Workshop in Rome on Interculturality

Workshop on Interculturality

The workshop on the theme “Living in an intercultural community as an apostolic witness today” will take place at the Generalate from 1 to 8 September 2019. Confreres from all provinces and sections participate in order to become resource persons available to their respective province.

Why this training workshop? We want to follow up on the 28th General Chapter which ‘’invites us to fully commit ourselves to building communities which are truly intercultural’’.

Andreas Göpfert

Workshop on ‘Ecumenical Dialogue: a call for a prophetic commitment’ (Part 4)

Ecumenical Dialogue of Action: Promoting peace and Caring for the common home, our planet

Andreas Göpfert helped us reflect on how dialogue, including ecumenical dialogue, can be a catalyst for peace and social cohesion. During the private audience with the M.Afr. and MSOLA on the occasion of the 150th celebrations, Pope Francis encouraged the missionaries of the Lavigerie family to be bridge builders in order to create peace and inspire hope.

The promotion of integral ecology and care for our common home can be a great opening for ecumenical dialogue. Venerato Babaine shared with the participants his experiences working in this area in Zambia. He sees ecological principles and practices as an inevitable door for ecumenism and missionary activity. Referring back to Laudato Si’, we can see that there is a clear interconnectedness between the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor. Christians of all denominations should work together to safeguard our common home and in doing so promote human dignity and social justice.

What is the contribution of the Orthodox Church to ecology? Frans Bouwen informed us that the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, Bartholomaios, was one of the first in the Christian world to highlight the spiritual dimension of the current ecological crisis. In fact, the roots of this crisis are spiritual and ethical: self-sufficiency, selfishness, consumerism, destruction of nature, etc. Orthodoxy promotes an ‘ecclesiology as ecology’ and proposes an ascetic ethos as an antidote to modern consumerism and a Eucharistic vision of thanksgiving as a life attitude which respects the integrity of creation.

Serge Traore explained to us how the upcoming Synod on the Amazon (6-27 October 2019) will provide new pathways for the Church and for an integral ecology. Its aim is to fashion the Church with an Amazonian face. At the same time, this synod offers the Church an opportunity to reflect on the interconnectedness of its mission, especially in relation to its JPIC-ED dimensions. There will be many possibilities for ecumenical activity in favour of the preservation of the ecosystem and social justice issues. We also see a shift toward a ‘South-South’ cooperation at the ecclesiological and theological levels. What could the Church (and missionaries) in Africa learn from the experience of the Church of the Amazon?

Sr. Sheila Kinsey, FCJM, concluded our series of conferences with a presentation entitled: Laudato Si’ and Ecumenical Dialogue: a call for prophetic engagement’. She reminded us that Pope Francis calls all religious to be prophets of hope, full of passion and open to new opportunities: The current social crisis demands a personal and community-level ecological conversion. She gave us an overview of how to use the UISG website ‘Sowing Hope for the Planet’ and told us of an initiative to create ‘tents of martyrs’ during the upcoming Synod on the Amazon to honour all those who have given their lives for the protection of God’s creation.

After all these informative presentations, giving us an excellent panorama of the Church’s vision and commitment to ecumenism and what we Missionaries of Africa are doing to integrate it into our various apostolic activities, the workshop participants split up into small groups to generate some concrete recommendations to help ensure this dimension of the Church’s mission is fully integrated into the life of our Society.

Workshop on ‘Ecumenical Dialogue: a call for a prophetic commitment’ (Part 3)

Ecumenical Dialogue in Africa

Bernhard Udelhoven explored the topic: ‘Where contagious faith empowers the poor: Pentecostal challenges and lessons for the Catholic Church’. He underlined how the new Pentecostal churches in Zambia have managed to empower people, especially the poor. They offer responses to the needs of the local people who in general desire to conquer evil powers such as witchcraft and social misery. We Catholics are invited to go and encounter these churches and learn why they are able to attract so many followers.

