The Life of the Church on the Continent of Hope

Catholicism is steadily growing in Africa, opening promising spiritual horizons, especially for the youth. This is what Fr. Arão Mazive describes as he gives us a glimpse of the Heralds’ house in Maputo and the construction of the new church.

According to recent Vatican statistics, Africa is the continent experiencing the most Catholic growth in the world. What does this mean for those doing evangelizing work in Mozambique?

There is truly notable growth in Catholicism in Africa, which can be perceived, among other signs, from the high number of Baptisms over the course of the year. In Mozambique, this translates into an urgent need for the construction of new churches, for in many communities, large numbers attend Mass looking in through the windows of churches filled to capacity. There are even celebrations held under trees, or under a covering without walls. This phenomenon has become habitual for members of the Catholic Church in Africa. Another critical point is the lack of priests; it is common for a priest to have to celebrate more than five Sunday Masses. And, even so, some communities go without Mass for a month.

Considering that the Faith came to Africa from Europe, how does the African continent view the de-Christianization of the West today?

The de-Christianization of the European continent is seen with great sadness, while there is much prayerful gratitude for those who brought the Faith to a large part of Africa. But there is also a great deal of caution towards what European Catholics offer Africans today, for they often present us with the adulterated doctrine with which they justify their moral decadence.

Many laws and customs of the African continent do not follow the general wave of paganization present in the rest of the world. What is the reason for this internal preservation or resistance?

The fact that Africa is a poor continent means that it has been somewhat left aside in the Western process of “modernization”, which brought with it an increasing paganization of public opinion. In African culture, many principles of natural law still prevail, flourishing and re-flourishing with evangelization.

When people from countries that have foundered in the Faith and in morals come here to impose their deviations, they encounter resistance, for Africans are well aware that their dignity comes from being a child of God, and that the best way to please such a good Father is to fulfil His Commandments.

It is a fact that there is a strong leaning toward spirituality in Africa. This favours evangelization, but can also bring risks. What are the challenges today in this regard?

Concerning beliefs, there are African traditions that link our people to the Chosen People of the Old Testament. For example, in the Book of Leviticus God stipulates that “he shall take from the congregation of the people of Israel two male goats for a sin offering, and one ram for a burnt offering” (16:5). And here there is a tradition of offering a sacrifice of a small goat during difficult times, to appease one’s ancestors, or to thank them for some benefit received. But, like every Catholic, Africans must recognize that what took place in the Old Testament, involving the immolation of animals for the cleansing of sins, was only a prefigure of what Our Lord came to accomplish with the shedding of His Most Precious Blood and the Redemption of humanity.

Could you identify the main challenges for evangelization in Africa today?

In general, Africans have trouble practising the virtue of confidence. They tend not to understand the delays of Divine Providence in answering our requests. When they make a supplication and are apparently not heeded, they have trouble believing that God is the supreme good and the source of happiness, and that, in the end, He will attend them in the best way possible and fully satisfy their hopes. In recent decades, one can observe the proliferation of sects that take advantage of the people’s want to deceive them with false promises, leading them to embrace error.

What contribution can Africa offer the Church today?

Africa can contribute positively to the development of the Church in many ways. One of them is providing sons and daughters to serve as priests and religious of consecrated life.

The public of Mozambique has expressed a deep understanding of the charism of the Heralds of the Gospel. Is there something in the Mozambican soul that feels especially drawn to the via pulchritudinis, to evangelization through beauty?

Indeed, there is extraordinary adherence to the charism of the Heralds of the Gospel, as the African soul has an insatiable thirst for beauty, reflected in their fondness for vivid colours in their dress and adornments. Mozambicans are ceremonious and formal in their modes of expression and behaviour. Like all Africans, their primordial light lies in the contemplation of the marvellous. Therefore, in the via pulchritudinis, Mozambicans find God’s response to the best aspirations of their soul. At the house of the Heralds in Mozambique, we have many people who come great distances to attend Holy Mass, since they admire the beauty of the ceremonial. And for some it is the second Mass of the day. They are insatiable for beauty!

One of the most surprising things for the visitor to Mozambique is the constant joy of the people in face of adversity. What is the reason for this?

God has put something in the African soul by which they see life as a gift from God. One must learn how to overcome vicissitudes, for life on this earth is so short that we cannotlet the soul be filled with bitterness and sadness due to sufferings. Thus, many difficulties in life which, for other peoples, signify misfortune, do not for the African. For non-natives, this is a difficult mystery to grasp.