IMBISA DOCUMENTATION No 7 (English) Midyear 2014


Editorial………………….p 1

“The Delightful and Comforting Joy of Evangelizing” p3

‘Instrumentum Laboris’ : Our Failure to Teach …p. 4

Letter to SADC…………..p 5

News………………………p. 8

Documentation …..p. 11

Pope Francis speaking to Bishops of Southern Africa

Pope Francis speaking to Bishops of Zimbabwe

Theological Winter School “Leadership”

Book Reviews……………………………………………p 26

The Church in South Africa – Participation in Public Life : a Christian Duty



IMBISA is a good platform for bishops in the region to get to know each other and build personal relationships. We have a spiritual need to support each other. But we must avoid the danger of becoming a ‘self-serving bureaucracy”’(SA). The English- and Portuguese regions should complement each other with their different cultures, maybe even differing theological trends.” This was said and supported by all at the 10th Plenary Assembly in Gaborone/Botswana 2013. Angola expressed concern about minorities.

This Secretariat with its two departments (one dealing with theology and pastoral matters and the other with social justice) is unfortunately more in touch with Zimbabwe and South Africa than with the rest.

In this issue we report on a theological winter school in South Africa. Is there no on-going formation in the other IMBISA countries? We review a book on the Church in South Africa. Are no books published elsewhere reflecting on the Church and her presence in today’s society?

May we invite bishops and especially secretaries-general to let us know about events, developments and interesting publications in their countries.

The IMBISA secretariat in Harare/Zimbabwe is a smaller office and has fewer staff than the offices of most national conferences. That is all right, we are not a mini-Vatican from where to run the Church in Southern Africa. We are merely a support unit collecting and distributing information, serving the needs of the Church, not imposing on her. But the fact of the matter is that the two departments – far too grand a word! – have each just one staff member. So we are limited in what we can do.

That means we are dependent on the cooperation of national secretariats. Without them we can do nothing. If they do not answer our messages with requests for help, we might just as well close down.

As time goes by we hope to get to know each other personally and grow together as one IMBISA team. We want “to complement each other”, have a lively exchange of views, share experiences. Our tiny secretariat cannot do it. It can only be done by Harare and the secretariats in Luanda, Pretoria, Maputo, Maseru and Windhoek together.




9. Goodness always tends to spread. Every authentic experience of truth and goodness seeks by its very nature to grow within us, and any person who has experienced a profound liberation becomes more sensitive to the needs of others. As it expands, goodness takes root and develops. If we wish to lead a dignified and fulfilling life, we have to reach out to others and seek their good. In this sense, several sayings of Saint Paul will not surprise us: “The love of Christ urges us on” (2 Cor. 5:14); “Woe to me if I do not proclaim the Gospel!” (1 Cor. 9:16).

10. The Gospel offers us the chance to live life on a higher plane, but with no less intensity: “Life grows by being given away, and it weakens in isolation and comfort. Indeed, those who enjoy life most are those who leave security on the shore and become excited by the mission of communicating life to others”. When the Church summons Christians to take up the task of evangelization, she is simply pointing to the source of authentic personal fulfillment. For “here we discover a profound law of reality: that life is attained and matures in the measure that it is offered up in order to give life to others. This is certainly what missions mean”. Consequently, an evangelizer must never look like someone who has just come back from a funeral! Let us recover and deepen our enthusiasm, that “delightful and comforting joy of evangelizing, even when it is in tears that we must sow… And may the world of our time, which is searching, sometimes with anguish, sometimes with hope, be enabled to receive the good news not from evangelizers who are dejected, discouraged, impatient or anxious, but from ministers of the Gospel whose lives glow with fervor, who have first received the joy of Christ”.


The “Instrumentum Laboris” (working paper for Synod on the Family) reveals a widespread failure to teach the faithful about sexuality, marriage and family in a convincing manner. This is what the replies to the Questionnaire sent out at the end of 2013 tell us. The teaching of the Bible on family is not sufficiently integrated into our homilies. The teaching of the Church contained in conciliar and post-conciliar documents is not sufficiently known, or not known at all among most of the faithful.

