ETHIOPIA: Continental Synodal Assembly Recognizes Role of African Women in Church, Address Deep Rooted Clericalism and Indifferences

By Paschal Norbert

ADDIS ABABA, MARCH 10, 2023 (CISA) “African women hold the Church together; they are the majority. African women are the backbone of the Church. To journey together as a Synodal Church means recognizing their giftedness, talents, charisms and contributions. For women in Africa and across the world, synodality is an opportunity for “full and equal participation” in the life of the Church,” stated a communique issued at the end of the Synodal Continental Assembly held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, from March 1 to 6, 2023.

The assembly recognized that women are an integral part of the listening, dialogue and discernment process of the synod while advancing that “Women are a gift to the Church. There is no way true synodality can happen in the Church if women are not considered as equal partners.”

It also underscored the identity of the African Church as a synodal family that is an open-ended space of gathering, which “stretches out, and includes all our differences, diversity, tensions and forces; welcomes others and makes room for their diversity; empties herself, but without losing the foundations and fundamentals of our faith; and a Church that can move.”

“As the Synodal Family of God, we seek genuine conversion and reform. We commit ourselves to overcoming rigid hierarchical structures, unhealthy autocratic tendencies, harmful clericalism and isolating individualism that undermine and weaken relationships between bishops, priests and laity. These weeds confront us with a challenge to deepen our experience of synodality, to reflect on what it means to walk together in times of tension,” the communique explained.

“To overcome and root out the weeds of clericalism, authoritarianism and indifference, we desire to engender new forms of leadership – be they priestly, episcopal, religious and lay,” the assembly stated, “We desire to form the Synodal Family of God in the practice of integral and life-giving leadership that is relational and collaborative, and capable of generating solidarity and co-responsibility. To achieve this, the Synodal Family of God in Africa pledges to create spaces and enlarge our tent for the possible exercise of various forms of lay ministry.”

The gathering of the Ecclesial Church in Africa, which brought together 206 participants, among them 9 cardinals, 29 bishops and 41 priests, averred that the Synodal Church in Africa is a “learning” Church, “We do not walk alone: we have things that we can learn from others. Enlivened by the spirit of interculturality, ecumenism and interfaith encounter, we walk together with others, appreciating cultural differences, and understanding those particularities as elements which help us to grow. We listen to the spirituality and wisdom of indigenous peoples and local cultures.”