(The Catholic Church in Africa recently celebrated in Kampala Uganda, the 50th anniversary of the first visit of a Pope to Africa. SECAM took the opportunity to celebrate its own establishment ushering in a new era of evangelization in the continent. On that occasion Pope PAUL VI enjoined the Bishops, Clergy and the faithful: “Africa, you must now be missionaries to yourselves”. Here Bishop Emmanuel Badejo of Oyo Diocese, President of CEPACS Nigeria captures in a nutshell the journey of SECAM and the challenges of the present).
THE STORY OF SECAM
The Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar (SECAM) was borne of the wish of African Bishops attending the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965), to establish a forum in which they could speak with one voice on matters pertaining to the Church in Africa, a continent of 54 sovereign countries. The Bishops launched SECAM during the visit of Pope Paul VI to Kampala (Uganda) in 1969. It was the first ever visit of a Pope to Africa. They established SECAM headquarters and secretariat in Accra, Ghana and adopted three official languages for the symposium namely, English, French and Portuguese. SECAM was established to make the Church in Africa fully committed to its mission of evangelization and emerge as a fully-evangelized Family of God in Africa.
SECAM works through two major Commissions, the “Commission for Evangelisation” and the “Justice Peace and Development Commission” (JPDC). By Pontifical recommendation, SECAM also established in 1973 a Pan-African Episcopal Committee for Social Communications (CEPACS). Its work reaches the whole Church in Africa, “through the Regional Conferences” of Bishops (SECAM Statutes, Art. 2).
COMPOSITION OF SECAM
SECAM comprises of all juridically-established Episcopal Conferences of the entire Africa and Madagascar. Its highest body is the Plenary Assembly which unites. every three years. all member Conferences, through their elected representatives. The eight Regions of SECAM are:
Association of Episcopal Conferences of Central Africa (ACEAC),
Association of Episcopal Conferences of Central Africa Region (ACERAC),
Regional Episcopal Conference of West Africa (RECOWA/CERAO);
Assembly of the Catholic Hierarchy of Egypt (AHCE);
Regional Episcopal Conference of North Africa (CERNA);
Association of Member Episcopal Conferences of Eastern Africa (AMECEA);
Inter-Regional Meeting of the Bishops of Southern Africa (IMBISA)
Episcopal Conferences of the Indian Ocean (CEDOI)
SECAM AS PLATFORM FOR COMMUNICATION
Catholic communication is essentially a relationship. This is why SECAM itself can be seen as a product and forum of communication in the Church in Africa. It is the only organ that enables and promotes relationship among national conferences on a continental level and seeks to project same to the entire world. Members of SECAM share pastoral experiences and resources and sometimes act together on same. SECAM established its own news agency a few years ago and currently has observer status at the African Union (AU).
The AU is an important platform for bringing issues concerning the Church to the attention of African governments, organizations and the entire world. Situations of conflict, migration, disease or even bad governance which infringe on human dignity no longer have to remain the concern of only those who are affected. SECAM also serves as an important forum for the coordination of professional media bodies and practitioners and helps them to align more effectively with the Church’s mission. Associations like UCAP, the Union of the Catholic Press, and Signis are good evidence of this fact. This is in addition to more basic pastoral services of making continental activities, communication facilities and opportunities more accessible to the needs of member conferences.
Among the biggest challenges of the Church in Africa today is surely the aggressive encroachment of decadent Western cultural norms and practices on the sanctity of human life, the family and faith. The promotion of the culture of life for which Africa is well known is threatened by a certain “cultural imperialism”. Some of this is fueled by the intense proliferation of new age churches which sensationalize prosperity and success at all cost. This is done through a powerful engagement of the means of the communications media. No doubt the church in Africa needs to increase efforts to engage the media more in her evangelization mission to more effectively disseminate the truth about human life, family and authentic Christian doctrine to the peoples. The Church must invest more in training, facilities and incentives that will turn catechesis into resource material for the work of professionals and practitioners of communication at all levels so remain a strong force and voice in today’s marketplace of ideas and ideologies.
Bishop Emmanuel Ade Badejo
Chairman of CEPACS