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Message of 1st Symposium of Bishops of Africa and Europe

"Much to Give to and Receive From Each Other"

ROME, NOV. 17, 2004 (Zenit) - Here is the final message of the first symposium of bishops of Africa and Europe, held Nov. 10-13. The theme of the symposium was "Communion and Solidarity between Africa and Europe: Christ Calls upon Us -- Christ Sends Us."

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Our meeting of bishops: a historic event[1]

The Symposium of the Bishops' Conferences of Africa and Madagascar (SECAM) and the Council of the European Bishops' Conferences (CCEE) under the auspices of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples with the cooperation of a number of Catholic development agencies, have organized a symposium bringing together 50 Bishops from Africa and 50 Bishops from Europe. The meeting was held in Rome from November 10-13, 2004, to discuss the theme "Community and Solidarity between Africa and Europe."

This meeting took place in a spirit of prayer, mutual listening, true respect for one another, in a true sacramental brotherhood in Christ who calls and sends us to give witness to our own particular Churches.

In a spirit of respectful sharing, thoughtful and without complacency, we heard and discussed input from many participants. We showed our "care of all the Churches" (2 Corinthians 11:28). We have much to give to and receive from each other through the sharing of joy, the communication of faith, the missionary drive and action to transform our societies in a globalized world which is in search of meaning and of the most fundamental values, which are often denied or despised.

As Bishops, servants of hope, we desire to reflect together on our common responsibility to build fairer relationships among our countries and to strengthen exchanges between the local churches of our two continents.

As we end our assembly, we address this message to you the faithful of our local churches on the two continents, and to you, men and women of good will. This message conveys our findings and convictions; it commits us to intensifying our collaboration in the future, and to uniting our efforts in support of one other in the task awaiting us.

Living communion and solidarity between Africa and Europe

Our meeting will allow us to gain a new appreciation of our histories and our mutual relationships, founded upon truthfulness and benevolence, recognizing the gifts received on both sides. We share a common heritage and vision of humankind that reveals the face of Christ ... in a Church present in the heart of the World.

History has marked the relations between Africa and Europe, between our peoples, countries and institutions, sometimes with serious damage to human dignity. Today unemployment, exclusion, the crushing burden of debt, corruption, exploitation of people, the pillaging of natural resources, the HIV/AIDS pandemic, the lack of access to health care as well as illiteracy are all challenges that must be tackled. They cause us pain, too, and we express our solidarity with all those who are victims of these problems.

These evils demand vigilant attention by us and by governments and international institutions. We call upon the African Union and the European Union to set themselves the target of eradicating the tragedy of hunger during the next decade. We also remind the rich countries of their undertaking to devote 0.7% of their GNP to public development aid. Five countries have already achieved this -- so it is possible. It is more than a question of charity, it is a question of keeping one's word and of justice. Charity presupposes justice.

We consider that honoring the Millennium Development Goals is the best opportunity for ending poverty in Africa. We shall untiringly challenge our governments and the European Union on the need for debt cancellation and fair trade regulations, and to create a globalization which has a human face.

Faced with situations of violence and injustice, our local churches are anxious to commit themselves at the very heart of social exclusion and conflict. We will work everywhere for justice and peace, for reconciliation and in the defense of human rights. The dignity of the human person and the needs of peoples will remain more than ever central to our common responsibility.

Christians participate in decision-making in the fields of economics and politics; we wish to be by their side, in the light of the Church's Social Doctrine, which we must promote more than ever in our respective local churches, our countries and continents in a Church which carries hope, living proclamation and dialogue.

We give thanks for the exchange of personnel, priests, members of religious orders and lay people doing mission work on our two continents. In the life of our local churches, we must today more than ever support the giving and receiving of the ...

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