By Hilary White

ROME, October 7, 2009 ( – Because he is black, the election of Barack Obama as president of the US, is a “divine sign” according to one African bishop attending the Synod currently meeting in the Vatican. Archbishop Laurent Monsengwo Pasinya, head of the archdiocese of Kinshasa in the Democratic Republic of Congo, called the election of Obama a “primordial event” in the history of salvation and God's answer to the historic injustice of the African slave trade.

During Monday's afternoon session of the Synod, Monsengwo presented his report on trends in the Church in Africa since the last Synod for Africa in 1994. Prefacing his remarks with the Biblical story of Joseph and the Egyptian captivity of the Israelites, telling the assembled African bishops that the story provides an interpretive “key” that can assist in understanding “the profound sense of the last five centuries of human history in general and of the Slave Trade in particular.”

“The 430 years of slavery of the Jewish people … could lead us to interpret developments in today's geopolitical situation,” Monsengwo said.

Toward the end of his remarks, he called “the election of a Black as head of the United States of America … a divine sign and a sign from the Holy Spirit for the reconciliation of races and ethnic groups, for peaceful human relations.”

The Synod, he said, and “the universal Church would gain from not ignoring this primordial event of contemporary history, which is far from being a banal game of political alliances.”

John Allen, the Vatican correspondent for the left-leaning American Catholic paper the National Catholic Reporter, has said that even “without showing up” Barack Obama is “a force” at the African bishops' Synod. Allen pointed to the mention by some bishops of Obama as a “potentially powerful new force for justice and good government across Africa” and a possible herald of further racial political victories such as the possible election of a black pope.

Allen commented that the positive tone of the African bishops on Obama's race makes a change from the emphasis on his policies among American Catholics, “where attention is usually focused on Obama's controversial stands on abortion and other life issues.”

Pro-life Vatican observers, however, expressed their surprise at the archbishop's uncritical praise of the Obama victory.

Anthony Ozimic of the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC) said that despite the African bishops' concern for the “advancement of black people,” they must remember to condemn Obama's virulently pro-abortion policies, that include the expansion of abortion and artificial contraception in Africa.

Ozimic said, “Black Catholic and Christian pro-life leaders in both America and Africa regard Mr. Obama's presidency as a disaster for black unborn children. Abortion is the deepest antithesis of reconciliation and peaceful human relations.”

“If, instead of killing unborn children, Mr. Obama's policies killed, for example, Catholic priests, would Archbishop Monsengwo regard Mr Obama's election as a positive, divine sign? Are unborn children any less deserving of the right to life than Catholic priests?”

The African bishops' Synod opened on Sunday and continues through to October 24th.