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A beautiful page in history of the SMA was written on May 19, 2018. The Embassy of Benin to the Holy See, the Pontifical Council for Culture, the Pontifical Council for Communication and several ecclesiastical and civil dignitaries stood side by side with the SMA at Vatican Radio to recognize the valuable contribution of Fr. Francis Aupiais SMA.

Everything started with the initiative of the ambassador of Benin to the Holy See who invited the SMA to partner with the embassy to mark the tenth death anniversary of Cardinal Bernardin Gantin (1922-2008). While brainstorming we decided to celebrate one of the major figures of the Benin Church History – Fr. Francis Aupiais.

‘SMA Publications’ started a collection called ‘SMA Sankofa’ in 2015. Sankofa is an Ivorian term meaning ‘Go to search in the past and bring’. We publish in the collection the original unedited writings of our missionaries with a presentation and footnotes. Six volumes have come out in the last three years. We organized some of the writings of Fr. Aupiais as six volumes of SMA Sankofa. Adding to that Fr. Pierre Saulnier has written a 300-page biography of Fr. Aupiais. We decided to publish all seven books as part of the celebration. We also added one of the volumes of Aupiais’ writings that had been already published making the total number eight.

Fr. Francis Aupiais (1877 – 1945)

Why is Fr. Aupiais that significant to Benin? A missionary bridges people and cultures. Fr. Aupiais was one of the best ambassadors of Africa in the real sense of the word. He worked hard to show to the world the intelligence of Africans and the richness of their culture. He formed a generation of writers, clerks, mid-wives and politicians. The missionary started a magazine called ‘La Reconnaissance Africaine’ and published in it articles written by Africans on various subjects. The readers could not but respect the authors and the quality of their articles. Fr. Aupiais gave numerous conferences and talks in France to show how the African soul is by nature spiritual and well-disposed to receive the Christian revelation. People in Benin elected him to represent Dahomey-Togo in the French Assembly. That desire and decision from the people of Benin expressed the greatest confidence they had in him that he would be their voice that he had always been. Fr. Aupiais is acclaimed as a precursor of inculturation in Benin.

Attendance

The president of Benin visited the place the day before the event and received all our books. He was unable to participate in the event itself as it had been planned.

The Secretary of the Vatican State, various Pontifical councils, the University of Lateran and other diplomatic bodies were well represented. There was a solid delegation of the Benin community of which many dignitaries serve in different departments of Vatican. They told the assembly how the seeds sown by Fr. Aupiais have grown in so many ways and are bearing fruit. 

From the side of the SMA, adding to the members of the Generalate, Mgr. Bonfils who had known Cardinal Gantin personally and Pierre Saulnier who was the main contributor to the books came from France for the event. Some dignitaries from Benin acknowledged Mgr. Bonfils as their formator in Benin.

Publication of Books

Here is the list of the books published. The original titles are in French and the translation is given in brackets.

  1. La reconnaissance africaine : Francis Aupiais 1926-1931 hier et aujourd'hui (The African gratitude : Francis Aupiais 1926 -1931 Yesterday and today)
  2. Cours et Causeries (Talks and conferences)
  3. Bonne Terre… L’Africain homme religieux (Good soil… African a spiritual)
  4. La civilisation et l’excès de la colonisation (Civilisation and the exces of colonisation)
  5. Voyage en Egypte (Journey to Egypt)
  6. Voyage en Afrique Occidentale (Journey to West Africa)
  7. Souvenez-vous. Textes et témoignages (Remember. Writings and witnesses)
  8. Lettres à Paul Hazoumê (Letters to Paul Hazoumê)

As the books went like hot cakes the missionary in us rejoiced more than the merchant!

Fr. Francis Rozario, sma  
General Councillor.