Jun 23, 2018 Last Updated 6:30 AM, Jun 22, 2018

German, African bishops affirm continued need to evangelize

The delegations from Africa and Germany in the garden of the apostolic nunciature in Antananarivo, Madagascar, May 2018. The delegations from Africa and Germany in the garden of the apostolic nunciature in Antananarivo, Madagascar, May 2018. © Deutsche Bischofskonferenz/Kopp.
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During a meeting last month between representatives of the bishops of Africa and Germany discussing integral human development, both groups affirmed their need to continue the work of evangelization.

“As Church, both in Africa and in Germany, the Holy Spirit is opening our eyes to the fact that we still have a lot to do in our mission of evangelization,” read a May 27 statement signed by Archbishop Gabriel Mbilingi of Lubango and Cardinal Reinhard Marx of Munich and Freising.

The communique was released following a May 22-27 seminar in Antananarivo, Madagascar, between the German bishops' conference and the Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar, which are chaired by Cardinal Marx and Archbishop Mbilingi, respectively.

The bishops pointed to poverty, misery, disease, and despair in Africa “caused by human greed and corruption, injustices of all kinds and violence and fratricidal wars,” and in Europe, a “dearth of spiritual values, excessive materialism and consumerism, individualism, little or no of respect for the life and rights of the unborn, of the aged and the infirm.”

“All of these evils .. point to the fact that as Church we still have a lot to do in our evangelization mission,” they affirmed.

In addition to proclaiming the gospel, the bishops said evangelization is “the work of deepening our Christian formation and the formation of consciences of our political and socio-economic leaders, as well as the offering of true witness of our faith in Christ.”

“Evangelization should lead all to understand and develop their lives of relationships with God, with their fellow women and men, and with creation,” they wrote. “This work of building relationship demands that we work with all women and men of good will in order to create a new and better world for all to have the chance to develop their talents to the best of their capabilities, and to bring these to serve every body, living and even yet unborn.”

The May seminar was the eighth such meeting between German and African bishops. The tradition began in 1982, and they occur every four to five years. A statement ahead of the event said that they discuss “mutually agreed issues as part of an effort to promote pastoral solidarity between Germany and the African continent, and also to discuss issues relevant to promoting the growth of the church in the two Conferences. The meetings have contributed to the deepening and intensification of the relationship between the local Churches in Africa and the Church in Germany.”

This year's theme of integral human development was needed because of secularization and globalization, and was inspired by Catholic social teaching of the last 50 years, said the concluding document. It cited the importance of Bl. Paul VI's Populorum Progressio, Benedict XVI's Caritas in veritate, and Pope Francis' Laudato si'.

They reflected that integral human development “must ensure the total well-being of the person, of every person and of every human society,” and said, “we must renew our missionary zeal working for integral human development as an indispensable part of our mandate.”

The seminar resulted in seven resolutions: a renewed commitment to working for a more just world; the need for development “to respect the ecological limitations of our planet earth”; speaking up “for a more just global order especially regarding international trade”; that “the empowerment of all women worldwide and in all fields of society is a necessary pre-condition for the development of every single person”; that evangelization will be tied to integral human development; to advocate development both domestically aind internationally; and to continue “this dialogue and cooperation and communion between the Church in Africa and in Germany”.

The statement concluded, “We are thankful for the fraternal communion and greater understanding with each other and as representatives of our local Churches.”

“At this meeting in Antananarivo, we have become more aware of the unique wealth and unique opportunities that characterize our Church, universal and global. We are a global community and communion of learning, prayer and solidarity, sent to be witnesses of faith, hope and love to the whole world. By so doing, we are serving the integral development of every person and of the whole human person.”

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