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There Is a Need For More Meaningful Solidarity Between The Church In Africa & The Church In The US

solidarity between the church in Africa and in the US must extend beyond the mission and religion to the integration of African lay faithful - Cardinal Onaiyekan & Reverend Rhodes

At the third edition of Church Life Africa (CLA) 2023, a notable discourse emerged from Archbishop Emeritus Cardinal John Onaiyekan and Most Reverend Kevin Rhoades of the Fatima Center in Portugal. Their discussion resonated around the imperative for a deeper and more meaningful solidarity between the Catholic Church in the United States and Nigeria, extending beyond mission and religious aspects to encompass the integration of African lay faithful.

Cardinal Onaiyekan commenced the dialogue with acknowledgment of the United States Bishops Conference's endeavors to foster relations between the Church in Africa and the US, marked by documents such as "A Call To Solidarity with Africa" (2001) and "Renewed Call to Solidarity with Africa" (2022). While these efforts have birthed projects in the form of development aid and support for African missionaries in the US, the cardinal underscored a pertinent omission—the engagement of African lay faithful residing in the US.

Cardinal Onaiyekan stressed that solidarity should expand to encompass African lay faithful, who are actively sending priests and religious to the US. He urged the US Church to consider these missionaries as respected representatives of their faith rather than merely immigrants seeking work. Additionally, he advocated addressing the unique pastoral needs of African lay faithful in the US, enabling them to serve as effective yet unobtrusive missionaries within their communities.

Furthermore, Reverend Kevin C. Rhoades, Bishop of the Fort Wayne, South Bend Diocese, United States, discussed the significance of the US Solidarity Fund for Africa. This fund, aimed at supporting pastoral work in Africa, has allocated grants exceeding $22 million, strengthening the bonds between the two continents' churches. Bishop Rhoades emphasized the value of spiritual solidarity, encompassing prayer and theological support, bridging institutions such as the Notre Dame University in the US with young theologians in the African Church.

Acknowledging the Church's challenges in the US, Bishop Rhoades noted factors contributing to the decline in faith, including cultural shifts since Vatican II, weakening family structures, secularism, and materialism. Despite this, he observed a dedicated group of US Catholics deeply grounded in their faith. To the concerns of Nigerian youths fearing cultural erosion, Bishop Rhoades reminded them that their identity as Catholics should precede national identity, asserting the Church's potential to counteract nationalism and socialism.

In summary, the dialogue between Cardinal Onaiyekan and Bishop Rhoades resonates with the need for a robust and holistic solidarity between the Church in Africa and the US. This solidarity, encompassing both spiritual and practical dimensions, holds the promise of mutual enrichment and growth across continents, transcending borders and cultural boundaries.

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