Lagos, Monday, November 20, 2023. After intensive 2-day meetings on the way forward for Social Communications of the Church in Africa, an elaborate celebration of the Golden Jubilee of CEPACS took place at Lekki, Lagos, Nigeria. CEPACS is a French acronym for “Comité Episcopal Panafricain Pour les Communications Sociales” (in English: Pan-African Episcopal Committee for Social Communications). The well-attended Conference, marking the Jubilee has as theme, “CEPACS AT 50: PROMOTING A SYNODAL CHURCH IN AFRICA THROUGH SOCIAL COMMUNICATIONS.”

No one has better information on the occasion and CEPACS, in particular, than the Most Rev. Emmanuel Adetoyese Badejo, the Catholic Bishop of Oyo Diocese in Nigeria and the incumbent President of CEPACS. In his opening remarks, he said that CEPACS was “Established in 1973 at Ibadan, Nigeria by the Assembly of Bishops of Africa, (the Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar [SECAM]) to bring together communication committees from different regions of Africa and explore ways of effecting the [pastoral] instructions of the document Communio et Progressio (Unity and Advancement).” Accordingly, the mandate given to CEPACS, “consists in addressing the challenges that concern Church communication, the Catholic press, information, training of personnel, cooperation and financing of projects as concerns the Catholic media institutions and professionals.”

However, Communio et Progressio, according to the Vatican Press, is a Second Vatican post-conciliar document which “called attention to communication as a gift of God, an authentic tool for evangelisation, and the necessity of managing it.”

Several academic lectures attended the Conference. First was from Most Rev. Charles Gabriel Angela Palmer-Buckle, of the Metropolitan See of Cape Coast, Ghana. The cerebral Archbishop, citing Lk 4:18-19  — as Jesus’s manifesto — insists that, as communucators, the word of Jesus must be our mantra. He maintains that communicators must work to “form, inform, transform, reform and to comform.” Paraphrasing St Augustine of Hippo, summoning everyone, he concluded: Celebrate what you have become, and become what you celebrate. Then came Bishop Lucio Andrice Muandula of the Diocese of Xai-Xai, Mozambique. He affirms that a true communicator provokes the multitute to respond to God. As a professional escort, he paves the way for the word of God to enter. He calls all people to love God. Thus, the Bishop advised the Church in Africa to take advantage of digital communication.

Archbishop Nkea of Bamenda with Fr Rebecca Igirigi, CMF

Most Rev. Bernardin Francis Mfumbusa of Kondoa Diocese gave an interesting commentary. For the Prelate from Central Tanzania, “The Church in Africa and elsewhere has to contend with a ‘Babel mediascape with no gatekeepers.’ The linear model of centralised and government regulated media is gone. The Church in Africa must pay attention. Archbishop Andrew Fuanya Nkea of Bamenda Archdiocese, Cameroon, noted that every Diocese and Religious Congregation that is not heading towards extinction must join the effort of the Church to occupy the media space, via the multiple and ubiquitous social networks like the Instagram, Facebook, Twitter (X), WhatsApp etc., and must have an active Website. He noted that the majority of the African population are the youths, and that group has migrated to the social media. Thus, for the African Church to be relevant, she must find herself ministering to the uncountable faithful in those online platforms.

His Eminence, Fridolin Cardinal Ambongo Besungu, the Metropolitan Archbishop of Kinshasa and the President of SECAM, in his remarks said that ours must be a Church that communicates. In his earlier message, the Cardinal reminds CEPACS that “As a Commission, your goal and mission is to stimulate, promote and coordinate the pastoral activities of social communities within the church in Africa to reflect the Gospel values of love, compassion, solidarity and stewardship of God’s creation and draw people to Jesus Christ through the media.”

That the CEPACS Golden Jubilee Assembly is being celebrated in Lagos, for the Bishop-President Badejo is “an opportunity for stocktaking and strengthening of existing Social Communication structures and for designing new infrastructure for a truly synodal Church. It is a chance to enhance Christian witness in a world fully engaging with more diverse and contemporary digital culture, align strategies with the youth and at the same time explore the intrinsic effectiveness of African culture and communicative elements for evangelization.”

What next? It is recognised, through the papers, debates, group discussions etc., that there are so much creative energies and strength within the African youthful population. And the world is waiting for Africa. Thus, it is incumbent on SECAM to relaunch, restart, revitalise and fund CEPACS as an effective umbrella body of Africa’s Catholic Communication professionals, along with every stakeholder in the field, to achieve the goals and objectives of CEPACS as enumerated above.

Participants at the Jubilee Conference, include the Vatican Prefect of the Dicastery for Social Communications, Dr Paolo Ruffini; the President of SECAM Fridolin Cardinal Ambongo Besungu, also the Metropolitan See of Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo; the Host Bishop for CBCN, Most Rev. Alfred Adewale Martins of Lagos Archdiocese; Most Rev. Gabriel Leke Abegunrin of Ibadan Archdiocese (where CEPACS was birthed by the African Bishops’ meeting in 1973, from 28 November to 2 December), and a host of other Bishops and international media personalities.

Bishop David Ajang, the Bishop Chairman of Nigerian Communication Directors

The Claret Publishing Group (CPG) of the Claretian Missionaries, which has greatly impacted the African Church via deliberate evangelisation activities of the youthful and energetic Media Houses of the different Organisms in Africa, engaging all forms of contemporary print and digital publishing was not absent in the important Assembly. Fr Marcellinus Rebecca Igirigi, CMF, the Director of Communications, Delegation West Nigeria was actively on the roll.

Communique to be out soon!

Fridolin Cardinal Ambongo, SECAM President, with some Directors

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