Paul Reilly provided a presentation on ‘Ecumenical Dialogue in Ethiopia: Particularity, Stakes, and Challenges’ highlighting the ecumenical work of the M.Afr. among the Orthodox in Ethiopia. Since the arrival of the first confreres in 1967, ecumenism has been a way of life in Ethiopia. Despite the evident challenges of being Latin rite missionaries working in oriental rite dioceses, as well as historical tensions between Catholics and Orthodox, our confreres do their best to adapt to this ecumenical reality with patience and humility.

Andreas Göpfert gave an overview of how ecumenism is integrated into the two Synods on Africa using Ecclesia in Africa and Africæ Munus as reference texts.

How do we M.Afr. and how do our local churches receive these official texts? Andreas also helped us to reflect on how we can integrate ecumenical dialogue into our different missionary activities today. What are the different types of dialogue?

Who is dialogue destined for?

Why it is so important to be involved in the ecumenical dialogue?

How can we help educate people to discern ways to live and practice ecumenical dialogue?

Answering the following questions might be a good step to get more involved in the ecumenical dialogue today:

  1. How can we awaken the interest of confreres to discover the Christian brothers and sisters of other denominations who live around them? What can we offer them?
  2. How can we encourage our confreres to encounter Christian brothers and sisters of other denominations? By what means?
  3. What can we offer our confreres to reflect on the five dimensions of ecumenism so that they can take them into consideration in their pastoral work?

Workshop on ‘Ecumenical Dialogue: a call for a prophetic commitment’ (Part 2)

This is the continuation of the report – as well as the texts of the conferences, often in their original language – of the workshop held at the end of March at the Generalate on “Ecumenical Dialogue, a call for prophetic commitment”. The first part of the report was published on April 14. Enjoy your reading.

Ecumenism in the world

Frans Bouwen provided the workshop participants with a brief reminder of the official documents of the Catholic Church regarding ecumenism. These are: Unitatis Redintegratio (1964) [Decree on Ecumenism from Vatican II]; Ut Unum Sint (1995) [John Paul II]; and the Directory for the application of Principles and Norms on Ecumenism (1993). In fact, there is no such thing as ‘Catholic Ecumenism’, but rather ecumenism tout court. The Church already now experiences a ‘real although imperfect communion’. How can we help it grow towards its fullness?

What is the ecumenical commitment of Pope Francis? This topic was covered by Andreas Göpfert and highlighted the five dimensions of ecumenism: 1) ecumenism of encounter; 2) practical ecumenism (ecumenical dialogue in action / ecumenical diakonia); 3) theological ecumenical dialogue; 4) prayer for Christian unity; 5) ecumenism of blood (of martyrdom). Pope Francis says that we are all called to be ecumenical Christians. We are pilgrims ‘en marche’ towards the promised land which is visible unity. Are we M.Afr. committed to walking along this route of ecumenism ‘en marche’?

Prof. Gioacchino Campese, CS gave a talk entitled ‘Together Towards Life: Reflections on the Ecumenical Mission’. He presented the document ‘Together towards life. Mission and evangelism in changing landscapes’ (TTL) which was drafted by the Commission on World Mission and Evangelism (CWME of the WCC), approved by the WCC Central Committee in 2012 and presented officially in 2013 during the Busan (Korea) WCC assembly. This document reminds us that mission is a vocation from God’s spirit who works for a world where the fullness of life is available to all and that ‘catholicity’ is a quality that describes true ecumenism and not just a term which defines a particular Christian denomination.

Leo Laurence focused on the Common Commemoration of the Reformation (2017) between Catholics and Lutherans as a point of no return towards Christian unity. Being a Christian today means being ecumenical and celebrating unity in diversity. Are we prepared to question our own prejudices?

Frans Bouwen offered the participants a ‘Panorama of the Eastern and Oriental Churches’ which highlighted the important distinction between ‘diversity’, which allows for a deeper understanding and a fuller expression and celebration of the faith in Christ, and ‘division’, which contradicts the essence and mission of the Church. Both played an important role in the origin and history of the Eastern and Oriental Churches. The differences are not only liturgical, but also in the way they received and lived out the Gospel in their particular contexts. For those who would like to work for inculturation, it is good to know their history.

