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- SECOND SPECIAL ASSEMBLY OF BISHOPS - LINEAMENTA
SYNOD OF BISHOPS
SECOND SPECIAL ASSEMBLY OF AFRICAN BISHOPS
The Church in Africa in Service to Reconciliation, Justice and
THE CHURCH, SACRAMENT OF RECONCILIATION, JUSTICE AND PEACE IN
This is the introduction to the long section (nos. 37 –
81) about the work the Church is supposed to do ‘first,
as a sacrament of Reconciliation, Justice and Peace in Africa
as rooted in the Risen Christ.
3.1 - No. 37: “Having
been envisioned as a Church-Family, the Church in Africa aims
at reminding everyone that they are brothers and sisters (Mt
23:28), and that they all have the duty to seek in all things
what contributes to building fellowship, peace (Rm 14:19) and
justice. In God’s plan, the Church is not a means which
can be used for any ideology whatsoever. On the contrary, in
the mystery of the communication of God’s love to humanity,
she is the sign and instrument of the communion of the human
family with God himself, communion among men and communion with
the whole of creation. She bears in her bosom the Word and the
Bread of Life and of Love”.
3.2 -Reconciliation issue is very
clearly and simple, the Victim is Jesus himself. Restored
to life in a transfigured humanity, He now begins by healing
and forgiving his disciples, commissioning them in turn to carry
forth his message and mission to the whole world. When Christ
reconciled the world to God, he himself certainly did not need
reconciliation because He was sinless.
The story of the disciples of Emmaus, which speaks about the
process of reconciliation between Jesus, who appears as a stranger
retelling the story of Jesus, and the two disciples, who have
left the community without hope of seeing Jesus again, ends
with Jesus being recognised in the breaking of the Bread and
the reconciliation was fully achieved. All this speaks clearly
and surely of the way Jesus, the Word and the Bread of Life,
helps in the reconciliation process.
If we take into consideration the phenomenon of colonialism
in Africa, we can easily outline two aspects of that atypical
a) Christians conquered foreign lands without a plausible reason.
b) Between Africans and Christian Europeans, relationship was
never easy and cordial and very often difficult.
To get Freedom and Independence it was necessary, for the Africans,
to wage a war. At the moment of reconciliation Victims and the
Reconcilers had to struggle, sometimes, to reach peace. Can
we speak of Christian reconciliation?
Reconciliation is the work of God, and not just a human achievement.
So a full Christian Reconciliation, in the frame of colonialism,
can only be achieved by referring to Christ’s Death and
Resurrection. That way is not easy because “God initiates
the work of reconciliation in the lives of the victims”.
3.3 – The second point to
be tackled is Justice, which is usually defined ‘unicuique
suum’. Give everybody what is his or hers.
Jesus has given us in the Gospel several examples of “being
just” towards the Father and the civil Society. In Luke
20: 21-26 Jesus who was asked to pay the ‘didrachma’
for himself and Peter. Luke and other Evangelists refer the
question of the ‘tribute’ to be paid to Caesar.
Jesus indicates the heavenly Father as reference of our perfection
As we have seen, the text on ‘salt and light’ ends
by saying: “Your light must shine before others, that
they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father”.
Justice has to be practiced in private and public relationship,
by respecting first and foremost the human person. Then come
all other duties, respecting reciprocity in social relations
and true laws for the betterment of community, of nature and
Sometimes we stress, almost uncritically, the topic of corruption
at social and governmental level, but that does not absorb the
full meaning and the concern of justice. In our experience we
see, unfortunately, that justice is not an easy and common virtue.
3.4 – The definition of
Peace is well known: “Opus iustitiae pax”: Peace
is the fruit of justice; or the other: development is the new
name for peace… (Paul VI).
The Risen Lord, on the evening of that same day, greeted the
disciples by saying: Peace be with you. It is the first fruit
of Resurrection as a clear message of Reconciliation with God.
St. Gregory of Nyssa comments:” He is our peace, who has
made both one. Since Christ is our peace we shall be living
up to the name of Christian if we let Christ be seen in our
lives by letting peace reign in our hearts.
Pope Benedict has given as theme for the next year ‘day
of peace: “The human person: the heart of peace”.
Peace is the apex of life on earth, but we cannot reach it unless
we work hard for Reconciliation and Justice. Our history is
full of wars and negotiations to build up peace. Are we going
to reach, here on earth, that goal?
In no.39 of ‘Lineamenta’ we read: “From a
tradition marked by sacredness of life, fellowship and a sense
of the Word comes the characterisation of the Church as Family
If we use the rich and meaningful title ‘Family of God’
as synonym or image of ‘Church’, we have to take
into consideration that the traditional African family is changing,
fading away, under imported cultural values and the many local
problems of different nature, socio-economical as well as religious.
So, I think, we cannot refer, sic et simpliciter, to that definition
of the Church.
