Vatican appoints ND prof as advisor
Robert Singer | Friday, October 2, 2009
Fr. Paulinus Ikechukwu Odozor, associate professor of theology, will be starting his fall break early — Pope Benedict XVI has appointed him as an advisor for the Second Special Assembly for Africa of the Synod of Bishops in Vatican City from Oct. 4 to 25.
The first African synod took place 15 years ago during the Rwanda genocide, Odozor said, and the upcoming meeting of some 200 bishops from across the African continent will focus on a familiar theme: “The Church in Africa in Service to Reconciliation, Justice and Peace.”
“The purpose is to bring attention to bear on Africa, to see how the Church can be more effective as an agent of salvation but also as an agent of social change and progress in Africa,” he said.
According to the 62-page document “instrumentum laboris” released by the pope in anticipation of the synod, topics covered will include the pastoral needs of African couples and families, the development of African higher education, the integration of African women and laypeople into Church leadership, the uses and impact of traditional and new media on the Church in Africa and the engagement of the Church in ethnic and tribal strife.
As an advisor to the African bishops, Odozor said he wants to focus on ways to reconcile longstanding ethnic conflicts that have left ingrained bitterness.
“The famous clashes of ethnic groups in Africa are not just things that happen overnight. They are coming out of long-held memories of hurt,” he said. “One of the things that the Church would work on is healing memories, helping people in various African communities get over whatever they have with their neighbors and move on with the task of constructing modern states.”
Odozor said Christians, and moral theologians in particular, are compelled to consider and act on the moral situations around them.
“That faith as it were transforms us, makes us children of God in a way. With that comes the transformation of our attitude of our approach to life,” he said. “So, morality is an offshoot of our new being in Christ. It’s a consequence of our new being in Christ. Therefore, there is no way you can dissociate morality from the faith of the Christian.”
“There are implications,” Odozor continued. “So when the Christian speaks about right and wrong he or she speaks out of a memory informed by faith.”
Arguing that a major error in modern ethical discourse is for secular theorists to pretend as if they were speaking from a “totally objective perspective,” he said. “It is impossible to separate values from the presuppositions that ground one’s worldview.”
Since faith offers the right kind of moral discernment, according to Odozor, theologians have an important task in helping to build the foundation for ways to improve the daily lives of Africans.
“Theologians by their very nature are people who have a bit more understanding of the faith and who do their best to articulate the implications of their faith but who also have another duty to make sure that faith is handed down in a way that people can understand,” he said.
Odozor said he hopes the experience will not only further the aims of the Church but teach him lessons for his own vocation.
“I’m grateful for this opportunity to serve the Church in this way, to work for the bishops in this way,” he said. “I’m hoping to learn a lot more about the Church and about Africa I’m hoping that what I learn can help me as a priest and as a scholar to do my own bit for the Church, for Africa and for the world.”