10th conference of West African diocesan priests

"The prophetic role of the Catholic Priest in the face of intolerance and ethnic-religious instrumentalization in sub-Saharan Africa" is the theme that brought 38 delegates of West African diocesan priests to Bissau from 5 to 10 June.

Jun 17, 2024

West African Diocesan Priests Conference underway in Guinea Bissau) (Casimiro Jorge Cajucam (Rádio Sol Mansi))

Stanislas Kambashi, SJ  and Xavérine Mukansinga
West African Diocesan Priests from several West African countries have been meeting for their tenth annual conference in Guinea Bissau. In an interview with Vatican News, Father Aloyse Sene, President of the Conference, spoke about the objectives, which include strengthening priestly fraternity and sharing experiences.

African Diocesan Priests sharing their reality
The West African Priests' Conference (French acronym, URPAO) meets every year to promote fraternity, cooperation, and solidarity in the diocesan priestly ministry. Exchanges revolve around an "edifying" theme that elicits discussion of current world challenges, especially in the West African sub-region.

"We're sharing what we are experiencing in our parishes, in our diocesan structures and in our countries," said Father Aloyse Sene, a priest of the Diocese of Kaolack, Senegal, where he teaches Canon Law.

Encounters that enrich
The conference's aim, explains the URPAO President, “is to strengthen fraternity and solidarity and share experiences that might interest all. One of the objectives is also to reflect on how to achieve this synergy: "This could involve, for example, the exchange of personnel in the service of the faithful, in another country, who might be facing a deficit in vocations,” he explained.

For the Senegalese priest, the encounters among priests, attending the conference, enrich their vision and mission through cooperation between dioceses. Priests can leave their country to serve in another, he said. "Today, African diocesan priests are ready to do this, to leave, for example, Senegal to serve in Guinea," he said. Father Sene also emphasised the need for cooperation between countries, especially in the area of formation: "It should be possible for seminarians to leave Senegal to train in Nigeria and vice versa. By reinforcing this cooperation, priests will develop a more open attitude to pastoral service," he said.

Priests combating ethnic intolerance
Returning to the theme of their 10th conference, "The prophetic role of the Catholic Priest in the face of intolerance and ethnic-religious instrumentalization in sub-Saharan Africa", the URPAO President found the theme both topical and challenging.

For the organisers, this theme was chosen because in several countries, "in our different regions of sub-Saharan Africa, there is still a fairly recurrent problem of intolerance, linked either to region, origin, ethnicity, religion, or even linked to the person as a non-resident, as a foreigner, as a migrant," said Fr Sene. What is more tragic, he underlined, is that this "instrumentalization benefits just a few socio-political groups. One of the periods during which this problem is most noticeable is the electoral period when certain political players pit certain ethnic groups against each other in order to get elected," he said.

Hopes for the future
Delegates for the tenth edition of the conference were drawn from each West African country, and each country sent one diocesan priest as a representative. The URPAO President hopes that next year's conference and those to come will be much better attended. He hopes to maintain this fraternity by including Mauritania, which has never participated in these meetings.--Vatican News

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