VATICAN CITY — Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory of Atlanta spoke before the Synod of Bishops for Africa Oct. 5. The Vatican released the full text of his remarks today:
“I welcome this opportunity to summarize the importance that this Second Synod for Africa holds for the church in the United States of America. We Americans find ourselves increasingly drawn in by issues and events that occur on the African continent. We, like people everywhere, feel ever more acutely the impact of the intensifying global character of our world.
First and foremost, we praise Almighty God for the gift of the One Faith that binds the church in the United States to all of the other churches throughout the world.
Our Catholic community has benefited directly during the past generation from a growing number of clergy and religious from the great African continent who now serve Catholics throughout our nation and who serve them generously and zealously. We know though their presence of the deep faith and generosity of the church in Africa.
The church in the USA is also deeply grateful for the opportunity to assist the local churches in Africa, through the support of Catholic Relief Services, by the many ad varied missionary cooperative ventures that spring from the generous heart of our people and frequently bind diocese to diocese and parish to parish in mutual prayer, financial assistance, and by personal contacts.
I am happy and proud to report that agencies within the United States Conference of catholic Bishops have a long history of working with the Episcopal Conferences and associations of Episcopal Conferences on the American continent in the pursuit of peace and justice. These are very positive signs in which the church in my country and the church in the countries of Africa have engaged each other in the work of evangelization and social outreach and thus have rendered the theme for this Synod “In Service to Reconciliation, Justice and Peace” an important reminder of how the church in the USA and the church in African are conjoined in faith and in charity.
Yet we know that we can merely say in the words of St. Luke’s Gospel, “We have done only what we ought to have done” [Lk 17:10b]. We recognize that the greatest resource that the church in Africa has are its people. The church in the USA continues to benefit from those people from Africa who recently have come as visitors and new residents to our shores. These new arrivals come, not like those of an earlier moment in time, wearing chains and as human chattel, but as skilled workers, professionally trained businessmen, and students eager to make a new life in a land that they view as promising. Many of these new peoples bring with them a profound and dynamic Catholic faith with its rich spiritual heritage. These wonderful people challenge us to rediscover our own spiritual traditions that so often are set aside because of the influence of our secular pursuits.
While my own nation has made outstanding and blessed progress in our own struggle for racial reconciliation and justice, we have not yet achieved that perfection to which the Gospel summons all humanity. We also need to achieve reconciliation, justice, and peace in our own land until as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. writing from a jail in Birmingham, Alabama paraphrased the Prophet Amos and we see the ultimate fulfillment of our great potential and [5:24] “Let justice roll down like the waters and righteousness like an ever flowing stream.”
This great land of Africa has many other resources that the world today lusts for and at times pursues with ravishing greed and frequent violence. Your resources are a blessing for this planet that can be used to bring not only prosperity to the peoples of Africa but properly viewed bring a sense of the oneness of the earth and the interconnectedness that people everywhere have when we wisely use the natural resources that God has placed in our hands as a common patrimony.
I am deeply grateful to our Holy Father for inviting me to engage my brother bishops from the African continent and to learn from them some of their hopes, struggles, and dreams and to share with them the deep affection and respect of the church in the United States of America.”