Yesterday, Wednesday, December 2, a meeting was held on the meaning and objectives of Pope Francis’ last Encyclical, reflecting particularly on the African context. The meeting was promoted by Harambee Africa International and the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross. Alessandra Silvi, Official of the Department for the Service of Integral Human Development, opened the meeting by illustrating the Holy See’s initiatives to encourage “participation and create change from below” so that the great values expressed in the Letter can find concrete applications in the lives of people and society.
In the Encyclical Pope Francis mentions, among others, the South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu, the main supporter of Ubuntu, the African humanist philosophy based on “a culture of sharing, openness, mutual dependence, dialogue and interpersonal encounter” as Don Antoine Tiabondou of Burkina Faso explained, who illustrated the different declensions of the concept in the local African reality.
Sister Liliana Ugoletti, director of the Canossian Foundation, then spoke: “Fraternity and social friendship – of which the Holy Father speaks – animate solidarity towards the “poorest of the poor” and deliver a mission in the hands of each one of us, to restore full dignity and identity to each person”, recalling how St. Josephine Bakhita – Canossian Sister – is an example and source of inspiration “an ever timely reference for Africa and for those who, today, are fighting against new forms of slavery”.
Augustin Shako Yodum of Rep. Dem. Del Congo dwelt on the current challenges facing Africa to safeguard and promote the “right of every human being to live with dignity and to develop fully” (FT107); “It is not possible to speak of universal brotherhood,” said Don Augustin, “if there is no national brotherhood first. We need to start again from each of us, from the contribution that each of us can offer; we need a change of mentality, to overcome passive attitudes (while waiting for external help) and adopt proactive behaviors”.
Nicolò Della Chiesa, an agronomist from Italy, intervened in agricultural development projects. He explained how the rural world can provide interesting examples of how brotherhood can find concrete realization in practices that bring together different worlds such as African, Mediterranean and European. “The rural world in Africa shows us concrete opportunities for the common management of resources, which can give substance to the fraternity hoped for by the Pope, in a perspective of responsible use of the resources that, together, we are committed to putting to good use, but also to safeguarding and maintaining them”.
Eric Boateng, from Ghana, dwelt on the need to take into account historical truth, cited in the Encyclical: “Only from the historical truth of the facts can the persevering and lasting effort to understand each other and to try a new synthesis for the good of all be born” (FT226).
Emanuela Bonavolta, head of the Dignity project in Mozambique, concluded the meeting by reflecting on the meaning of cooperation work in developing contexts where “human relationships are always in first place, seeking that communion and brotherhood that lead us to walk together to achieve a common goal and to bring out the best in each other’s lives”.