By Paschal Norbert
ABUJA, MAY 17, 2022 (CISA) – In the just concluded 4th General Assembly of the Catholic Bishops from the 16 countries of the West African Subregion, comprising the Reunion of Episcopal Conferences of West Africa (RECOWA) held in Abuja, Nigeria, from the 2nd to the 9th of May 2022, and attended by Luis Antonio Cardinal TAGLE, the Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples.
The Catholic Bishops focused on the theme “Fratelli Tutti: Path to Build Brotherhood and Sustainable Peace in West Africa,” which they say recognized the Pope “underlined that it is important that catechesis and preaching include more directly and clearly the social meaning of existence, the fraternal dimension of spirituality, the conviction of the inalienable dignity of each person and the motivation for loving and welcoming everyone.”
RECOWA in their communique issued on May 10, which calls for justice, peace and security is appalled by the current situation in most countries of the region.
“It regrets that the status quo, in which West Africa seems to find itself in matters of peace, which is merely synonymous with the absence of war, is not in any way advancing solutions to the complex problems in which many people and communities in West Africa find themselves today. It indicates clearly that the Church, other religious organizations, governments, pollical and traditional leaders, civil society organizations and people of goodwill have a moral and spiritual obligation to ensure that the present generations live in peace and the future generation inherit a habitable West Africa devoid of man-made calamities,” says RECOWA.
In their deliberations, the bishops decried the desperate conditions the people are experiencing in the region. “Our people are hungry, dehumanized and suffering; our youth exposed to life-threatening adventures on the high seas in their bid to discover greener pastures in overseas countries.
“The past two years of the Covid 19 pandemic made us to recognize that at the end of the day we are all one family. It opened our eyes to the fact that we cannot face our problems alone or in isolation. Therefore, we must guard against the culture of indifference and individualism. We must always come together in solidarity to work for our common good,” the bishops said while giving the analogy of the Good Samaritan and calling on Christians and all people of goodwill in the sub-region to overcome various barriers to reach out to others in need.
“We feel called to give stronger witness to our Christian values,” they said.
To sustain advocacy in fighting corruption, ethnocentrism, sectionalism, and all forms of injustice in society, RECOWA appealed to the conscience of Christian politicians, traditional rulers, technocrats, professionals, especially those in the media, businessmen and women, and all people to live out their Christian vocation.
“We strongly denounce the policies and practices of our governments and leaders who facilitate and permit the exploitation and marginalization of our people and endanger the future of our children. Tragically some individuals engaged in acts of violence and terrorism have aggravated the state of insecurity in our subregion. We call on all never to grow weary in denouncing and rooting out such evils in our midst,” RECOWA said.
The 4th General Assembly was also attended by Philip Cardinal Ouedraogo, President of the Symposium of Episcopal Conferences for Africa and Madagascar, SECAM, John Cardinal Onayekan, Archbishop Emeritus of Abuja, the Apostolic Nuncio to Nigeria, His Excellency Archbishop Antonio Guido Fillipazzi, Archbishops, Bishops, priests, religious, the Chairman ECOWAS Commission, His Excellency Jean Claude Kassi-BROU, Vice President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, His Excellency Professor Yemi Osinbajo, and many distinguished laypeople of all classes.
The assembly also saw the election of Most Rev Alexis Touabli Youlou of the Catholic Diocese of Agboville, Cote D‘Ivoire, as president of RECOWA, Most Rev Joseph Kwaku AFRIFAH-AGYEKUM, bishop of Koforidua, first vice President and Most Rev José Lampra CA, Bissau, second vice president. Also elected to run the secretariat of the reunion are Father Vitalis Anaehobi, Secretary-General, Nigeria, Father Vincent de Paul BORO deputy Secretary-General and Father Celestine Sagna, second deputy Secretary.