By Hilary White

VATICAN CITY, October 23, 2009 ( – In their final document, the participants of the second Special Assembly of the Synod of Bishops for Africa have denounced the imposition of foreign anti-life and family ideologies, issued a stern call for holiness and repentance by political leaders, blasted resource exploitation by multinational corporations and called for a rethinking of Africa by the rest of the world.

At the penultimate press conference today at the Vatican’s press office, John Olorunfemi Onaiyekan, archbishop of Abuja, Nigeria, said that the issue of the Church’s efforts for AIDS sufferers “cannot be reduced to discussion over condoms.”

Onaiyekan reiterated the Synod’s final document, saying that the Church’s work for those with the disease is “second to none” and “deserves greater publicity.”

It is rarely mentioned in western media reports that the vast majority of work caring for people stricken with AIDS in Africa is done by the Catholic Church. “Many of those who go around distributing condoms will not go near anybody with HIV/AIDS,” Onaiyekan added.

One member of the Vatican’s press office staff told (LSN) of the frustration that some in Rome feel over the lack of media attention given to the Church’s work in treating the sick and spoke of the difficulties involved in getting anti-retroviral drugs to those who need them in Africa. He said that the issue of caring for AIDS patients is being overlooked with the overweening emphasis on prevention with condoms, “and it’s prevention that doesn’t work.”

The Synod’s Summary, issued today, called for sustained assistance for those who already have the disease and noted that Pope Benedict had warned that AIDS “cannot be overcome by the distribution of prophylactics.”

“We appeal to all who are genuinely interested in arresting the sexual transmission of HIV/AIDS to recognise the success already obtained by programmes that propose abstinence among those not yet married, and fidelity among the married.

“Such a course of action not only offers the best protection against the spread of this disease but is also in harmony with Christian morality.”

The bishops added a note directly to young people, saying, “Let no one deceive you into thinking that you cannot control yourselves. Yes you can, with the grace of God.”

In their Summary, the bishops focused on the imposition of anti-life and anti-woman ideologies. “All over Africa there is much talk about women’s rights, especially through the plans of action of some UN agencies. Much of what they say is right and in line with what the Church has been saying.”

The bishops called for “caution,” however, in accepting financial aid for the projects being proposed by international aid organisations, which often come “with a hidden agenda.” The bishops called on the foreign NGOs to be “more consistent and transparent in implementing their programmes.”

“We urge the countries of Africa to carefully scrutinise the services being offered to our people, to ensure they are good for us.” Most particularly, they said, the Synod “denounces all surreptitious attempts to destroy and undermine the precious African values of family and human life.”

They referred directly the “obnoxious” (in Italian “detestabile”) Maputo Protocol on women’s rights. Pro-life organisations have long called for the retraction of the Protocol that they say is a direct attack on the African people because of its emphasis on “reproductive and sexual rights” that include abortion, contraception and sterilisation.

The bishops issued a strong warning over the corruption of some African politicians. Africa they said, needs “saints” in government “who will clean the continent of corruption, work for the good of the people,” and end the evils of war and poverty devastating the continent. They called on governments in Africa to protect families, and to “remember that a nation whose legislation destroys its own families does so to its own detriment.”

In what Onaiyekan called a “cry of anguish,” the bishops also blasted multinational corporations exploiting African natural resources, demanding that they “stop their criminal devastation of the environment in their greedy exploitation.” They accused these corporations of “short sighted policy to foment wars in order to make fast gains from chaos at the cost of human lives and blood.”

“Is there no one out there able and willing to stop all these crimes against humanity?”

Nevertheless, the Summary called for an attitude of hope in the face of the colossal problems of Africa, the “abject poverty,” war, genocides, exploitation, violent religious conflict, hunger and disease. The bishops said that the bad news, despite the emphasis of the media, does not make up the whole picture. A refrain for the Synod has been the need for African solutions to African problems and a reduction of the reliance on foreign aid, which, they have said, is too often offered with strings attached.

“We are challenged and encouraged by the African proverb which says that “an army of well organised ants can bring down an elephant.” We should not be afraid of, less still be discouraged, by the enormity of the problems of our continent.”

Almost 300 bishops have participated in the conference that began October 4 and wraps up tomorrow.

Read LSN coverage of the African Bishops’ Synod here.