There are different ways of presenting the ecumenical movement. Should it be represented by the “delta” rather than by the “river”? In his presentation, Andreas Göpfert took up some thoughts of Pastor Jane Stranz.

Workshop on ‘Ecumenical Dialogue: a call for a prophetic commitment’ (Part 1)

From 28th March to 4th April, a workshop on Ecumenical Dialogue was organised in Rome by Andreas Göpfert, coordinator of JPIC-ED. The participants to the workshop were:

    • Richard Nnyombi, JPIC-ED coordinator for the sector Uganda (EAP)
    • Frans Bouwen, JPIC-ED coordinator for the sector Jerusalem (EPO)
    • Paul Relly, JPIC-ED for the sector Ethiopia (EPO)
    • Babaine Venerato, Provincial delegate for the sector Zambia (SAP)
    • Bernhard Udelhoven, from Fenza (SAP)
    • Maria Joseph Leo Laurence, in formation at St. Anselme (Rome)
    • Ignatius Anipu, assistant in charge of ED (Generalate Rome)
    • Martin Grenier, assistant in charge of JPIC (Generalate Rome)
    • Andreas Göpfert, coordinator of JPIC-ED

Beginning of the session

After the introductory prayer led by Martin Grenier (assistant general in charge of JPIC), the first day of our workshop was officially opened by Ignatius Anipu (assistant general in charge of Encounter and Dialogue – Ecumenism). In his opening speech, Ignatius invited the participants and all the missionaries of Africa to be active actors of ecumenism in their missionary activities. Linking the present workshop to the 150 years of the foundation of the society, Ignatius pointed out the fact that ecumenism has always been part of our charism since the lifetime of our founder Lavigerie.

Andreas Göpfert, coordinator of JPIC-ED, presented the timetable of the session and the methodology which is based on SEE, JUDGE and ACT. He explained the workshop objective ‘Undertake a process which aims to deepen our ecumenical orientation and to integrate it into our missionary commitments for the care for our common home, peace, and social cohesion’. He insisted on the interconnectedness of all those topics.

"SEE": Ecumenical commitment of M.Afr – past and present

Frans Bouwen started off a series of presentations regarding the M.Afr and its ecumenical commitment past and present with his talk on St. Anne’s in Jerusalem as the first concrete M.Afr. commitment to ecumenism. This presentation helped the participants situate themselves into the historical context of Cardinal Lavigerie and the ecumenical activities of the Society in the Middle East and with the Eastern Churches.

A second presentation, given by Richard Nnyombi, focused on the evangelization of Uganda and helped the participants see that the first confreres who arrived in central Africa did so in a context of inter-religious dialogue and competition among different Christian churches. Despite conflicts which took place between Catholics and Protestants, there have been as well fruitful examples of collaboration as well as the poignant example of ‘ecumenism of blood’ as both Catholics and Anglicans martyrs were united in suffering for their faith in Christ.

Ignatius Anipu offered the participants an overview of how the most recent General Chapters of the M.Afr. treated the subject of ecumenism. All were interested to learn that much more has been said about our M.Afr. commitment to ecumenism in the chapters than we previously thought. This gave rise to the question: do we take the content of our chapters seriously?

Andreas Göpfert, JPIC-ED Coordinator of the Society, provided a summary of the ecumenical activities in which our confreres are involved throughout the world. He urged us all to consider how we can integrate an ecumenical dimension into each one of our M.Afr. apostolates.


Former director of PISAI at the head of the interreligious dialogue

Bishop Miguel Ayuso Guixot succeeds the late Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, who died in July 2018, as the President of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue. He has been serving as Secretary of the Vatican dicastery.

Combonian missionary, expert on Islam

Miguel Ángel Ayuso Guixot was born in Seville on 17 June 1952. A Combonian Missionary of the Heart of Jesus, he was ordained priest on 20 September 1980.

