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CEPACS releases final document on Lagos General Assembly

Peter Dada (Nigeria)

The Pan African Episcopal Committee for Social Communications (CEPACS ) has published and released the final document of its Golden  Jubilee assembly which was held in Lagos, Nigeria in November 2023.

The event held in Lagos was attended by Dr Paolo Ruffini, the Prefect of the Dicastery for Social Communications, Vatican and no fewer than  eighty (80) other delegates that included: Cardinals, Archbishops, Bishops, Priests, Religious, regional officials of communication along with the local and foreign partners of the Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar (SECAM), as well as lay communication experts  which represented different national and regional Conferences across the African continent.

 In the published document, which contains all the presentations and resolutions of the general assembly, CEPACS  noted that due to the rapid changes in the information and communication industry, it was time the Church in Africa read and respond adequately to the signs of the times on matters of communication.
The 46-page document titled: “ Advancing And Integrating  Synodality In The Works Of The Church In Africa Through Social Communication-CEPACS Golden Jubilee ‘’ was signed by Most. Rev Emmanuel Badejo, Bishop of Oyo, Nigeria, President of CEPACS and Rev. Fr. Andrew Kaufa SMM, AMECEA Social Communication Coordinator on behalf of the CEPACS@50 Organizers.
The document advised SECAM to design resource mobilization strategy for CEPACS to facilitate effectiveness and efficiency of Social Communications.
It recalled that in contemporary times, the Church  has found herself in a digital environment where communication cannot be discussed from the point of view of being a mere means of dissemination of information but a culture of the digital natives, adding that if at all CEPACS members would be a relevant and an impactful organ in the next fifty years, it must come up with a robust plan of promoting engagement with contemporary means of communications for evangelization in the ever-changing media milieu. 
“In a nutshell, this jubilee will be a lost opportunity if the Church continues to adopt inadequate communication structures for animating, forming, coordinating, equipping, and enabling the regional bodies in supporting respective national conferences in the Church’s mission in Africa.
“Irrespective of this indispensable need, more especially now that communication can play a formidable role in facilitating synodal formation and the new ‘synodal’ language, it must be acknowledged that the current situation of CEPACS and the communication channels within SECAM’s regional bodies do not connect to and relate with the advancement of the information and communication technologies. Amidst all this, is the call of Pope Francis for new strategies for evangelization in today’s world,’’ the document quoted Bishop Emmanuel Badejo, CEPACS chairman in his foreword in document.
The prelate then urged the Church leadership in Africa and all who are serving in Church communication, including their stakeholders, to embrace this vision as a reference point for their pastoral communication planning.
CEPACS in the document also recommended that both Regional and National Conferences should prioritize specialized training for media personnel in their regions, local dioceses and Churches to enable the Gospel message get to everywhere as well as receive a positive reception.  It also suggested the need to facilitate the adoption of appropriate digital media use as platforms for evangelizing particularly the younger generation who use online applications most of the time.
It advised its members to deliberately develop social communications strategies and approaches and encourage their Dioceses to apply them in empowering all their ecclesial groups. It called for the introduction of advance innovative ways of using social communication and media in addressing contemporary challenges that the Church faces and building an understanding among the faithful to respond to such with confidence and humility.
It implored the Vatican-based  Dicastery for Social Communications to continue its collaboration with SECAM and other regional bodies to bring the synergies and the spirit of the Synodal church to reality;  as well as identify and facilitate learning spaces for CEPACS across the globe in areas of social communication in the Church.
 It urged SECAM to facilitate the sharing of the outcome of the session with and encourage all the Arch/Bishops and Superiors to invest in both human and material resources to effectively create a media field of evangelizers capable of influencing the environment and culture of modern times.
 CEPACS also charged SECAM to advance collaboration with other international communication church bodies across the continent, in particular SIGNIS and UCAP, for learning and broad use of social communication in addressing common issues facing the
church of Christ.
 It appealed to SECAM’s Secretariat to strengthen the coordination of CEPACS with defined working structures for ease of operations and the implementation of the agreed areas of actions.
The document noted that very few countries in Africa were aware of the existence of CEPACS. It charged CEPACS to enter aggressively in league with all national Catholic Episcopal Commissions of Communication. “This means, to first establish a list of all who are in charge of Catholic communications in different countries. This will help CEPACS to create a network by the end of 2024.’
The report also acknowledged the work and inputs from the CEPACS’ continental leadership under the guidance of His Eminence, Fridolin Cardinal Ambongo, the President of SECAM and Bishop
Emmanuel Badejo, the President of CEPACS, the regional bishop chairmen for social communication, and the leadership of CBCN and the entire coordination by the SECAM Secretariat in addition to the support, solidarity, and accompaniment from the Dicastery for Social Communications.
The participants in the document gave thanks to God for all he had enabled CEPACS’  members to achieve through social communications,   conducted an evaluation and stock-taking of the work of CEPACS over the past 50 years.
“We appreciate our oneness in faith and, together, thanking God for this far He has brought us and CEPACS; further appreciating the work of the Local Organ; the Catholic Bishops Conference Of Nigeria (CBCN) through the Archdiocese of Lagos for their commitment and hospitality that enabled the session to succeed.’’
It added that during the celebration, delegates learnt the history of CEPACS, vision, mission, and objectives; and stories from each other and learning that Social Communications is not merely functional, but communal and missionary. It recognized the noble role of social communication in deepening the faith and advancing the spirit of Synod on Synodality on the continent and, drawing from the lessons of the event, the importance of structured engagements.
Similarly, the document  recognized that the Catholic Church in Africa requires a structure deeply rooted in the divine mission of evangelization and communication that should coexist with a
collective journey to build a synodal Church that sufficiently integrates the Gospel message into the ‘new culture’ created by modern communications.
“Aware that today, the Church faces new and numerous challenges that, if not well addressed, are capable of destabilizing and even threatening the values we stand for. Also, we realised  that our regional and national conferences also bear internal challenges in terms
of social communication, in particular, financing and coordination of efforts in responding to the external challenges.’’
 The association agreed to enhance awareness and visibility of CEPACS, its mission, vision, and objectives at all levels of the Church on the African continent through the regional and national conferences; and in all its Ecclesial communities.
 It promised to develop and strengthen CEPACS operational structures across the continent to facilitate engagement in a collective communication and synodal journey as well as grow together at the
diocesan, national, regional, continental, and universal levels. It also resolved to form and become a capacity-build CEPACS as a continental Committee and define its relationship with the regional and national episcopal conferences for the future.
 “To develop a robust CEPACS long-term strategic plan with full operational framework outlining, among others, the structure, and an organogram; operations principles, values and Theory of Change; definitive roles and place of the clergy, religious and lay communications experts in the Church; and collaboration and partnerships. To design and revive the regional communication structures and rekindles the interest and commitment of Bishops of the various conferences in Africa.
“To champion the ethical discourse in traditional, modern, and contemporary Communication especially in new media initiatives like Artificial Intelligence (AI) in relevant circles; convene and hold further sessions (physical or virtual) with the regional bodies’ teams of social communication on  how these resolutions can be achieved.’’(END)

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