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African Synod Presents 57 Propositions to Holy Father

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VATICAN CITY, OCT. 28 (VIS): The working sessions of the Second Special Assembly for Africa of the Synod of Bishops concluded this morning with the approval of the fifty-seven propositions which the Synod Fathers have presented to Benedict XVI.

By order of the Pope, a provisional and unofficial version of the propositions has been made public by the General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops. This is the third time that Benedict XVI has allowed the publication of the closing propositions of a Synodal assembly. Normally the propositions are given privately to the Pope for him to consider while preparing the Apostolic Exhortation, the official closing document of a Synod.

The first proposition aims at fomenting greater ecclesial communion at all levels, encouraging co-operation within the Church. The Synod Fathers wish to stimulate existing structures of ecclesial communion, at the same time promoting others such as, for example, the establishment of continent-wide councils for the clergy, the laity and Catholic women.

The prelates launch a "heartfelt appeal to all those who are at war in Africa and make their people suffer so much: 'Stop the hostilities and be reconciled!'" They likewise invite the international community "to give strong support to the struggle against all the manoeuvres which destabilise the African continent".

In proposition 20 the Synod Fathers affirm as "unacceptable" article 14 of the Maputo Protocol. The article concerns the reproductive rights of women, "authorising medical abortion in cases of sexual assault, rape, incest, and where the continued pregnancy endangers the mental and physical health of the mother or the life of the mother or the foetus". Yet, they say, this is "in contradiction with human rights and the right to life. It trivialises the seriousness of the crime of abortion and devalues the role of childbearing".

On the subject of the environment - another recurring theme of the Synod - the Synod Fathers note "an irresponsible degradation and senseless destruction of the earth, which is 'our mother'. In complicity with those who exercise political and economic leadership in Africa, some businesses, governments and multinational and trans-national companies engage in business that pollute the environment, destroy flora and fauna, thus causing unprecedented erosion and desertification of large areas of arable land".

The bishops also express their concern for "fifteen million migrants who are looking for a homeland and a place of peace. ... The principle of the universal destination of created goods and the Church's teachings on human rights, freedom of movement and the rights of migrant workers are increasingly violated by the world's restrictive migration policies and laws against Africans", they say.

In another of their propositions the Synod Fathers call for the defence of the family and of human life, which is facing the threat of "abortion, the devaluation of maternity (child-bearing), the distortion of the notion of marriage and the family itself, the ideology of divorce and a new relativist ethic".

On the subject of women in Africa, the prelates "condemn all acts of violence against women, such as the battering of wives, the disinheritance of daughters, the oppression of widows in the name of tradition, forced marriages, female genital mutilation, trafficking in women and several other abuses such as sex slavery and sex tourism. All other inhumane and unjust acts against women are equally condemned".

In another of the propositions, they describe HIV/AIDS as "a pandemic, together with malaria and tuberculosis, which is decimating African populations and severely damaging their economic and social life". AIDS sufferers in Africa "are victims of injustice, because they often do not receive the same quality of treatment as in other places. The Church asks ... that African patients receive the same quality of treatment as in Europe". The Synod Fathers also call for "pastoral support which helps couples living with an affected spouse to inform and form their consciences, so that they might choose what is right, with full responsibility for the greater good of each other, their union and their family".

"This Synod", reads another proposition, "calls for the total and universal abolition of the death penalty".

Finally the Synod Fathers underline the importance of "the professional training and ethical formation of journalists to promote a culture of dialogue which avoids division, sensationalism, disinformation and the offensive trivialisation of human suffering, all of which could harm the harmony and peace of societies and communities". (Courtesy: VIS 091026)

 
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