Readings: La joie de l’Amour expérimentée par des familles (PE nr 1090 – 2018/04)

Nicholaus Segeja and Emmanuel Wabanhu, The Echo of Amoris Lætitia in Africa: Towards living the “Joy ofLove experienced by families” in the Church, Published by CUEA Press, Nairobi 2017 387pps.

The Post-Synod Apostolic Exhortation, Amoris Lætitia, which was unveiled in Rome, on the 19th March 2016, the Feast of St. Joseph, during the Extra­ordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy, was eagerly awaited by many in the Catholic Church and beyond. The impact of the Exhortation helped highlight the desire to respond to the challenges of marriage and family life experienced today, both in the Church and in society. Besides representing an invitation to Christian families to value the gift of marriage and family life, the Exhortation seeks to encourage everyone to be a sign of mercy and closeness wherever family life remains imperfect or lacks peace and joy. It also envisages promoting personal and intensive participation of all Christian faithful, and of all people of good will, in proclaiming the Gospel of the family in favour of the new evangelization.

Thus, given the complexity of the prevailing situation and of the conditions affecting marriage and family life, Pope Francis proposes dialogue as the way to go. The Pope apparently recommends dialogue in a collegial spirit to be the best approach to life not only in illuminating and addressing the challenges affecting marriage and family life today but also in living the ‘Joy of Love’ experienced by families. “In the African context, the dialogue proposed by Pope Francis echoes a type of inculturated conversation. It points to the unique African approach of palaver, which is the tireless common deliberation in search of an inspired consensus. In a real sense, such an approach promotes corporate personality and vision; hence it is the most effective personal and communal way of responding to the challenges of faith and of life in general. This is precisely what we prefer to call reverential dialogue since it also points to the inclusive thinking based on critical and creative, honest and realistic style of life practised in a good African family.” In fact, the proposal of the ecclesiology and Gospel of the family does not only reflect the understanding of the Church as communion translated in Ecclesia in Africa by Saint John Paul II, as Church-family or the family of God but also points to reverential dialogue as a synodal way of responding to the challenges of families to day.” (From the General Introduction by Rev. Prof. Nicholaus Segeja p.xvi – xvii)

Following the portrayal of Pope Francis’ Exhortation, this book, The Echo of Amoris Lætitia: Towards living the “Joy of Love experienced by families in the Church” is a product of scholars with immense pastoral experience from Africa. It is edited by distinguished scholars, Rev. Prof. Dr. Nicholaus Segeja and Rev. Dr. Emmanuel Wabanhu both of whom have had long experience as members of the teaching staff at the Catholic University of Eastern Africa (CUEA). Prof. Segeja is also a member of the International Theological Commission (ITC) and currently heads the Department of Pastoral Theology at CUEA. He is a diocesan priest from the Archdiocese of Mwanza, Tanzania. Dr. Wabanhu is a diocesan priest from Geita Diocese in Tanzania and he is a lecturer in the Department of Moral Theology at CUEA.

The book consists of twelve chapters, divided into three main parts following the main concerns of Amoris Lætitia without, however, in any way claiming to be exhaustive. Thus, the chapters in Part One give some concrete examples of family life in Africa. Part Two critically appraises some aspects of the teaching of the Church in trying to understand the doctrinal-moral and spiritual-pastoral vision of Amoris Lætitia in the African context. In this way, the chapters open up a sincere and prudent reverential dialogue linked with the teaching of the Church in view of discerning the best ways of implementing the pastoral vision of Pope Francis. Lastly, the chapters in Part Three move from the theoretical reverential dialogue to the level of praxis involving action-planning and carrying out various activities aimed at transforming the various social situations which contribute to divorce and remarriage, marital separation and domestic violence as well as sexual abuses in families, among others. This is a new book which makes concrete proposals regarding the realising of the “Joy of Love” experienced by families in the parish-settings as an entry point to life in the Church and society and which could be used a basis for the new evangelization.

The three parts of the book all have a common purpose: to initiate a sincere and genuine ecumenical and inclusive reverential dialogue among lay African Christians, African theologians and Africanist theologians at both a non-academic and academic theological response to the complexity of the doctrinal, moral, spiritual and pastoral issues which were revealed by Pope Francis following the publication on his thought provoking Apostolic Exhortation. The impact of this work is due not only to the  inputs of the contributors but also the readiness and openness to engage in the process of reverential dialogue, for this, in itself, is not only an original contribution from Africa but witnesses to putting faith into practice and of proclaiming the Gospel of the family.

Therefore, reverential dialogue, as introduced in this book, places the controversy around Amoris Lætitia in the right focus. As it says in the foreword, “The book’s particular merit is that, whereas this conversation (reverential dialogue) has generally been limited to churches of the North, it contextualizes its discussion in the Church of Africa, where substantial dialogue on the same is sorely needed but has so far been absent.”

Nicholaus Segeja
Member of the International Theological  Commission

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