Abidjan (Agenzia Fides) - "The first missionaries of the Society of African Missions (SMA) arrived in Ivory Coast in 1895. We are therefore a relatively young Church", declared to Fides Msgr Marcelin Yao Kouadio, Bishop of Daloa and president of the Episcopal Conference of Ivory Coast.
Is Ivory Coast still a "mission land"?
We currently have 15 dioceses with 4 ecclesiastical provinces and the entire hierarchy is made up of bishops from the Ivorian diocesan clergy. But we always welcome foreign missionaries belonging to various religious congregations (especially women) and institutes of apostolic life. We are therefore still a Church “in mission land”. Our problem is how to move from this condition to a missionary Church.
What can make this transition easier?
From my point of view, we must take into account what we call "triple autonomy". First of all, the autonomy of the personnel involved in apostolic work, through a well-organized pastoral care of vocations aimed at the younger generations. Then, cultural autonomy, through the inculturation of the faith: how to promote local culture, which has its own values, in the dynamic of the proclamation of the Gospel. Factors such as belief in God, the Supreme Being, recognition of wrongdoing and sin, belief in life after death, sense of community life are found in the traditional culture of our people. Finally, the financial autonomy of all our dioceses. At the national level, we have set up a national Catholic fund which is enjoying good success. We are completing the construction of a city financed by this fund (see Fides, 1/10/2020). This is a town with several houses that will be rented out to generate funds for the Church.
How do you engage in dialogue with other communities of believers in your country?
In a context like that of Ivory Coast, we need to talk about interreligious dialogue, because there are still followers of the traditional African religion and there are Muslims. Ecumenical dialogue, on the other hand, concerns relations with the Protestant Churches. In Ivory Coast, a sort of alliance was created between communities of believers for peace, which above all united our Protestant and Muslim brothers. At the moment, as an Episcopal Conference, we are present as observers. There is also the National Forum of Religious Confessions where all the confessions of the country are present and where, with all other religious leaders, we promote initiatives for peace and social cohesion, especially during the critical period of elections.
In 2023, the first nationality of immigrants to arrive on the Italian coast is from Ivory Coast, so far almost
8,000 people. What can you tell us about this?
The phenomenon of emigration is an unfortunate reality to the extent that African countries, such as Ivory Coast, are immensely rich. But their inhabitants cannot benefit from these riches. For example, Ivory Coast is the world's leading producer of cocoa. But those who grow it in Ivory Coast do not have the means to buy the "good chocolate" that you advertise in Europe. We are the third largest producer of coffee in the world, not to mention gold, diamonds, etc. The same goes for other African countries. Its children are forced to die in the cemetery that the Mediterranean has become. It's a tragedy. They say that we live in a globalized world. They say that the world is a big village, but the mobility that we talk about so much is often one-way. Some can go anywhere, even without a visa, but many others cannot travel. The Church tries to make young people aware of the risks associated with leaving. Last Lent, I organized a retreat with 12,000 young people, during which we addressed this question. (L.M.) (Agenzia Fides, 30/9/2023)