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The Biblical Centre for Africa urges the Church to let the Bible inspire its pastoral activities



The thirteenth plenary assembly of the Biblical Centre for Africa and Madagascar (BICAM) has ended in Malawi on the theme “Letting the Bible Inspire all Pastoral Activities. The Meeting in Kachebere in the Archdiocese of Lilongwe was attended by delegates from five regional bishops’ conferences of the continent and the assembly of the Catholic Hierarchy of Egypt.
In the final statement of the September 17 to 23 meeting, the delegates resolved to strengthen networking between regional and national coordinators of the biblical apostolate and to give special attention to the pastoral biblical formation of the lay professionals, families, women and youth. The seven resolutions also included, finding ways to make available to the faithful the biblical texts in local languages, preferably through collaboration with other churches and to use the modern technologies of teaching the word of God to get the young people interested in it.
The participants also made five recommendations in relation to the future of the Biblical Apostolate in Africa. They called for the formation of pastoral agents , leaders of Bible groups, as well as leaders of Catholic associations. The BICAM plenary also stressed the importance and implications of biblical animation in all areas of the life of the church and urged Catholic publishers to be more united and proactive in the publication, translation and production of the Bible and the other Bible related materials.


FINAL STATEMENT OF THE XIIIth PLENARY ASSEMBLY OF BICAM
Preamble
The XIIIth Plenary Assembly of the Biblical Centre for Africa and Madagascar (BICAM) took place from 17th to 23rd September, 2013 at Saint Anthony Major Seminary, Kachebere, in the Archdiocese of Lilongwe, Malawi. It was on the theme: “Animatio biblica totius actionis pastoralis” (Letting the Bible Inspire all Pastoral Activities), taken from the Apostolic Exhortation, Verbum Domini no. 73.
The one week Assembly was attended by 75 participants from the following Regional Episcopal Conferences under the Symposium of the Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar (SECAM):

    The Association of Episcopal Conferences of Central Africa (ACEAC), represented by participants from the Democratic Republic of Congo, Burundi and Rwanda;


    The Association of Episcopal Conferences of the Central Region of Africa (ACERAC), represented by participants from Cameroon, Congo Brazzaville and Gabon;


    Association of Member Episcopal Conferences of Eastern Africa (AMECEA) comprising participants from Ethiopia/Eritrea, Kenya, Malawi, Zambia, Tanzania, Sudan/South Sudan and Uganda;


    Regional Episcopal Conferences of West Africa (RECOWA) represented by participants from Burkina Faso, Ghana, Cote d’Ivoire, Nigeria, Togo and Sierra Leone;


    Inter-Regional Meeting of Bishops of Southern Africa (IMBISA) represented by participants from Angola, Mozambique, South Africa, Botswana, Lesotho and Zimbabwe;


    The Assembly of the Catholic Hierarchy of Egypt (AHCE) represented by participants from Egypt.

Also represented were Bishops responsible for the Biblical Apostolate at National and Regional levels, representative by the Association of the Panafrican Catholic Exegetes (PACE), Priests, Religious men and women, and the Laity.

During the Official Opening ceremony of the Assembly goodwill messages were delivered to the participants by the Chairman of the Episcopal Conference of Malawi, Bishop Joseph ZUZA; the Ag. Secretary General of the Catholic Biblical Federation (CBF), Professor Thomas Osborne; Mr. Clapperton MAYUNI, Executive Director for the Bible Society of Malawi who also represented the United Bible Societies (UBS Africa Region; and by SECAM’s Director of Communications on behalf of the Secretary General of SECAM, Rev. Fr. Joseph Komakoma.
The Keynote address was delivered by the Director of BICAM, Fr. Yves-Lucien EVAGA NDJANA. Topics that were treated during the Assembly included:
    The Bible, as an action book: Basic Elements in relation to the Word of God and Pastoral actions by Rev. Fr. Jean Bosco MATAND (Secretary General for PACE), RD CONGO.
    Reception of the Post Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Verbum Domini: “Animatio Biblica totius actionis pastoralis”, no 73, the background, analysis and understanding by Professor Thomas OSBORNE (SG of CBF), LUXEMBERG.
    Diversity of African context and the fields of apostolate in perspective by Fr. Toma ZAKY, EGYPT.
    Concerns, aspirations, expectations of target groups: families, youth, professionals:

      Lay people (Democracy, good governance and development) by Mr Chris CHISONI, MALAWI.
      Families (Structure, education and integration) by M. Felix François NKOLO, CAMEROON
      Youth (Formation, modernity, unemployment) by Rev. Fr. Mathieu THEKKEYIL, RD CONGO.

    Biblical Hermeneutics in dialogue with African Cultures by Fr. Peter MUEMA, KENYA.
    The discovery of the centrality of the word of God in the life of a Christian, Africae Munus no 161 by Rev. Fr Peter MULOMOLE, MALAWI.
    Diaologue between Pastors, Theologians and exegetes (VD no 45) Prof. Thomas OSBORNE (SG of FBC) LUXEMBURG.
    Elements of Strategic actions:

      Familiarity with scriptures (Lectio Divina, Bible sharing groups, catechesis, liturgy) Rev. Fr. Edward MASAUKO, MALAWI.
      Evangelisation of Evangelisers, by Rev. Sr. Marlyse HECKLER, ANGOLA.
      The issue of African Societies (Contextualisation) by Fr Titus Amigu, TANZANIA
      Availability of the Scriptures (translation; edition, diffusion) by Rev. Fr Roger WAWA, RDC


All the presentations were aimed at reflecting on and finding answers to the major concerns regarding the theme of the Assembly- “Animatio biblica totius actionis pastoralis” On the Word of God in the Life and Mission of the Church.


