An Address presented by the President of the Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria (CBCN), Most Rev. Lucius Iwejuru Ugorji, at the 50th Anniversary and Conference of the Pan-African Episcopal Committee for Social Communications, held at the Lumen Christi Retreat & Media Centre, Lekki in Lagos Archdiocese on Monday 20 November, 2023.

 

Protocol

On behalf of all the Catholic bishops in Nigeria, I am delighted to make this presentation on this auspicious occasion of the 50th anniversary and Conference of the Comité Episcopal Panafricain Pour les Communications Sociales (CEPACS), which in English translates as, the Pan-African Episcopal Committee for Social Communications, holding on this day, 20 November, 2023, here in Lagos. 

I thank the Almighty Father for making this gathering possible and for bringing everyone here safe, from very far and near. We pray for this same grace when we all shall return to our base at the end of this programme.

Our gratitude also goes specially to our amiable host, Most Rev. Alfred Adewale Martins, the Metropolitan Archbishop of Lagos, for opening his arms so widely to welcome us to his Archdiocese, and for all his accompanying support of this august event in many ways we cannot quantify. We thank you, Your Grace, the clergy, religious the distinguished lay faithful of this great Archdiocese, and the hardworking Local Organising Committee, headed by Sir Soji Olagunju.

This indeed is a historic gathering for our Church in Africa, as we celebrate the fruits of the seed that was sowed here in Nigeria, at the Pan-African Episcopal Meeting on Social Communications held in Ibadan, Nigeria from November 28 – December 2, 1973. That was a long time considering the enormous developments that has occurred in the area of media and communications and in the Church.  Since then, as it is said, a lot of water has passed under the bridge in a bid to realise the objective for which CEPACS was set up. Much as one would sincerely agree that the journey has not been very rosy, it is necessary to reaffirm that the vision for CEPACS remains laudable.

We are all witnesses to the rapid growth and development the world has experienced in the area of media and communication technology in the past decades, and how these have deeply influenced the totality of human culture.  We are now in the age of the revolutionary digital media with very encompassing impacts on human culture which are both positive and negative. Some of the positive impacts include, enhancing social connections, increasing access to information, and fostering creativity and innovation; while some of the negative impacts are reducing face-to-face interaction, spreading misinformation, and creating digital divides.

In view of the above, it is easy to see how the digital media impacts our mission as a church, necessitating that we adhere more faithfully to the age long clarion calls by the Church to embrace the media with all seriousness since the Church cannot exist without communicating. We are pleased to note that the Holy Father has already chosen for our reflection in the 2024 World Communication Day (WCD), the theme that touches on the highly controversial Artificial Intelligence (AI) technology. This will afford us the opportunity to participate, before it is too late, in contributing to the development of this life changing technology; particularly as it affects us in Africa.

On that note, we add our voice in thanking all those who have in the past five decades piloted the affairs of CEPACS, while expressly appreciating the efforts and commitment of our current President, Most Rev. Emmanuel Badejo, in repositioning the body since when he took over leadership in 2016, after the 12-year dormancy. Today we can attest to a CEPACS that is striving to live up to the vision of its founding fathers; that of coordinating all matters concerning the Catholic Church’s activities in the realm of media in Africa and Madagascar – print, electronic and the digital media. We note with joy the connection established with the APO media network through the ingenuity of the President and the regular meetings among the media practitioners in the continent under the aegis of SIGNIS.

To conclude this address, permit me highlight two matters for our consideration at this Conference:

  1. COMWEEK programme: We officially introduce the Communications Week (ComWEEK) programme to CEPACS, as an initiative of our conference of bishops in Nigeria. ComWEEK is an expansion of the annual one-day World Communication Day (WCD) celebration into a one week fully coordinated media literacy programme based on the theme of the WCD given by the Holy Father for the year. It is organised and coordinated by our National Directorate of Social Communications for all the over 4,300 parishes in Nigeria. So far, it has successfully run for two years, and the result has been very encouraging. We wish to propose this initiative to the conferences of SECAM through CEPACS, and will be glad to share our experience with any Conference that may be interested.
  2. As a way of sustaining the momentum of the decisions taken by CEPACS, we propose that bringing the National Directors of Communications in all our different conferences together as a body will be very helpful. A periodic meeting, convoked by CEPACS, to this effect will go a long way towards consolidating and implementing our decisions at the grassroots.

Finally, I would like to congratulate CEPACS on its 50th anniversary and wish us a very fruitful Conference as we reflect on the theme: “CEPACS at 50: Towards promoting a synodal Church in Africa through social communications”.

May the intercession of Mary, the Mother of the Word, and of St. Francis de Sales, the patron of journalists, help us to accomplish this noble task. Amen.

Thank you and God bless you all.

 

Most Rev. Lucius Iwejuru Ugorji

Archbishop of Owerri Archdiocese

President, CBCN