The African bishops took the first step on Monday toward having representation at the African Union, with the appointment of a liaison between the AU and the symposium of African bishops conferences. Bernhanu Tamene Woldeyohannes was on Feb. 23 appointed head of the office for relations between the Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar (SECAM) and the African Union. Woldeyaohannes' Addis Ababa office “will facilitate the signing of a memorandum of understanding for SECAM observer status at the African Union,” the bishops announced. “This is in line with the goals of the Catholic Church in Africa in contributing to the building of a unified, integrated, strong, democratic, well governed, developed, prosperous, righteous, peaceful ,and respected Africa,” SECAM stated. SECAM was designed during the Second Vatican Council as a mean for African bishops to speak with one voice despite language, cultural, and historical differences, and held its first meeting in 1969 during Bl. Paul VI’s visit to Uganda; the African Union gathers all African States but Morocco and was established in 2002. The Holy See is a non-member state accredited to the African Union, and the establishment of a SECAM observer at the union could enhance the Holy See's participation in the organization. Woldeyohannes will likely collaborate justice and peace and economic commissions, aiming to promote African development in line with the AU's “Agenda 2063”, intended to reignite a sense of unity, self-reliance, integration and solidarity that moved the African independence movements of the 1960s. He has been head of the Ethiopian bishops' justice and peace department, and work in their community development program. Woldeyohannes' appointment follows declarations by Cardinal Berhaneyesus Souraphiel, head of the Ethiopian Archeparchy of Addis Ababa, that he is committed to SECAM, as well as the Association of Members of Bishops' Conferences of East Africa, gaining observer status at the African Union.
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