In no. 40 it is said more precisely:” The mission of a
Church which wishes to be the Family of God in Africa can only
be understood as flowing from this communication of life and
the unity-fellowship which comes from the peace given to us
by the Blood Christ poured out for u. We can say, then, that
if we truly enter into this mystery of the Church-Family of
God, and if Africa is afflicted by poverty, corruption, injustice
and violence (cfr. nos.11-23), the Church is to be a community
which heals, reconciles, forgives and encourages”.
So we better speak of vision, rather than a reality.
3.5 – Here there are two
descriptions of the Church: one negative and the other positive.
A) Negative: In God’s plan, the Church is not a means
which can be used for any ideology whatsoever. It is not clear
the meaning of this observation: the words ‘any ideology’
could indicate social or political solutions, which would not
help but rather jeopardize the mission and the work of the Church.
B) Positive: The second is the theological definition of the
Church as “mystery of the communication of God’s
love to humanity” gives a powerful and clear ground to
build upon her mission of Reconciliation, Justice and Peace,
avoiding any form of misinterpretation of her mission. In this
sense we speak of ‘sacrament’, which stands as visible
sign of supernatural action. Reconciliation, Justice and Peace
must be rooted in the practice of the Beatitudes.
In this context we read the quotation of Pope Benedict XVI,
as conclusion of no. 40: “The Church is God’s family
in the world. In this family no one ought to go without the
necessities of life” (Deus Caritas est, 25b). In other
words: human promotion should spring from faith and charity.
Any other proposal would spring more from social-political than
3.6 –The Church’s
Social Doctrine and her Evangelising Mission. (nos.41 –
The clear link between human development and Church’s
Mission is immediately reaffirmed, and that orients reflection
and proposal towards God. “For the Church, “to evangelise
is to develop man in all the dimensions of this vocation as
a child of God” (Symposium S.E.C.A.M., Kinshasa, 1984).
The Social Doctrine of the Church has a long outstanding tradition,
which has been duly publicized through the printing of the “Compendium
of the Social Doctrine of the Church, in 2004.
3.6.1 – Fundamental Principles
of the Social Doctrine:
a) - The Theological and Anthropological Foundation (nos. 42.43).
The Church’s specific mission is to be the reflection
of God’s love in the world for every human being. Humanity,
therefore, in the course of history, is at the heart of the
Church’s social doctrine, which is guided by the principle
of the dignity of the human person.
God created man in his image (Gn 1:27), made him steward of
creation (Gn 2:15; Wis 9:1-5). Work is the place where man exercises
his role as steward. At the same time, the sacred texts draw
attention to the temporal character of earthly realities (1
Tim 6:6-10; 1 Cor 7:29-31).
b) – Fundamental Principles
on Justice (nos. 44- 47).
Every person has a duty to work and enjoy the fruits of one’s
labour, the sacred texts emphasise the solidarity of all creation
as a fundamental principle which guarantees unity, justice and
The universal destination of goods requires everyone’s
efforts to ensure that all peoples will have the necessary conditions
for their integral development. The Church highlights her preferential
choice for the poor (the primacy of Christ’s charity).
New technology and scientific knowledge should be placed at
the service of man’s primary needs. (45)
The common good is the social and community dimension of the
moral good. Responsibility for the common good does not rest
with the State only, but also individual.
The just order of society and the State is essential duty of
To achieve this order calls for the collaboration and participation
of all components of society. This is why the Church insists
on respect for, and application of the principle of subsidiarity.
The Church is opposed to any excessive forms of centralisation,
bureaucracy, presence of the State and its administrative structure.
One of the implications of the principle of subsidiarity is
participation. No citizen can shrink from this duty of participation
in making his own the joys and sufferings of others, nor can
the People of God, the Church, avoid this duty of participation.
3.6.2 – Temptations to Overcome.
In order for the Church to fulfil her mission and make the Kingdom
of God present in history, calls for solidarity with all creation.
This requires an ongoing conversion. God alone is capable of
delivering us from evil and temptation, following Christ’s
The first temptation (Lk 4:1-5). is to transform stones into
bread Christ as the True Bread of Life calls us to conversion
and creating a real, solid culture of work done well.(49)
In the second temptation (Lk 4:5-9) Jesus reveals a criticism
of politics in presuming to be the exclusive mediator of liberation,
thus making itself Absolute…African politicians are not
spared from this temptation : Several politicians tend to ignore
religion or want to get rid of it…to set themselves up
as master of life. There is only One who guarantees life; he
is not an idol in the least, but the true God. We have to mention
the victims in the recent history of our countries, the men
and women brutally torn to pieces by the bullets of African
and foreign dictators. Christians sometimes succeed in organising
the political and economical destiny of their peoples, but at
times they are source of division, inter-ethnic wars, corruption
and other evils which trouble the continent. (50 -51)
The third temptation (Lk 4:9-13) reveals the causes of economic
and political illusions: the Christian logic is to ask oneself
about the goal of faith in this world: the Kingdom is present
and must be seen and experienced at the present moment “.
Conclusion: I think that it is not enough to speak about the
necessity of “effective Christian witness”, there
is a high need of Christian Leaders and Professionals, as we
are going to say later on.