ROME (March 22, 2017) – A conference entitled “African Christian Theology: Memories and Mission for the 21st Century” is being held in Rome March 22 – 25, and is considered one of the most important gatherings of African Catholic leaders since the Synod of Bishops for Africa in 2009.
The conference was convened by Fr. Paulinus Odozor, C.S.Sp., and the Center for Ethics and Culture at the University of Notre Dame, South Bend, IN. It is being held at Notre Dame’s Global Gateway Center near the Colosseum in Rome.
Frs. Eugene Uzukwu, C.S.Sp. and James Okoye, C.S.Sp. from Duquesne University and Fr. Bede Ukwuije, C.S.Sp., first assistant to the superior general, also delivered papers during the conference. Other Spiritans invited to speak included Fr. Mark Enemali, C.S.Sp.; and Fr. Bonaventure Ugwu, C.S.Sp., both of the Spiritan International School of Theology (SIST), Attakwu, Enugu, Nigeria.
According to the conference Website, “African Christian theology emerged as a formal branch of study in the Catholic Church in the mid-20th century when several African priests, trained in Rome and various European universities, began to approach the Faith as ‘African Christians,’ not merely the ‘consumers’ of a Eurocentric understanding of the Christian Faith.
“African theology has largely coalesced around the theme of inculturation and has gone on to probe, interrogate, and dialogue with realities both in and outside the African churches with regard to morality, worship, dogma, scripture, pastoral activities, evangelization, interreligious dialogue, etc. It has also continued to engage African societies at various levels: political, social, and economic.”
According to the World Christian Database, by 2050, Africa should have more than 450 million Catholics, making it the largest Catholic continent. Currently there are 24 African members in the College of Cardinals, 14 of whom are under the age of 80, meaning possible candidates for the papacy in a future conclave. They represent 12 percent of the electors, not far from the estimated 12.63 percentage African Catholics represent of the world’s 1.3 billion Catholics.
Other topics at the three-day conference included: Pope Francis’s encyclical on the environment, Laudato Si’, as well as his apostolic exhortation on the family, Amoris Laetitia; the challenges of Catholic Social Teaching; “Islam and Christianity in dialogue in Africa,” and “Women, gender and theology of the African Church.”