Your Eminence, John-Pierre Cardinal Kutwã, Archbishop of Abidjan,

The Chargé d’Affaires of the Apostolic Nunciature in Ivory Coast, Fr. Luca Marabese, 

Your Excellency, Most Rev. Ignace Dogbo Bessi, Archbishop of Katiola, Apostolic Administrator of Korhogo, President of the Conference of Catholic Bishops of Ivory Coast,

Your Excellencies: Archbishops and Bishops members of the Standing Committee,

Honourable guests,

Reverend Fathers, Sisters,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is with joy that I welcome you to the opening ceremony of the 7th Meeting of the Standing Committee of RECOWA-CERAO and I express my profound gratitude to you for making sacrifices to be physically present.

We thank Jean-Pierre Cardinal Kutwã for his warm welcome and his contribution to our Regional Conference and the CERAO Centre for Pastoral and Mission, of which he is the Chairman of the Board of Management.

I express our respectful gratitude to the Chargé d’Affaires, Fr. Luca Marabese, of the   Apostolic Nunciature of Ivory Coast who as such, represents here the Holy Father, Pope Francis.

Similarly, our sincere thanks to our Secretary General and his staff, the Director of CERAO Centre for Pastoral and Mission (CCPM) and his staff for all the efforts they put into organizing this meeting. Let me also say a word of gratitude to the media men and women. Your presence here shows your interest in the Church. Be assured of our spiritual closeness.

The theme of the 7th Meeting of our Standing Committee is: The New Evangelization and the Promotion of Integral Human Development in the light of Laudato Sì. Since this is our last meeting before the 3rd Plenary Assembly which will take place from 13th to 20th May, 2019, in Ouagadougou (Burkina Faso), it is necessary that we should finalize the preparations already started by our General Secretariat in collaboration with the General Secretariat of the Episcopal Conference of Burkina-Niger. We need also to reflect on the statutes and by-laws, appointments, orientations and lines of action, ways and means that will enable us to make the 3rd Plenary Assembly a success and also make our structure for organic pastoral solidarity more visible in the region.

Our choice of this theme which is also the theme of the 3rd Plenary Assembly sustains on the one hand, the momentum initiated with the second Plenary Assembly in Accra where we reflected on the New Evangelization and the challenges of the Church Family of God in West Africa and on the other hand, we want to put into action the mission that our Conference set for itself, namely to inspire and strengthen the Church family of God in West Africa for a credible witness through the promotion of unity and solidarity, justice and peace among the peoples of West Africa. This calls for genuine social commitment, our model being Pope Francis who has among other things created an important dicastery, the Dicastery for the Promotion of Integral Human Development. Yes, we must renew our way of evangelizing just as our elder brother, Cardinal Sarr suggested in his opening speech during the 2nd Plenary Assembly: “Evangelization is renewed … when the proclamation of the Gospel is fulfilled in taking into account the contexts of time and place, where those who announce and those who listen to them evolve. But these contexts of time and place present challenges, which are opportunities and calls to announce the Good News with relevance.”

If you take the Breaking News, you can always count annually natural or man-made disasters that are very bad news. Think of the mudslide in Sierra Leone in 2017 and its death toll, the torrential rains in Côte d’Ivoire in 2018 and its death toll, the terrorist attacks in Burkina Faso, Mali and Nigeria with their death tolls for several years. We must take note of the growing poverty, stalled democracy, land grabbing, the acute lack of infrastructure, unemployment due to the fact that academic qualification in our region does not offer employment.

Our proclamation of the gospel should be inspired more by  the message of the Master who, quoting Isaiah 61: 1-2 and Zephaniah 2, 3 said in the synagogue of Nazareth “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring the good news to the poor. He sent me to proclaim liberty to captives, and to the blind the return to sight, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim a year of grace from the Lord” (Lk 4: 18-19). 

According to our Lord and Master, the gospel we proclaim must have a social impact. Taking into account the contexts of the times and difficult places in which our brothers and sisters live, this reality calls us to greater social commitment. This explains our choice of the sub-themes below that will be our concern during the next three years:

1. Promoting Integral Human Development and Social Service in the Church Family of God in West Africa.

2. Youth, Faith and Migration: The Role of the Church Family of God in Africa.

3. Governance (political, economic and land) and Social Cohesion in West Africa, the Role of Bishops.

Your Eminence, Your Excellencies, dear Brothers in the ministerial priesthood, we must be more aware and do something concretely about the challenges such as bad governance, corruption, unemployment, human trafficking,  illegal migration, etc that are seriously drawing our region backward.

I would like to end my speech by reiterating my sincere thanks to all who collaborate with us and I pray that we shall continue in small and big ways to meet the expectations of our people, the people of West Africa. I wish that the deliberations of these days bring to the Bishops of our Conference, the priests, the men and women religious, and to the lay faithful new methods, new Munus, that is to say a new commitment. May it strengthen our prophetic, apostolic and missionary zeal with concrete gestures of liberation and social justice.

Thank you for your kind attention.

+ Ignatius A. Kaigama,

Archbishop of Jos,

President of RECOWA – CERAO.              

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