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Many topics said to fit 2009 African synod's theme
Mark Pattison
Source: Catholic News Service
Published: Tuesday, December 2, 2008
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WASHINGTON (CNS)—Many topics can fit into the theme for the Oct. 4-25, 2009, Synod of Bishops for Africa, said the communications director for one of the regional groupings of African bishops.
With its stated theme as justice, reconciliation and peace, "we'll be looking at what has been done in Africa since the 1994 synod," said Benedict Assorow, director of communications for the Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar.
"Much of it will also look at AIDS, which we see as a pandemic in Africa," Assorow added. "Why are we having too many people suffering from AIDS in Africa? It will be due to (a lack of) justice and peace. They are poor. They do not have a job. They sell their body to buy some bread—and they get themselves into trouble."
Assorow, who lives in Ghana, made his comments during a June 15, 2007, interview in Washington with Catholic News Service. He was visiting Washington to meet with representatives of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops after having spent much of the previous week in Quebec at the triennial convention of the International Catholic Union of the Press.
He said synod topics probably also would include development issues and ongoing issues like the strife in Sudan and political instability in Zimbabwe and other African countries.
In 2004 Pope John Paul II announced his intention to convoke a second synod of Africa's bishops. While Pope Benedict XVI has affirmed the intent, no date has been set for the synod, which will be held at the Vatican.
Assorow said while the idea had been bandied about to conduct the synod in Africa it would be impractical to do so.
"Where would you go?" he asked. "Who would host it?" He said if the synod were in Africa rivalries would erupt between nations and among bishops within nations.
Even if Africa were chosen as the site, "where could you go for a month?" Assorow asked; most synods last about one month. "Where would you put the pope for a month? It would be physically impossible."
Assorow has been communications director for the African bishops' symposium, known by its acronym, SECAM, since 2005, after 25 years of working for the communications arm of the Ghanaian bishops' conference.
He said that, lacking an African home for the synod, the continent's bishops are going to the people to ask them their priorities before the synod is convoked.
The process is slow, Assorow said. Questions have to be translated into the many languages spoken in Africa to ensure the broadest possible participation. It is also possible that, in some places, questions will need to be asked orally rather than printed on a questionnaire to elicit responses.
"But the effort is a good one, and I think it will be successful," he said.

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