    OBSERVATIONS

On the basis of the various presentations and general discussions we arrived at the following observations:
    The Word of God serves as a guide for faith and human activities and gives believers a style of life guided by the Holy Spirit in order to live the mystery of Jesus Christ according to Christian vocation.


    The Bible is a source of inspiration and faith in the family, among the Youth, religious communities and societies when revitalized through daily prayers.


    The Biblical Apostolate is an effective tool against the invasion of sects and misinterpretation of the Bible but it is not fully developed in many countries on the African continent.


    The rise of Political-Islam, fundamentalism and bad governance is a threat to Christian practices.


    BICAM, CBF and UBS are giving a valuable contribution to the Biblical apostolate by ensuring wide production and availability of Bibles especially the Catholic Edition.


    RESOLUTIONS

Culminating from these observations, we, the participants to this XIIIth Plenary Assembly of the Biblical Centre for Africa and Madagascar (BICAM), therefore make the following resolutions:
    To strengthen networking between Regional and National Coordinators.


    To promote collaboration among BICAM, CBF, PACE, Catholic Editors and UBS in their efforts to widely disseminate Bibles and other related materials in our dioceses and regions.


    To give special attention to the pastoral biblical formation of the lay professionals, families, women and the youth.


    To promote formation of Biblical Associations and provide such groups with all necessary help and guidance based on the Bible.


    To discern the various challenges in today’s society and their consequences for biblical ministry in Christian communities, especially to the youth at all times in order to respond to their questions and concerns.


    To use modern technologies of teaching the word of God to capture the interest of the youths.


    To make available to the faithful the biblical texts in local languages preferably through ecumenical efforts (DV 22).



    RECOMMENDATIONS

In relation to the future of the Biblical Apostolate in Africa, we recommend that:
    The biblical formation of pastoral agents, leaders of Bible groups, as well as leaders of Catholic associations at Regional and National levels should be promoted by every Episcopal Conference.


    The importance and implications of biblical animation in all areas of the life of the church should be included in pastoral strategic plan at national and diocesan level.


    Close cooperation with the Catechetical Centers in the training of priests, catechists and teachers of the Bible should be established by all Biblical Associations.


    A specific period for reflection on the Bible e.g: Establishing the Bible Week, Bible month etc should be established by Episcopal Conferences at national level.


    Catholic publishers should be more united and proactive in the publication, translations and production of the Bibles and other Bible related materials (e.g Liturgical Bibles and Calendars).

CONCLUSION
In all these we recognise the hand of God in the fruitful work realised during the Assembly. We wish to thank The Apostolic Nuncio to Malawi and Zambia, Archbishop Julio Murat, who presided over the Opening Mass; Bishop Joseph M. ZUZA, Chairman of the Episcopal Conference of Malawi; Most Rev. Remi Ste-Marie, Bishop Emeritus for the Archdiocese of Lilongwe; Most Rev. Tarcisius ZIYAYE, the newly enthroned Archbishop of Lilongwe. The appreciation goes to Bishops Emmanuel Kanyama of Dedza diocese, Mathieu MADEGA of Gabon; Michael ODOGWU ELUE of Nigeria, Joaquim LOPES of Angola and Gaspard MUDISO of RDC. We also thank Monsignor Van Megen, the Chargé d’Affaires of the Vatican Embassy in Malawi, Rev. Fr George Buleya, Secretary General for the ECM; our invited guests: Professor Thomas OSBORNE, Ag. Secretary General of CBF for his invaluable presentations and efficient facilitation, Professor Jean Bosco MATAND and all the resource persons for the success of this Plenary Assembly.
We would also like to express our gratitude to our Partner Agencies, mainly Church in Need, MISSIO Aachen and the Pontifical Council of Cor Unum for their technical and financial support. We cannot forget the great contribution of the Local Organising Committee of the Episcopal Conference of Malawi, the Rector of Kachebere Seminary, Fr Raphael Mbendera and his Staff; and the various groups, movements and individuals for their invaluable material and human support.


We entrust the outcome, resolutions, recommendations of the Plenary to the
Blessed Mary, Mother of the Church and Queen of Africa.

Signed at Kachebere on Sunday, 22nd September 2013 by:


The Most Rev. Tarcisius ZIYAYE, Chairman of AMECEA and Archbishop of Lilongwe.




Right Rev. Joseph M. ZUZA, Chairman of the Episcopal Conference of Malawi



Right Rev. Gaspard MUDISO, Episcopal Conference of DRC



Right Rev. Michael ODOGWU ELUE, Episcopal Conference of Nigeria,


Right Rev. Joaquim LOPES, Episcopal Conference of Angola



Right Rev. Mathieu MADEGA, Episcopal Conference of Gabon




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