Cameroon Archbishop: ‘No Room for Distraction’ for Delegates to Synod on Synodality
Archbishop Nkea, who was appointed a member of the ordinary council of the synod by Pope Francis, highlighted some of the issues to be discussed.
Delegates to the 16th Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, also referred to as the Synod on Synodality, are not to allow “room for distractions” during the meeting scheduled to begin on Oct. 4, an archbishop in Cameroon has told ACI Africa, CNA’s news partner in Africa.
In a Sept. 23 interview, Archbishop Andrew Nkea Fuanya of the Archdiocese of Bamenda in Cameroon said deliberations during the synod, which will conclude with a second assembly in 2024, will focus on the Instrumentum Laboris, or working document for the synod.
“We are not going to allow ourselves to be distracted by the social media antics; there will be no room for distraction,” said Archbishop Nkea, who is also president of the National Episcopal Conference of Cameroon.
“The aim of the synod is to reflect on the Church we have and how we want it to be and not to change the doctrine of the Church,” he added.
Archbishop Nkea, who was appointed a member of the ordinary council of the synod by Pope Francis, highlighted some of the issues to be discussed. “We are going to reflect on the problem of LGBT+ in families and polygamy in marriage but it’s not about changing the teachings of the Church,” he said. “There is already an Instrumentum Laboris we are working on.”
“We have dedicated three years of effort to prepare for this event through questionnaires and a mini-African synod that was held in Ethiopia,” the archbishop continued.
“We are going to allow ourselves to be guided by the Holy Spirit, allowing the Holy Spirit to work in us,” he said.
Reflecting on how synodality was lived in Cameroon, he said: “Synodality has, so to speak, caught fire not only in Cameroon but [also] in Africa. The synod is not a new thing to the Church in Cameroon because we have conveyed to our faithful from the very beginning what every diocese must do to respond to Pope Francis’ call to listen to one another, progress together, share ideas, and remember that, as Christians, we must not leave anyone behind.”
He went on to explain that in Cameroon, the structural approach “begins with decisions made at the grassroot community levels.”
“The spirit of collegiality is our way of functioning,” Archbishop Nkea said. “We always start with the population and the community, then proceed to missions, parishes, and the diocese.”
He noted that “when a bishop contemplates a decision on a particular issue, the consultation process begins with the involvement of the faithful, starting with families … Together with his [bishop’s] advisers, they make the final decision based on the input received.”
In a break with past custom that allowed laypeople to participate in the Synod of Bishops without the right to vote, the Vatican indicated April 26 that lay delegates to the 16th Ordinary General Assembly will participate as voting members.
Also speaking to ACI Africa on Sept. 23, Bishop Georges Nkuo of Cameroon’s Kumbo Diocese said: “The Holy Father invites us to engage in dialogue to discern the kind of Church we have and the kind of Church we aspire to build in a truly evangelical spirit.”
“We aim for a Church that is closely connected to the people, one that is recognized at the periphery. While other topics may surface during the synod, the primary focus is on our collective journey and discernment,” said Bishop Nkuo, who is not among the delegates to the synod.
He continued: “We are a mature Church. The Holy Father does not endorse ideologies; he embraces individuals. Every human being is precious in the eyes of God. The Holy Father does not engage with organizations or NGOs [nongovernmental organizations] that have specific agendas. We come to the Church not to change its teachings but to deepen our understanding together.”
Emmanuel Ayuni in Yaounde, Cameroon, contributed to this story.