Synodal Acts and Declarations
On 3 March 1995 the Diocese of Konongo-Mampong was erected with territory taken from the Archdiocese of Kumasi and the Diocese of Sunyani. The installation of its first bishop, Most Rev. Joseph Osei-Bonsu, took place at Mampong on 11 June 1995. The Diocese has been in existence for over twenty years, and on 13 June 2015 we celebrated twenty years of the existence of the Diocese. As part of the activities marking the twentieth anniversary of the Diocese, a diocesan synod, the first of its kind in the Konongo-Mampong Diocese, was convoked under the theme: “The Catholic Diocese of Konongo-Mampong in Retrospect: Prospects, Challenges and the Way Forward”. The Synod took place at the Spiritan University College, Ejisu, from 24 May (Pentecost Sunday) till 3 June 2015.
Canon 460 describes the diocesan Synod as an “assembly” of selected priests and other members of Christ’s faithful of a particular Church which, for the good of the whole diocesan community, assists the diocesan Bishop. Indeed, the purpose of the diocesan Synod is to assist the Bishop in the exercise of the office proper to him, namely, that of governing the Christian community.
Taking part in this Synod were some priests and religious as well as some members of the laity. The members of the Synod had the possibility of freely expressing their opinions on the questions proposed for discussion. Those who participated in the Synod assisted the diocesan Bishop by formulating their opinion or “votum” with regard to the questions which have been proposed by him. This “votum” is defined as “consultative”. However, the Bishop took seriously all the recommendations made to him by the members of the Synod.
The question may be put: Why did we hold a Synod after twenty years? After twenty years of existence as a Diocese, it was opportune to cast a backward glance to see where we had come from as a Diocese, what our challenges had been and what we could do to improve the Diocese in the future. A critical and constructive reappraisal, undertaken periodically, is necessary in the life of every institution, and the Diocese is no exception. It was for this reason that we chose the theme: “The Catholic Diocese of Konongo-Mampong in Retrospect: Prospects, Challenges and the Way Forward”. To help us to do this, renowned speakers addressed the Synod on various topics including the following: Laity, Youth, Marriage and Family Life, Catholic Education, Liturgy and Inculturation, Interreligious Dialogue, Self-Reliance, Witchcraft and Curses and the Environment.
It is now my pleasant duty to promulgate the Acts and Declarations of the Konongo-Mampong Diocesan Synod held from 24 May till 3 June 2015. It is my hope and prayer that they will inspire the faithful, clergy and religious in the Diocese in all their activities. May Mary, our Mother and the Queen of Africa, intercede for us on our spiritual journey.
Most Rev. Joseph Osei-Bonsu
Bishop of Konongo-Mampong
1 January 2016
SYNODAL ACTS AND DECLARATIONS
1. Inculturation and Liturgy
The aim of inculturation is to create a form of worship that is culturally suited to local people. Inculturation enables the faith to take deep root in the people who through their creativity and assimilation express and live their faith through their own cultural patterns. To help to achieve this, a diocesan Liturgy/Inculturation Commission shall be set up and be made functional. Areas for particular attention and study for inculturation shall include the following: naming ceremony, puberty rites, marriage and funeral rites.
The celebration of the Church’s faith is referred to as the Sacred Liturgy. It is the summit of the Church’s action especially when it is celebrated in the divine sacrifice of the Holy Eucharist. To further promote the celebration of the Church’s liturgy in a way that is more suited to our culture:
- There shall be a compilation of an Akan hymnal of Catholic songs with musical notes for use in the diocese.
- A diocesan liturgical music committee shall be established with the responsibility, among other things, of offering the parishes and rectorates a monthly list of suggested songs appropriate for the Sunday and seasonal liturgies.
- Priests should meet with leaders of singing groups and readers to prepare the Sunday liturgy and ensure that the songs are appropriate and reflect the readings or season and fit well into the different parts of the Mass.
- As much as possible, mass singing should be the norm with clapping of hands and body gestures to encourage active participation in the Eucharistic celebration.
- A diocesan team shall be formed to offer biblical reflections on the Sunday readings to assist our catechists in the outstations to enable them preach homilies that are rooted in the scriptures.
2. Formation of the Laity
The laity forms the majority of the members of the Church. Increasingly, the laity are playing important roles in the life and mission of the Church. To enhance their effectiveness, there is the critical need for their ongoing formation. In the light of the Synod’s call for an intensification of this formation and engagement, the following decisions were taken:
- The Diocese shall provide opportunities for on-going formation of the laity. This shall include the following: General faith formation in terms of the church’s doctrines; Formation in scripture through bible study, seminars, workshops, etc.; A systematic programme to introduce the lay faithful in the proper reading and understanding of sacred scripture.
- A Diocesan Pastoral Centre shall be established with a full time Director to coordinate all pastoral programmes relating to the formation of catechists, lay leaders and other lay pastoral agents.
- At the local level, pastors shall carry out a regular well-planned formation programme for the catechists and the laity in the parish or rectorate.
- The societies in the church should be used as means for on-going faith formations. In the light of this, the leaders of the various societies shall be given the appropriate training.
