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Sierra Leone and Gambia Bishops Speak Out

Sep 2, 2009, 7:45 AM | Article By: Augustine Kanjia

The Inter-Territorial Catholic Bishops Conference composed of four dioceses in two countries, Sierra Leone and the Gambia, with two ecclesiastical provinces, have given a count down of their past activities in the presence of other Bishops, Arch bishops, Cardinals and priests at a well attended AECAWA meeting. They accept that it is difficult for them to have frequent exchanges and sharing of pastoral projects beyond the common Pre-major, Major and hopefully, a Marriage tribunal. Christian Panorama finds out what had transpired since, in each country.

Submitting on behalf of the ITCABIC, Bishop George Biguzzi, Bishop of Makeni and President of the association said Since their last Plenary AECAWA meeting in Freetown, in 2007 a new Archbishop of Freetown and Bo, Most Rev. Edward Tamba Charles, was ordained on the 25th May, 2008.

It was a time of jubilation for the church in Sierra Leone. Less than three months later the Apostolic Nuncio, Arch Bishop Antonysamy, came to Freetown to impose the Pallium on Archbishop Charles, canonically installing him as the Metropolitan Archbishop with the Diocese of Makeni and Kenema as Suffragan Sees. The Conference he said is now fully composed of Episcopal members.

He said Bishop Patrick Koroma attended the meetings of AECAWA Standing Committee, in Lagos and Ghana, representing their Conference. "He has also attended the 12th Ordinary Synod of Bishops on the Word of God.

While in Rome he was hospitalized. We thank God that he has returned home safely and wish him continued good health. Under Evangelisation and Pastoral work, the bishop reported that the growing number of baptisms and marriages, ordinations and religious professions are a clear sign that the church continues to grow.

The celebration of the Year of St. Paul gave rise to several initiatives such as pilgrimages at local and national levels, lectures, workshops, retreats and radio talks on the life and teaching of St. Paul. A very positive effect of the Year of St. Paul is a sort of 'Biblical fertilization' of our catechesis, liturgical celebrations and devotional practices along with a renewed effort in the work of evangelization. On the 29th June 2009, the year of St. Paul was closed with a national pilgrimage to St. Paul's Cathedral in the Diocese of Kenema." He said their people are showing a growing awareness of the church's responsibility to support the work for the evangelization of peoples throughout the world. "The Mission Sunday collection is very generous in spite of the weak economies and the low earning power of most people," he said.

The Year of the Priest

Bishop Biguzzi says, "Following the declaration of the Year of the Priest by His Holiness, Pope Benedict XV1, The four Dioceses of ITCABIC have inaugurated the Year of the Priest in their own unique pastoral contexts. Different activities are being organized to reflect the spiritual, pastoral and moral identity of our priests within the framework of the mind of the Holy See."

He further said that they had proposed for the erection of a new Diocese of Bo and has been accepted by the Holy See. "The Canonical process is nearly completed and we are expecting the official establishment of the new diocese soon.

The church is well rooted in Bo and in the Southern Province of Sierra Leone; Bo will be a very vibrant diocese from the very beginning of its erection," he said. In the same vane, he said the Diocese of Makeni has begun making some remote preparation for the erection of a new diocese. An Episcopal Vicar has been appointed to help in the administration of the Port Loko and Kambia Districts that could possibly be proposed as the future Diocese of Port Loko. We are happy to let you know that the ITCABIC Conference is gradually growing from four dioceses to six dioceses in the near future, he said.

ITCABIC Commissions

ITCABIC Commissions have been active in different degrees in their specific fields. The Biblical and Catechetical Commission has promoted Biblical Apostolate and organised workshops throughout the Conference. Catechetical materials have been produced and distributed. Church in need provided us with Children's Bibles and Bibles simplified for our catechists and other pastoral agents. "In Sierra Leone Radio Maria (RM) is very effective in the field of Social Communications. We have two studios located in Makeni and Freetown and the government of Sierra Leone has granted us three frequencies. RM reaches a very wide audience and it is a very effective means of evangelisation.

In The Gambia, the church has access to state and private radio and television stations for limited periods. The members of the justice and peace commissions have organized workshops in every diocese in Sierra Leone targeting priests, religious and Ecumenical Commission, lay leaders, traditional rulers, elected government officials to promote the social doctrine of the church. Justice and Peace Commissions are being organised also at parish level with an inter-religious membership. The inter-religious and Ecumenical Commission is very active in The Gambia.

In Freetown the interreligious Council of Sierra Leone has resumed regular meetings attended by Archbishop Charles. Cordial interaction with Muslims and members of other Christian denominations are a common occurrence in both Sierra Leone and The Gambia.

Education he said remains a privileged means of evangelization and human promotion in our territories. "We are committed to maintaining our schools, investing our best. Sierra Leone is in the process of having a Catholic University in Makeni.

Their challenges include; the promotion of vocations, self reliance and we ask that we share ideas in this area. "We thank God for the steady growth of our church in both countries.