The debate between the Nigerian Bishops and Archbishop Paglia
Article 3 of the Apostolic Exhortation Amoris Laetitia says that "unity of teaching and practice is certainly necessary in the Church, but this does not preclude various ways of interpreting some aspects of that teaching or drawing certain consequences from it. […] Each country or region, moreover, can seek solutions better suited to its culture and sensitive to its traditions and local needs. For ‘cultures are in fact quite diverse and every general principle… needs to be inculturated, if it is to be respected and applied‘."
The reflection, the consequences and the responsibilities that this point calls for in the local churches was discussed at the meeting of the Catholic Bishops‘ Conference of Nigeria with the President of the Pontifical Council, Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, in Abuja. The bishops highlighted specific challenges being faced by the African family and concerns so that the unity of doctrine and praxis may be correctly balanced, with due respect for the necessary processes of the required inculturation (see below, the interviews with the President of the Bishops‘ Conference and with Msgr. Tamba Charles Kaigama, Archbishop of Free Town, who took part in the meeting of the Nigerian Bishops). In his speech, Archbishop Paglia first of all asked questions and presented issues to the Nigerian Bishops: "You have a delicate task before you. The Beninese intellectual Albert TÉVOÉDJRÈ writes that ‘the traditional African family nurtures a deep sense of the culture of life, which is sacred, because every life is a gift from God. Yet, the threats to the family today in Africa are legion: moral dissolution, damage to the uniqueness of marriage; the loss of the bonds between family members; the proliferation of de facto unions, but also poverty, and increasing unemployment that does not allow parents to fulfill their responsibilities properly.‘ What is the Nigerian path, the African way of addressing these crucial issues? How can, for example, no. 42 of Africae Munus, dedicated precisely to the family, be translated into the specific forms necessary on the local level' [...] The issue of respect for women in African society, of violence and oppression against them, remains open. The question, however, concerns a precise vision of the role of men in patriarchal traditions. In the terms of pastoral ministry, the question is: how can we help our men to be good husbands and better fathers? How should African men be supported so that they may fully assume the responsibilities that parental care implies? [...] How can parents be helped to find an educational path that will lead their children to maturity in a context of modernity and globalization, where the challenges are so different and new in comparison to the closed world of just twenty years ago? [...] African society is going through a period of profound and rapid transformation. It is not at all a closed society. Of course, we are not looking with fruitless nostalgia at the past as a time that was better than the present, a time when roles and responsibilities were perhaps more certain and better defined, but also oppressive and frustrating because of their presumed traditional roots. African men and women, like people everywhere, are changing. And with them, the education of the emotions is changing and a new equilibrium is developing between men and women. In a couple, each partner is seeking something that is surely new and different from what a person living in a Nigerian village considered unique and essential forty years ago."
Interview with Archbishop Kaigama Interview with Archbishop Charles Tamba