Handing on the Faith at the Heart of Africa's Cultures

Ten years after the First Special Assembly for Africa of the Synod of Bishops considered inculturation of the faith as one of the most urgent tasks in the very life of Africa’s particular Churches, the Pontifical Council for Culture organised a meeting in Accra in March 2003 convinced that, as the Holy Father affirms, “a faith that does not become culture is not fully accepted, not entirely thought out, not faithfully lived” (Letter creating the Pontifical Council for Culture, 20 May 1982). Africa, new homeland for Christ, has its own opportunities, challenges and experiences to show how the interaction between faith and culture is at once necessary, beneficial and fruitful.

But inculturation alone does not entirely satisfy the mission, for there is also the aspect of evangelising cultures, that is the entire make up of structures of thought and of action, of ethical reference points, of customs and habits which reveal the human person to be a fundamentally cultural being.

To favour this twofold task of the Church in Africa, the Pontifical Council for Culture brought together its African Members and Consultors with the directors of studies of many of the major seminaries in Africa to address various aspects of the pastoral approach to culture under the theme: Handing on the Faith at the Heart of Africa’s Cultures. The dialogue and debate that followed the magisterial lectures permitted an enriching sharing of ideas, experiences, hopes and expectations, within a clear desire to evangelise the peoples and their cultures in all their rich complexity.

The discussions between priests active in ministry and those responsible for the formation of future priests were marked by a sense of realism and hopefulness.

The cultural formation of priests aims to bring them to this transversal dimension of the whole of human existence, and hence, of evangelisation itself. The seminaries and centres of formation are seedbeds of hope for the future of the Church in Africa. They form and educate priests to be capable of leading an enthusiastic laity, ready to engage in the mission to bring their brothers and sisters the Good News of the Gospel and to lead them to the meeting with Christ.