2014-10-17 08:43:00

Ethiopia's Archbishop Berhaneyesus on the Synod and African family values

(Vatican Radio) The Archbishop of Addis Ababa in Ethiopia, Berhaneyesus Souraphiel is a jovial and engaging speaker. In Malawi, recently, he was elected Chairman of an association of African Bishops. The association brings together more than 200 African Bishops in the Eastern and Central region of Africa under  the banner of Association of Member Episcopal Conferences in Eastern Africa (AMECEA).

Asked about the Synod on the Family currently happening at the Vatican, he poignantly recalls that, “Pope Emeritus, Benedict XVI told us when he came to Cotonou, Benin in Africa, to present the document,  ‘Africae Munus’ that Africa is an enormous spiritual “lung” for the world. He told us, you have great values. You are rich. Try to preserve your values. Don't change your African values of unity, of helping each other, of respect for elders, of respect for their wisdom. He said… don't change these because of globalization or the Internet.”  These are the words of Pope Emeritus, Benedict XVI as recalled in new light by Archbishop Berhaneyesus. He goes on to explain that challenges notwithstanding, what Africa needs the most is to hold on to those time-tested values of love for life and the treasure which the extended family has been to Africa.

The word Synod, according to the Arbhbishop, means to work together, to walk together and to travel together. He describes the Synod on the family as a Church walking together despite the challenges faced by many Catholic families. He believes that the positive values of the family in Africa outweigh the negative ones. He suggests that the AMECEA pastoral programme of Small Christian Communities be used to entrench these values.

Understood from an AMECEA perspective, Small Christian Communities (SCCs) are a pastoral initiative of the Bishops in the AMECEA region since 1976. These are neighborhood cells or groups of houses connected to parishes (parish-based SCCs). These groups come together to study the word of God on a weekly basis and to live their Christian faith as neighbours. According to Archbishop Berhaneyesus, SCCs where the faithful gather to pray together, discuss Church documents and seek clarification on pastoral issues are a great vehicle for promoting African family values as acknowledged by Pope Emeritus, Benedict XVI. Archbishop Berhaneyesus believes that even the many African negatives such as ethnicity, tribalism, corruption can and should be challenged within the context of SCCs.

Listen to Archbishop Berhaneyesus’s discussion with Fr. Paul Samasumo of Vatican Radio’s English Service for Africa.

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