Bishops, priests, religious and lay faithful have been called upon to identify with and support the Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar (SECAM), in its bid to preserve, foster and promote communion, joint action and collaboration among all the Episcopal Conferences of the entire Africa and Madagascar. The charge was given by Fridolin Cardinal Ambongo, Archbishop of Kinshasa and President, SECAM in his message for the symposium for 2023 SECAM Day, with the theme, “SECAM, a practical experience of Synodality”, held recently . Cardinal Ambongo said in supporting SECAM, the Church is made relevant at the continental level, and indeed at the Diocesan and Conference levels, because the issues affecting the continent have an enormous impact at the local level.
On collegiality and communion in the Church, Cardinal Ambongo said that these should first exist and operate at local levels, which includes the continental level, for it to be meaningful at the universal level, adding that a meaningful universal communion is better mediated through a continental body like SECAM. According to him, “The African continental level provides a stage to experience communion, distil our thoughts and identify the main concerns and issues, whether pastoral, formative, political, or social. As individuals, we will be lost and rendered irrelevant at the universal level of the Church. We cannot express at the universal level of the Church our being African Catholics without SECAM. “If we do not own SECAM and use it to expose and express the African identity of the Church, we are making the universal Church deficient because its fullness lies in all nations and tribes being at home in this Church.
The Church is called to address issues at the continental level, which no individual bishop or conference can do alone. Bishops can make their contribution to the reshaping of the continent when they are in communion through SECAM.” He said the ongoing synodal journey in the Universal Church motivates members to rediscover communion and fellowship which is the treasure behind the formation of SECAM. He said: “The bonds of communion, family-hood, teamwork, community sharing, and togetherness, which has characterised SECAM since its foundation, led to the choice of the image of the Church as the family of God. In fact, “the Fathers of the Special Assembly for Africa of the Synod of Bishops recommended the image of the Church as the family of God, because this image emphasises care for others, solidarity, warmth in human relationships, acceptance, dialogue and trust” (Ecclesia in Africa, 64). “
The 19th Plenary Assembly of SECAM and the ongoing synodal process are an invitation to renew our love and commitment to this continental institution of ours. Let us, then, all move together; bishops, priests, religious men and women and laypersons, and make our SECAM great and strong, known, loved and supported in its mission to proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ to all Africans and the people of its Islands.” SECAM was founded by African Bishops on July 29,1969 and formally launched by Saint Pope Paul VI on July 31, 1969 at the Rubaga Cathedral, Kampala, Uganda. July 29 of every year is commemorated as SECAM Day, an occasion to talk about the Symposium, to enable Catholics throughout the continent and the islands to be better informed about the existence and mission of SECAM.