Image via La Croix
Archbishop Gabriel Mbilingi of Lubango, Angola - center with curia - and other bishops outside Sacred Heart Cathedral of Rubaga in Kampala, Uganda. SECAM
Songs to the sound of bands, dances, speeches by officials, parades of cardinals, bishops, priests and laity from all continents: the festivities marking the 18th Plenary Assembly and the closing of the Golden Jubilee of the Symposium of African and Madagascar Bishops' Conferences (SECAM) were launched on Sunday July 21 in Kampala.
SECAM is an entity that brings together all the regional Bishops' Conferences of Africa.
It was launched in 1969 on the occasion of Pope Paul VI's very first visit to Africa, from July 31 to August 2, in Uganda.
In fact the idea of creating an association uniting African bishops had already began to emerge after the Second Vatican Council, between 1962 and 1965. The Africans who took part felt the need to speak with one voice.
Sunday's celebration began with an opening Mass at the Sacred Heart Cathedral of Rubaga in the presence of Cardinal Robert Sarah, Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments. Also on hand were Bishop Protase Rugambwa, Bishop Emeritus of Kigoma, Tanzania, and Secretary of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, and Gabriel Mbilingi, Bishop of Lubango, President of SECAM and Archbishop Cyprien Kisito Lwanga of Kampala.
Arriving very early, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni gave a long speech before the start of the Mass.
In front of 300 cardinals, archbishops, bishops, priests and lay people from Africa, America and Asia, the Ugandan president praised Africa's strong spiritual growth but expressed frustration that it was not translating into material growth for its people.
"I am very happy that Africa is doing much better spiritually than other continents," he said. But he deplored the fact that the continent was still plunged in extreme poverty, saying this should concern political and religious leaders.
"The poverty of the population disadvantages both the government and the Church because it is difficult to preach to the poor. I have always observed that, even during the offerings at Mass, many have nothing to give," he said.
Archbishop Charles Palmer-Buckle of Cape Coast, Ghana, gave the homily at the liturgical celebration. He welcomed the great advances that had been made in African churches over the past 50 years.
"Africa is the continent where the number of Catholics is growing faster," he noted. He also highlighted the Church's mediation role in maintaining or bringing peace to several regions of the continent.
Bishop Palmer-Buckle stressed the importance of the Golden Jubilee of SECAM by repeating to the prophetic call Pope Paul VI made n 1969 when he launched the assembly: "It is time for Africans to be their own missionaries."