Rome (Fides Service)- “Prospects for evangelisation in Côte d'Ivoire are good as we can see from many signs of vitality in the local Church” says Archbishop Jean-Pierre Kutwa of Gagnoa, Côte d'Ivoire presently in Rome with other members of the Côte d'Ivoire Bishops’ Conference for the five yearly ad limina visit to Rome to pray at the tombs of St Peter and Paul and to report to the Pope on the joys and troubles of the people in their care (see Fides 4 April 2006). “Attendance at Mass and other church services continues to rise, growing numbers of lay people are active in church associations and movements and vocations to the priesthood and the religious life are flourishing” says Archbishop Kutwa. “This is first of all because Ivorians are deeply religious people. Then also the political and institutional crisis has drawn people to seek in the faith and the Church not only peace and material and spiritual consolation but also ways to overcome this situation”.
“Since the crisis broke in 2002 together with other religious confessions the Catholic community has worked to ensure the conflict did not assume a religious dimension which would have meant a disaster” the Archbishop of Gagnoa said. “The different religious leaders in Côte d'Ivoire continue to insist that dialogue between the parties in conflict is the only way to end the crisis”.
“We are deeply grateful for the message which the Holy Father addressed to us during our ad limina visit” said Archbishop Kutwa. “It is a message of hope in which he calls Ivorians to have a spirit of discernment to restore peace in our country”.
Archbishop Kutwa is confident with regard to recent political developments in Côte d'Ivoire. “For years because our political leaders did not trust one another and so sincere and constructive dialogue was out of the question. Even with the intervention of various foreign mediators without reciprocal trust among Ivorians it is impossible to build peace. And our prime minister Charles Konan Banny is aware of this and is working to restore trust between the conflicting parties”.
At present the government army general staff and that of the rebels are discussing details of the disarmament and demobilisation process of combatants in view of forming a unified army. “This is a positive event and a clear step in the right direction. At last Ivorians are talking face to face to find solutions to the crisis”.
“What the people want is to live in peace and to tackle the country’s problems such as the AIDS pandemic” the Archbishop said. “The fight to prevent the spread of the HIV virus is another field in which religious communities work together for the common good. Recently the various religions formed an Alliance to promote awareness of the danger of AIDS and also provide assistance for AIDS sufferers ”.
The Archbishop of Gagnoa who took part in the recent Synod of Bishops stresses the keen missionary sense of Ivorian Catholics. “We received the Gospel from people who came from other countries and to whom we are deeply grateful. With their help and with the grace of God our Church is today a lively and rapidly growing reality. Now it is our turn to be missionaries. We are committed to mission at home and abroad. In the first case our mission at home is to deepen the faith of the people. In the second case we are aware of the problems caused by secularisation in the west and many of our dioceses have sent priests to minister in Europe in a movement of fruitful sharing between Sister Churches in the dimension of the universality of the Catholic Church”. (L.M.) (Agenzia Fides 5/4/2006 righe 49 parole 616)