Cotonou (Agenzia Fides) - "Missionary work was the seed from which the African clergy and entire generations of convinced Christians germinated, whose vision and action have contributed to making our Church in Africa a Church capable of enriching the whole universal Church with its gifts". Father Basil Soyoye, a priest of the Society of African Missions (SMA) is convinced of this in a testimony given to Fides.
The missionary recalls that "the first missionaries in Africa were the cornerstones of evangelization, they carried out extraordinary work". The “Memory of Catholic Africa” project is dedicated to them, which Father Basil started in Benin with the support of his community, in June 2021 (See Fides, 25/1/2022).
Father Soyoye, 57, of Nigerian origin, after 24 years of priesthood in different mission territories, has decided to promote this initiative to collect the archives of the Church on the African continent which is part of a broader context: 160 years of evangelization in Benin and more generally in West Africa. "In this century and a half of presence - explains the religious to Fides - the Catholic Church has contributed to the construction and has had a great influence in the social sectors of education, health, politics, formation of consciences, of the culture of peace. Therefore - he continues - gradually building digital archives at the level of the local Church in Africa, means engaging in a true 'pastoral ministry of memory', which would consist in collecting the testimony of the lives of bishops, priests, men and women religious who are still alive on the continent". The data collection phase is followed by the processing and provision of the collected data. "They will also be broadcast by Catholic radio stations and various other media", reports Father Basil. "The sense of missionary spirit is very much alive in Africa", says the SMA missionary. Continuing the structures of the Church, there is also the irreplaceable service rendered by the lay faithful and catechists, bearing witness to the Gospel and starting from a deeply rooted Christian identity, open to dialogue and confrontation.
"The challenge of the coming decades will be to remind the African Church of the importance of mission and evangelization in a society marked by secularization and modernization", he concludes. (ES) (Agenzia Fides, 26/2/2022)