He was a missionary in Egypt and Sudan until 2002. He obtained a degree in Arabic and Islamic studies at the Pontifical Institute of Arabic and Islamic Studies (PISAI) in Rome in 1982, and a doctorate in dogmatic theology at the University of Granada in 2000.

From 1989 he was professor of Islamology, first in Khartoum, then in Cairo. Later he taught at PISAI, where he held the office of Dean until 2012. He has presided over various meetings of inter-religious dialogue.

Chosen by Benedict XVI and Pope Francis

On 30 June 2012, Benedict XVI appointed him Secretary of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue.

Appointed by Pope Francis as titular bishop of Luperciana, he was consecrated a Bishop in March 2016.

In addition to his native Spanish, he knows Arabic, English, French and Italian.

25th May 2019

Building intercultural communities

From February 10 to 16, 2019, Father Freddy Kyombo Senga and Sister Zawadi Barungu led a workshop on interculturality in Rabat, Morocco. Here is their report.

The participants in the session around the Archbishop of Rabat, Mgr Cristobal Lopez.

During five days we collaborated in turn and in an interdependent way to give conferences and organize exchanges for a group of 11 consecrated missionaries of different nationalities and apostolic religious communities, coming from Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco.

We realize once again how much this theme INTERCULTURALITY really responds to the need of consecrated life today, we have become aware once again of the specificity of our common Charism as a Lavigerie family, its contribution to the formation of members of the local Church and to its integral development…

Here is a small collection of the evaluation of the participants:

“I now understand where my suffering comes from… I feel healed from my wound”

” Can you come if we invite you to Mauritius to meet the consecrated persons of my country of origin? “

“You have given us keys to move forward in our lives as consecrated persons, but we still have a lot to do”

” The animators were motivated and up to the task… the conferences were rich, well detailed, very explicit and concrete, challenging and close to the concrete reality of our lives as human persons, but also as consecrated.”

Through the evaluations we note that participants need theoretical input to understand the subject but also have a great need to share their own experiences of living and/or conflict in the intercultural life of the Church or communities.

They will soon need to be given a little more time for personal or group integration, and accompanied by a survey.

The Archbishop of Rabat, Mgr Cristobal LOPEZ ROMERO, came to visit us several times, he appreciated the initiative to train consecrated persons in intercultural life, a necessary tool for our witness as a Church in the Maghreb and elsewhere.

Bishop Cristobal, in his office, giving an explanation of his coat of arms to the participants of the session.

The office of the Major Superiors of the Maghreb organized this workshop very well and took charge of our stay through Sister Mary DONLON (Irish), provincial of the Franciscan Missionaries of Mary, who accompanied us in the successful realization of this project.

From left to right Sister Mary Donlon, Bishop Cristobal, Father Freddy and Sister Zawadi.

We feel through the participants’ impressions, “that the harvest is great…”

We are preparing for the next workshop in Tunisia with more details taking into account this very encouraging experience.

We are happy to have been able to carry out this project of our Lavigerie family and thus respond to the Church’s calls.


And below, a short film of the interview of Bishop Cristobal Lopez Romero, Bishop of Rabat, with Father Freddy.

Jérusalem – Semaine de l’Unité des Chrétiens

Regard œcuménique sur l’année 2018 avant la semaine de prière pour l’Unité

JERUSALEM – Le mercredi 16 janvier 2019, l’Ecole Biblique et Archéologique de Jérusalem a accueilli la traditionnelle conférence que donne le Père Frans Bouwen, M.Afr., avant la Semaine de prière pour l’Unité. Le père blanc, spécialiste des Églises orientales et du dialogue avec les Églises chrétiennes d’Orient a présenté l’actualité œcuménique de l’année 2018 aux fidèles et religieux de Jérusalem qui se retrouveront à partir de samedi pour vivre un temps de communion à travers des célébrations quotidiennes.

