Fund the Printing of Catechetical Books for the Central African Republic
Project Code: 142-01-89
The Central African Republic is not a well-known country. And yet, this landlocked country in the heart of Africa, with an area of some 240,000 square miles, is roughly the size of Montana, Maine, New Jersey, Maryland, and South Carolina put together! But with a population of only around 4.5 million people, it is very sparsely populated.
In the 55 years since its independence, the country has been plagued by an endless series of military coups and internal unrest. The one feature common to all these governments, however, was this: although the country possesses rich mineral resources, including gold, diamonds and even uranium deposits, it has remained one of the poorest and most underdeveloped countries in the world. On the UN human development index it ranks 180th out of 186.
The government invests next to nothing in education, health care, or even basic infrastructure. As a result, the Catholic Church has become a leader in caring for the needs of the population, even though the Church is still young in the country. It was not until April 17, 1894, that the first Holy Mass in the region was celebrated in what is now the capital of the country, the city of Bangui. Today, roughly 66% of the population profess Christianity, of which half are Catholics. Muslims account for close to 15%, with the remainder belonging to traditional African religions.
The most important mission of the Church consists in preaching the good news of the Gospel. Following the terrible excesses of violence over the past two years or so, which plunged the country into chaos, the situation has stabilized to some extent and the time has now come to rebuild wherever possible. However, this is not merely a matter of the external physical structures, but above all of the hearts and souls of the people.
Father Marcello Bartolomei, an Italian Carmelite missionary working in the country, is particularly concerned with providing catechesis and religious instruction. There are many adults and young people preparing for baptism – but even those already baptized are very much in need of religious instruction to strengthen them in their faith and enable this faith to take deep root in their hearts. It does not help that many traditional ideas and attitudes are difficult to overcome.
The belief in witchcraft is deeply entrenched, and even baptized Christians find it hard to shake it off completely. Many people remain unwilling to accept natural explanations for death, disease or natural disasters and so instead go looking for a scapegoat, who they believe must have caused the misfortune by means of witchcraft. Thus, the task of the Church is to help people to truly understand and live the Gospel of Christ.
It was during the Year of Faith, proclaimed by Pope Benedict XVI for 2012/2013 that Father Marcello became aware of the need to improve the catechetical materials he was using. The last catechism for children, young people and adults that had been created in the national language, Sango, was prepared over 50 years ago, in 1963. His idea is to update this and produce it in a new and revised edition.
"It consists of questions and answers, with explanations, and is very valuable for the preparation for the sacraments, especially for our catechists who work among the communities in the bush," says Father Marcello about the new catechism. He plans to print 1000 copies of this little book. At the same time he has compiled a summarised version of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, again in Sango, which contains the entire teaching of the Catholic Church. The book additionally expounds themes that are of particular importance for the Church in the context of the Central African Republic. The intention is to print 400 copies of this book.
ACN has promised to support the publication of both books with a contribution of $6,300. Will you help us fulfill this promise so that Father Marcello can educate the youth and other faithful in the Central African Republic?
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