Monday, 15 September 2003

Rome (Fides Service) – Evangelisation in Guinea Bissau which in 1998 marked 500 years took place in four or five laps. The first began with the arrival in Guinea of Portuguese Europeans in 1446, and ended with the creation of the diocese of Cape Verde in 1533, 1000 km away, of which Guinea was a part. Protagonists were a few laymen, mostly sailors and a few missionaries.
The second lap goes from the creation of Cape Verde diocese to 1940 when Guinea separated from the archipelago. This gave rise to commitment for evangelisation, still with only a few people: some diocesan priests, various religious orders, Jesuits Franciscan, Carmelites etc. The bishop was 1000 km away and in all these centuries only 7 bishops visited Guinea.
The third lap of evangelisation in Guinea Bissau, 1940 to 1977, after separation from Cape Verde and when it depended directly on Rome, was a Mission sui iuris which, in 1955 was elevated to the rank of Apostolic prefecture. In this period there were already foreign priests, PIME missionaries, Italian Sisters, foreign priests. This was a period in which, for the first time, missions began to work in education, health care and social development. At that time the churches had neither hospitals or schools, with the sui iuris mission more social activity started.
The final lap was from the creation of the diocese in 1977 to today, a period of particular Church, valorisation of local pastoral workers; a stage of continuation and development of social activity, creation of common pastoral lines.
In the last 20 years the Church has earned moral and social prestige: particularly in the fields of education, health care it enjoys considerable social prestige.
Data: area 36,125 sq. km; population 1.2 million; Catholics 142,000; dioceses 2, parishes 24, priests 17 secular; 61 religious; brothers 11; Sisters 135; lay missionaries 10; catechists 825 Lm (Fides Service 15/9/2003 EM lines 30 Words: 345)