The Youth constitutes not only the future of the church but also occupy an important place in the Church’s life today and are indeed the gift of God to His church. The Synod paid a particular attention to them in the areas of their growth and maturity as well the special challenges confronting them today so as to harness their gifts and energies and place them at the service of the church and society. The Synod therefore took the following decisions:
- Pastors should organize the youth to undertake “Youth for Youth” evangelization as an essential strategy for building the church at the local level.
- The Diocese shall introduce and make available for sale the “YouCath” to parishes and rectorates to support effective youth formation in the diocese.
- The Diocese shall develop a child protection policy offering clear guidelines for youth gatherings and programmes in the diocese.
- Parishes shall endeavour to identify special youth problems in their locality and work with other stakeholders to address them.
Man can only survive in a healthy and self-sustaining environment. Paradoxically, industrial and economic development over the past two centuries have degraded and polluted the environment. In Ghana, the recent decades have seen an astonishing degradation and pollution of our environment in three key areas: felling of trees, “galamsey” activities, indiscriminate disposal of liquid and solid waste. It is in the light of this that the Synod offered the following measures to arrest the situation:
- Our 1st and 2nd cycle schools should develop a well-designed practical programmes and activities to inculcate into their pupils and students the importance of keeping their environment clean and maintaining proper sanitation.
- Parishes and rectorates shall take the lead, in collaboration with other stakeholders in keeping their localities and towns clean.
- The diocese shall reintroduce the Arbor Week celebration and encourage every Catholic to plant and care for a tree.
(Attitudinal change and air and water pollution)
5. Marriage and Family Life
In all cultures, the family is seen as a basic vital cell of society. In the church, it acquires the status of a domestic church and becomes the place where the Christian faith is lived and nurtured. The people should be progressively helped to understand and appreciate the church’s teaching on the essential nature of Christian marriage and to be committed to embracing it. We reaffirm our Christian faith that marriage is between a man and a woman as instituted by God. This is even backed by our African culture where marriage is never between the same sex. Therefore same sex marriages which are gaining currency in other parts of the world are incompatible with our Christian faith and cultural practices. In the light of this, the Synod came up with the following directives:
- A diocesan marriage school shall be established so that parishes and rectorates can send people for formation who will in turn train others to form local marriage counselling teams.
- The diocese shall support second cycle institutions to teach a course on Christian living with a special emphasis on marriage. A special course on Christian sex education should be provided for basic pupils to help them develop a healthy understanding of human sexuality.
- Pastors at the local level should encourage and educate the lay faithful in the making of wills to secure the future of the spouses and children. They should also educate the Catholic faithful to understand and respect the laws of the nation on inheritance.
- Catholic parents should be encouraged to spend quality time with their children and take keen interest in their physical, social and moral upbringing. They shall support their children in their spiritual development by teaching them how to pray and praying with them, attending Mass with them and seeing to it that they receive the sacraments at the appropriate time.
- To address the issue of people’s reluctance or unwillingness to solemnize or regularize their customary marriages, pastors are encouraged to educate the faithful on the importance of the sacramental grace to be derived from the sacrament of matrimony and from the reception of Holy Communion.
- Catholic parents should be encouraged to insist that the customary rites should be performed close enough to the celebration of Holy Matrimony. It should be possible, for instance, for the would-be couple to follow the Catholic marriage preparation so that they could perform the customary rites not too long before the celebration of their Holy Matrimony.
- Pastors and marriage counselors at the various levels should educate would-be couples and the lay faithful about the choice of marriage partners and the challenges associated with mixed marriages. The advantages of a Catholic marring another Catholic are quite obvious.
6. Interreligious Dialogue
The commitment to dialogue with other religions is a witness to the gospel when it is directed towards living in harmony with all people of goodwill. Thankfully, in Ghana, the various religions have coexisted peacefully and the Church commits herself to its preservation. In the light of the above, the Synod came up with these decisions:
- Pastors and the lay faithful should work even harder to promote good and healthy relations with people of other religions, especially with those of the Islamic faith.
• Catholic faithful should be helped to see the special difficulty of interreligious marriage.
• Pastors and the lay faithful should be continuously alert to the danger of religious extremism in view of the global trend of its incidence.
7. Catholic Schools
The Church derives her right to establish and direct schools for any field of study from the mandate of Christ to educate and bring all people to the knowledge of their creator. This education should be holistic, promote critical thinking and develop the child’s ability to solve real life problems. The diocese which boasts of numerous basic schools is committed to attaining the highest levels of achievement. To actualize this, the Synod adopted the following measures:
• The Catholic identity of our schools should be highlighted through the adoption of the same colour for our school buildings; the placing of Catholic religious symbols in the classrooms, the saying of common Catholic prayers, and the erection of school sign boards.
• The Priest should work with the teachers to ensure that there is regular Catholic worship in the schools.
• There must be regular visit to the school by local managers to enhance supervision of the schools.
• High level of discipline should be maintained in our schools, so as to improve academic achievement and minimize social vices.
