One of the leading voices among Africa’s bishops predicts a new flexibility in Catholic teaching at this October’s Synod of Bishops on the family, which he predicts will allow bishops in different parts of the world to adapt church teaching on the family to the region’s culture, political landscape and economic situation.
“The Catholic Church is a universal institution, both human and divine,” said Cardinal Berhaneyesus Souraphiel of Addis Ababa. “It is not a European church, it is not a Canadian church or a U.S. church. It’s different. The issues families are facing in some parts of the world would be different than in other parts of the world.”
While Europe and North America face problems such as how to respond pastorally to state-sanctioned same-sex unions or divorced and remarried Catholics, families in other parts of the world face issues that arise from economic globalization or rapid urbanization.
“For us in Ethiopia, the big issue will be poverty,” said Cardinal Souraphiel. “If you are not sure if you can continue providing sustenance for the family, food and so on — not only rent, but food — if you don’t have this (basic economic stability) you might find the husband working somewhere else, the wife working somewhere else. The family separates. And then the children suffer.”
With more and more Ethiopian women finding work abroad in Arab states as domestic workers and Ethiopian men landing jobs in mines or on large-scale industrial farms, Ethiopia’s rapidly expanding economy is making it hard to keep a family together, the cardinal said.
“We feel here the issue is, how can the church contribute to the alleviation of poverty?” he said.
Bishops’ conferences should play a role in helping individual bishops adapt the teaching of the synod to their country or region, the cardinal said.
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