AFRICA/SIERRA LEONE “Have we taken the commitment to evangelise seriously?” asks Catholic Bishop of Makeni in a recent Pastoral Letter

Wednesday, 25 February 2004

Makeni (Fides Service)- “The growth of the church in Sierra Leone makes the challenge of evangelisation an even more poignant duty for all of us” writes Bishop Giorgio Biguzzi, Bishop of Makeni, in Sierra Leone in a pastoral letter addressed to clergy, religious and faithful with the title “The Church at the beginning of the Third Millennum”, issued, 25 February 2004.
The Bishop writes “ When we consider the history of evangelisation in our country, we have many reasons to give thanks to God. I list only a few: Our Christian roots go back to our distant past. The king of the area where there is present day Freetown was baptised by Fr. Barreira four hundred years ago. Since that time, in spite of lack of priests, of sickness and of many other difficulties, a small group of people kept the faith alive in our land. Blessed Anne Marie Javouhé visited Sierra Leone almost two hundred years ago. She was the first missionary woman to Sierra Leone and gave outstanding witness of Christ’s love for the poor, particularly for enslaved and marginalised girls”.
Bishop Biguzzi says much remains to be done: “. In our diocese and the country at large, there are many areas and groups still untouched by the Good News. The duty to take up the task of evangelisation is now primarily incumbent upon us”. Recalling the well known phrase of Pope Paul VI 40 years ago: “Africans, you are now your own missionaries”(Kampala 18 Oct. 1964), the Bishop of Makeni asks: “ Have we taken this commitment seriously? In each parish there should be an “Evangelisation Committee” in order to organise evangelisation activities and to animate the parishioners to spread the Good News. We must radiate our love for Christ and reach out to all the others. “Each one, reach one” could be a good beginning to bring Christ to every corner of this land”. “ Parishes should not be solely places of worship, but also centres of formation at all levels. It is incumbent upon parish priests to organise regular catechetical instruction, Bible studies, formation programmes.”.
This is why Bishop Biguzzi writes“ The need of inculturation is now an accepted fact in the church. It is a challenge that we cannot ignore and that we cannot face superficially. It requires both a deep knowledge of the faith and a serious reflection on the culture. In the field of liturgy we have already made significant strides”. “Our Church in the diocese of Makeni must show to the world the African face of Christ. This requires a balanced approach. “A serious concern for a true and balanced inculturation is necessary in order to avoid cultural confusion and alienation in our fast evolving society”(Af. Synod 48). We must clearly preserve the features of Christ, while striving to remain authentically African. I pray for our African scholars to continue research and to offer appropriate suggestions. I urge the staff of our Major Seminary to guide our future priests to a sensible understanding of the need of inculturation. Respect for our culture demands that we promote whatever is beautiful, dignified, whatever enhances human dignity and our positive values. Anything to the contrary must not be introduced or preserved under the name of culture.”.
The Bishop recalls: “ We live in a land of plenty, yet the majority of our people live in abject poverty. Wealth is not fairly distributed but concentrated in the hands of the few. About 80% of the population live in absolute poverty with expenditures below $1 a day. Women and children and people in rural areas are particularly affected. The scourge of corruption destroys the moral fibre of our people. As a Church we cannot remain indifferent… For these reasons I encourage the formation of Justice and Peace Commissions at various levels to defend the poor, promote justice and human rights... I ask that the poor and marginalised be always the first to benefit from the development projects sponsored by our Caritas office, parishes and religious organisations”. (L.M.) (Agenzia Fides 25/2/2004, righe 48 parole 698)