• The diocese should appoint a Coordinator or create an office for Catholic Education Affairs at the diocesan secretariat:
a. To ensure the appointments and posting of Catholic teachers to the schools. All Head teachers and at least 50% of the teachers in each school should be Catholic).
b. To encourage Catholic teachers to accept posting to Catholic Schools.
c. To assist in the spiritual formation of the teachers through retreats and other Spiritual exercises.
d. To be a link between the Bishop the Diocesan ACT/ ACHHI.
• The Diocese should make a concerted effort to raise the standard of academic performance in all our Basic schools through a well-structured and coordinated programme by:
a. Signing a performance contract with all Heads.
b. Getting committed Catholics to serve on School Management Committees (SMC) and Parent Teacher Associations (PTA) in all our schools.
c. Instituting awards for outstanding teachers in various categories.
d. Organizing common mock examinations for Catholic Basic Schools in the Diocese by ACT.
• The Church should demand 30% admission quota in all Catholic Senior High Schools in the Diocese.
• The Pastors should liaise with the Head teachers, PTA and District Assemblies to see to the maintenance of the school buildings.
• The Catholic Schools should make a special effort to inculcate discipline, integrity, chastity and hard work in all our students and teachers.
• In order to maintain the Catholic identity of our schools, the construction of places of worship by other faiths should not be allowed under any circumstances.
• Catholic Chaplains in tertiary institutions should pay particular attention to the activities and growth in International Movement of Catholic Students (IMCS) Pax Romana to ensure high Catholic visibility in these institutions.
• The diocese shall undertake feasibility studies towards the establishment of tertiary institutions such as a College of Education and a Nursing Training college.
• Within the shortest possible time, the diocese should appoint full time chaplains for non-Catholic schools in the diocese.
The Synod, in reviewing the twenty years of the existence of the diocese, acknowledged the urgency of the need to move towards self-reliance in both financial and human resources. Encouragingly, the diocese is blessed with abundance of natural resources and the goodwill of Catholics both in and outside of the diocese to offer their assistance. To accelerate efforts at building a self-reliant church, the Synod took the following decisions:
- The Diocese shall come up with a plan for its short and long term development.
- The diocese shall as a matter of urgency establish a diocesan endowment fund and set up a directorate at the Secretariat solely devoted to fund-raising for the diocese.
- As a mostly rural diocese, the possibility of large scale farming and animal husbandry shall be seriously looked into both at both the diocesan and local levels.
- At the local level, pastors and members of the project and development committee shall regularly conscientize the faithful on the importance of and the need for their personal commitment to self-reliance.
- Parishes/Rectorates shall team up with the various societies to undertake viable income-generating projects for the church as well as to establish credit unions in the parish church and in the out stations.
- For an effective use of our human resources, priority areas shall be identified by the diocese so that priests, religious and lay people could be trained in these areas.
- All parishes and local communities shall institute finance committees to help pastors and local leaders manage the finances of the parish or local community. They are to draw up and keep to budgets and render accounts periodically to the parishes and local communities to ensure accountability and transparency.
- Experts in financial matters should be given the chance to put their talents at the service of parishes and local communities so as to help in the financial administration of parishes and the local communities.
- This system of accountability and transparency must apply in the execution of all church projects.
- Development committees with the membership of people with special expertise in the relevant areas shall be constituted from the diocesan to the parish levels.
- The Diocesan Development Coordinator shall see to the effective running of these committees.
- Parishes undertaking projects exceeding GHS10,000.00 shall seek the explicit permission of the Diocesan Development Committee and the bishop.
- An effective pension scheme for all full time catechists in the diocese shall be instituted and fully supported for the retirement benefit of catechists. Their general welfare shall be the concern of all pastors and the lay faithful.
- A comprehensive pension and welfare scheme as mandated by the Church shall be established for the sick and retired priests of the diocese. Because of the nature of retirement schemes, this requires urgent action.
9. Witchcraft and Curses.
The recent pervasive incidence of curses in our area is cause for great concern. This unfortunate situation is linked to the excessive focus on witchcraft and its attendant effects of fear and superstition. The Synod highlighted the use of faith in Jesus as the Christian response to this unfortunate situation and offers the following pastoral directives to help the people.
- The diocese at all levels shall intensify its catechetical instructions on witchcraft and curses and work tirelessly to minimize and eventually eliminate the deep-seated superstitious beliefs of the people.
- Pastors at the local level shall organize healing and deliverance service in conformity with Catholic teaching and practice to assist Catholics in need of such a ministry
- The diocese should put in place a team to oversee, supervise and give guidelines to priests and lay people involved in the healing and deliverance ministry. They are offer appropriate training to those who feel called to this ministry.
- There shall be a diocesan exorcist and a team of spiritual counsellors.
- Pastors shall support local chiefs in their effort at discouraging curses in their localities.
- The diocese shall come up with sanctions against those Catholics who publicly pronounce curses on others.
- Pastors at the local level should help the lay faithful to understand that reversing curses at shrines is incompatible with their Christian faith and they should therefore seek the support of the Church in a situation of being involved in curses.
- Pastors are to intensify their education on the need for genuine Christian forgiveness and love.