KAMPALA – Most Rev. Gabriel Charles Palmer-Buckle, Treasurer of SECAM together with Most Rev. Luke Thomas Msusa, AMECEA Representative on SECAM Standing Committee have said that SECAM Bishops are seriously considering the request of the youth to be empowered and be assigned a Bishop at the continental level who will be responsible for youth apostolate.
Speaking during a press briefing on the events of the second day of the SECAM 18th Plenary Assembly and Golden Jubilee celebrations, the two underscored the importance of empowering young people today for stronger leadership tomorrow.
“If we ignore the call of our young people today and continue with business as usual without recognizing them, without empowering them, it means that the SECAM of tomorrow will not be very powerful,” Archbishop Msusa of Blantyre Archdiocese remarked.
Archbishop Msusa further indicated that as SECAM Bishops celebrates 50 years, they as Religious leaders; Bishops, priests and religious, are fruits of the work of missionaries.
Archbishop Msusa of Blantyre, Malawi
“If we are leaders now, it is because of the missionaries from Europe, America and other countries who came to form us when we were young people. Now that the young people of today are calling upon us to recognize them and to be empowered to work within the Church, we the bishops in SECAM should give them space so that they may become good leaders of tomorrow,” Archbishop Msusa said adding that, everything must however be handled gradually.
Archbishop Palmer-Buckle noted that the African society is culturally not prone to listening to the youth, which he termed as one of the weaknesses. However, he indicated that things are changing.
“Today, young people aged between zero and 40 years constitute 65% of the African population. If you take those between the ages of zero and 15 to be about 30% and between 15 and 40 to be whooping 35%, whether we like it or not we should focus our attention on them. For me I consider the youth as not tomorrow of the Church but today, I call them a present, a gift. Pope Francis emphasizes that we should look at them as such because they are the ones who have the vitality, the strength, the creativity, the initiative; for instance, in sports and music, youth are the stars of the African Continent. Imagine if the Church does not tap into such opportunities,” said Archbishop Palmer-Buckle who is also the local ordinary of Cape Coast, Ghana.
In their presentation to the SECAM Plenary Assembly, representatives of National Youth leaders, Coordinators and Chaplains from various Episcopal Conferences in Africa together with the International Young Catholic Students (IYCS) had indicated that in the next 50 years, if SECAM is to have greater focus, it should be on the youth because they comprise more than 65% of the Church membership in Africa. They are therefore requesting the Bishops to consider forming a continental body for African Youth.
Among the reasons they have cited for the need to form an African continent body for Catholic youth is the need for coordination at the continental level in order to draw realistic policies that were raised in the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation, Christus Vivit, to the young people and to the entire people of God. They also feel that a continental body will strengthen the position of all Catholic youth in Africa by pooling resources and addressing issues collectively.
The youth also believe that the continental body will foster a better participation in building up the Church and society as it will encourage a healthy communication between young people and the Church leadership. Additionally, it will be a mouth peace for all youth in Africa with one vision and grant the African youth opportunity to organize regular activities that will bring the them together.