Friday, December 22, 2023
From the 4th to the 10th of December 2023, Dar Comboni Institute in Cairo in collaboration with the Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) organized a Seminar for 14 Bishops from the AMECEA region. The bishops who attended this seminar came from Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania and Malawi. Two members of the Aid to the Church in Need, Mr. Tony W. Zender and Mr. Reinhard Backes, were present throughout the seminar.

Fr. Simon Mbuthia, Fr. Richard Kyankaaga, Fr. Diego dalle Carbonare, Bishop Claudio Lurati and other members of Dar Comboni staff animated the seminar. While the seminar sessions were held in Dar Comboni, the bishops were accommodated by the Jesuits at the College de la Sainte Famille.

One of the aims of this seminar was to call the attention of the bishops to the rising Islamic radicalism in the region and to make them understand that there was an urgent need to have persons well-trained in the field of dialogue. By the end of the seminar, the bishops expressed the need to have the field of Islamic studies included in the curriculum of formation in the major seminaries as well as in the catechetical schools. They also expressed the need to have, in each diocese, a person specialized in matters regarding Islam, who can guide other pastoral agents in this field and help in elaborating pastoral plans in the same field and promote interreligious dialogue.

During their visit, the bishops made a visit to the al-Azhar mosque and university. Al-Azhar University is the oldest and the most prestigious institution of learning in the Muslim world. It was established in the year 972. During the visit to al-Azhar, the bishops also visited the ancient Islamic Cairo and learnt about the history of Islam in Egypt. The visit to the Islamic part of Cairo was concluded by a visit to the research center (IDEO) of the Dominican Monks who explained to the bishops about their work in the field of research and in Muslim-Christian dialogue.

The visit of the bishops, however, was not only limited to relationship with Islam. It was a time to discover the history of the Egyptian civilization and the different Oriental and Eastern Christian rites present in the country. The bishops were able to visit the iconic pyramids of Giza, the Old Christian Cairo and the Coptic monasteries of Wadi Natrun which date back to the fourth century. In the course of seminar week, the bishops were received by the Catholic Coptic Patriarch, His Eminence Ibrahim Isaac Sidrak, the head of the Catholic Church in Egypt and also visited the major seminary in the district of Maadi. Our confrere, Bishop Claudio Lurati, the Apostolic Vicar of the Latin Catholic church in Egypt organized an evening for the bishops at his official residence. On the last night the whole delegation was hosted by the nonce Apostolic, Archbishop Nicholas Thévénin, for a delicious dinner.

The bishops who participated in this workshop were very happy for the things they learnt. They expressed the need for similar seminars to be organized in the future for other bishops in the AMECEA region and beyond. They thanked Dar Comboni and the Aid to the Church in Need for this noble initiative. They promised to share their experience with their respective Episcopal conferences. For us in Dar Comboni and for the Aid to the Church in need, we felt that we have struck the right note with this seminar. We look forward to hold similar seminars at least once a year for the good of the Church in Africa and in the world.
Fr. Simon Mbuthia