La semaine de l’unité est un événement de grande importance à Jérusalem, la présence des différentes Eglises chrétiennes a encouragé celles-ci à s’accueillir les unes les autres chaque jour pour partager un temps de prière. Ces célébrations attirent de nombreux fidèles et certains d’entre eux sont même des pèlerins qui viennent tout spécialement dans la Ville Sainte pour participer à cette Semaine si particulière.

Chaque année, à cette occasion, la commission pour le dialogue œcuménique propose une conférence sur l’actualité œcuménique des derniers mois, une façon d’inviter les fidèles à prier en ayant connaissance du chemin parcouru et à parcourir pour vivre l’Unité. C’est le président de cette commission épiscopale, le père Frans Bouwen qui se charge de donner les dernières nouvelles de ces chemins de rencontre entre les différentes Eglises. Le Missionnaire d’Afrique, membre de la Commission mixte du dialogue théologique entre l’Eglise catholique et l’Eglise orthodoxe a une très grande connaissance des Eglises orientales. Cependant, le Père Frans en début de conférence n’a pas manqué de préciser que sa présentation était, par la force des choses, portée par un regard subjectif, celui d’un théologien catholique installé à Jérusalem.

Lisez l’article complet de Cécile Klos sur le site du Patriarcat Latin de Jérusalem.

“Katholikentag” : a large gathering of Catholics in Germany

From May 9th to 13th, 2018, the big gathering of Catholics took place in Münster, in the north of Germany. Several Missionary Sisters of our Lady of Africa and several Missionaries of Africa participated. Together they welcomed many visitors to their common booth. Some sisters and confreres came from Poland to participate and to visibly enrich our internationality and interculturality. Many were the visitors who stopped in front of the stand for a personal conversation, to look for information on our missionary institutes and on Africa. Sometimes attracted by the sound of “tam-tams”, many people came out of curiosity or out of nostalgia from a previous stay in an african country, or because one or the other has an acquaintance among our sisters or confreres.

On several occasions we have experienced the joy of reunion. Lost from view after so many years, the stand allowed to meet again, to meet and exchange.

Apart from these interesting and rewarding encounters, the booth has conveyed messages about our missionary priorities and our various fields of apostolate.

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“Seek peace through interreligious dialogue”: the example of Northern Ghana

The organizers of the Catholic Rally (“Katholikentag”) invited a delegation from northern Ghana. So our confrere Mgr. Richard Baawobr, Bishop of Wa, was able to come to Münster. At a conference on intercultural dialogue, he shared his experience on Muslim-Christian dialogue. Together with Dr. Hazic Hussein Zakaria, Imam of the Quran Mosque of Tamale, they gave many examples of the dialogue lived in the society in Northern Ghana. At the conference, two experts and the public had the opportunity to pose questions to the speakers to better understand the context and interreligious practice. The challenges of dialogue are particularly at the level of mixed marriages, mixed schools attended by students of different religions and the sensitization of religious leaders at the grassroots level.

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Personally, I retained a message that deeply touched me: The God of love created Muslims and Christians, not so that they should fight against each other, but so that they could learn to live together and to commit together for more peace in the world.

Andreas Göpfert, MAFr

New Antenna of AEFJN in Kenya

A new antenna of AEFJN has been launched in Nairobi on February 16, 2018. It was preceded by a two-day workshop (February 15-16) on Advocacy and AEFJN. The antenna is anchored by the Conferences of Major Superiors of Kenya. Prior to this time, the two conferences (male & female religious congregations) worked independent of each other. AEFJN is now a common voice for the two conferences. A structure to coordinate the activities of the antenna for the next one year has been set up. The antenna chose the theme of Tax Evasion/Money laundering for their advocacy activities and will be meeting in the coming days to develop their Plan of Action on this theme. The Secretariat is very grateful to the antenna of UK and the Executive for their contributions in the setting up of the new antenna. The antenna of UK has further committed to working closely with the new antenna to mentor her.

Other antennae exist in Cameroon and in Central African Republic.