africa.
• Championing the ethical discourse in traditional, modern, and contemporary Communication, especially in new media initiatives like artificial intelligence in relevant circles.
• Redesigning the strategies and procedures of attaining the objectives of CEPACS.
CEPACS is the French acronym for: Comité Episcopal Panafricain Pour les Communications Sociales or, in English – Pan-African Episcopal Committee for Social Communications. It was established by the Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar (SECAM) to help the bishops implement the Pastoral Instruction Communio et Progressio (“Unity Advancement,” ordered by the Second Vatican Council) which declared that communication is a gift from God and an authentic tool for evangelisation and confirmed the importance of managing it. According to Bishop Badejo, CEPACS is an outcome of the bishops’ meeting that took place at Ibadan, Nigeria from November 28 – December 2, 1973.
That meeting was inspired by the Pontifical Council for Social Communications (now known as the Dicastery for Communication), and it produced far-reaching conclusions and recommendations. The President of CEPACS said the Pan-African Episcopal Committee for Social Communications has a membership of eight bishops, representing the 8 regions under which the Church in Africa is configured. (The initial proposal of SECAM being “five or six bishops”). “It has one sub-committee; the Screening Sub-Committee for Media Projects. CEPACS functions mainly through the assistance of media experts and regional coordinators, who are also to manage regional media secretariats, set up to serve the bishops of their respective regions.
The bishops’ committee is to meet at least once a year.” The present President, Most Rev. Badejo, was appointed in 2016, after a 12 -year lull in the activities of CEPACS during which the Archbishop of Accra, Charles Palmer Buckle, who was then a member of the Standing Committee of SECAM, helped to set up CANAA as a news agency for Africa. CANAA eventually yielded ground for ACI, a better funded news agency working for the Church in Africa and set up by the EWTN. Due to lack of funds and an executive secretary, Bishop Badejo, supported by the Nigerian Bishops’ Conference, nevertheless tried to revive the functions of CEPACS, supporting professional communication groups like Signis Africa (composed of the defunct UNDA and OCIC which merged in the year 2000) and UCAP (which still subsists in Nigeria) and representing SECAM at meetings and international events.
He was appointed member of the Dicastery for Communications in December, 2021. A landmark achievement in this period is the agreement which the CEPACS President signed on behalf of SECAM with APO, a leading Pan African communications consultancy and press release distribution service. It is an organisation which assists private and public entities in projecting their reputation and increasing their media reach across the world. APO has since provided training for media professionals from Africa and given massive publicity to news from all over Africa. The prelate said the mandate received from SECAM required CEPACS to engage in all matters concerning the Catholic Church’s activities in the realm of media in Africa and Madagascar – press, radio, television, video, traditional, group media, new forms of media, etc. as well as in training, advocacy and support of associations of media professionals.
The vision of the bishops, at that time, is still incredibly relevant today. “To fulfil its mandate, CEPACS was to work through the regional offices of communication, to animate, encourage, and co-ordinate Church media activities at all levels – national, regional and continental. CEPACS would also promote the Christian dimension in the use of all media in society and in evangelisation, which includes the promotion of the whole person. It should try to establish good relationship with media professionals, and organisations within and outside of Africa, Christian and secular ones,” he stated.