Many blame the priests for this who do not feel qualified to speak on sexuality, marriage and the “Gospel of the Family”, sometimes are indifferent to part of the Church’s teaching or even diverge openly from Church doctrine. Many have no sense of responsibility as regards marriage and family and avoid preaching on such doctrine, so vital and central to most of the faithful.

On the other hand, experience shows that the “Gospel of the Family” is received well, even enthusiastically, where priests and catechists explain it properly.

Certain aspects this doctrine of course do meet with skepticism, even resistance: birth control, divorce, homosexuality, cohabitation, premarital sex etc.

There is a need to integrate the moral teaching with a spirituality of the family.

Certain cultural traditions may help in accepting the Christian message (Asia). Elsewhere ancestral traditions like polygamy make it more difficult.

Once more some bishops deplore that priests dispense the Sacraments without sufficient catechesis: the faithful have not experienced a personal encounter with Christ.

Poorly instructed Catholics have no defence against the contempt of mass media for the Christian vision in a culture of hedonism demanding instant satisfaction, without any understanding for permanent choices and lifelong commitment. And yet the Church has the very positive and attractive message of the dignity of the human person, as man and woman relate to and complement each other.

Indeed, this document reveals a very sad pastoral failure in large parts of the Church, despite great efforts by individuals and certain movements. Just recommending once more the same old remedies will not do.

Only if we accept our shocking failure will we be open to new ways the Spirit of Christ dwelling in the Church may show to the humble. – oWe


IMBISA appeals to SADC to act on armed conflict and failed economy    

The people of Africa are on the move. Some are “moving ahead” and make progress. Some are on the move because they are fleeing hunger, poverty, war and armed conflict.

As bishops of the Interregional Meeting of Bishops in Southern Africa (IMBISA – regional bishops’ conference, comprising Angola, Botswana, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, Sao Tome e Principe, South Africa, Swaziland, Zimbabwe) we regard the misery of our people crossing the border into Malawi because of military operations in Northern Mozambique or Zimbabweans crossing the Limpopo into South Africa or entering Botswana as economic refugees as alarming.

Two forces clash: economic pressure drives people to the South, administrative pressure drives them back.

This is a transnational problem for which there are no national solutions. The whole region has to get together and tackle this enormous human problem. The countries that send migrants and the countries that receive them must talk to each other.

For all good governments people must come first. The protection of human life   is the first duty of any government which respects people and their families. The main causes for these movements of migrants are armed conflict and economic failure.

Together with the Bishops of Mozambique we, Bishops of the Southern African region, “appeal to our governments to unite their voice to the Mozambican people demanding an end to all violence and use of arms, to   strengthen all efforts of dialogue, thereby helping to create conditions for that dialogue and avoid any military involvement.” (November 2013, Gaborone/Botswana)

With the Bishops of Zimbabwe we want the country ”to put in place ‘a new economic model’ across all sectors of the economy, an economic model that is inclusive, that draws from the abundant pool of expertise that [the country] is blessed with…and that transcends political and other boundaries” (Pastoral Letter 3 December 2013, ZCBC, Restoration and Peace in Zimbabwe following the July 2013 National Elections).

Impoverished refugees can only be stopped if they are given a chance in a restored economy to rebuild their lives at home.

The Bishops of Southern Africa are ready to enter into dialogue with all parties concerned. In the eyes of the Church no one is excluded. No solution offered should be dismissed for merely ideological or party -political reasons.

The life of our people is at stake. Xenophobia has already led to the spilling of innocent blood. This was a warning. Ethnic hostility as a result of migration is not worthy of the people of Africa and their great Pan-African dream of a united continent.

For us as Christians welcoming migrants is like welcoming Christ our Lord himself. The Church will not tire of being at the service of homeless people on the move.

“Prevention is better than cure”. Action time is now. African leaders must not wait until the situation gets out of hand when foreign powers will come and act as policemen, so humiliating for Africa.

We appeal to our leaders to give work to all our people so they need not go into exile. That is our agenda for dialogue.

Archbishop Robert C Ndlovu of Harare/Zimbabwe

Secretary General of IMBISA

News from IMBISA and Beyond

The Instrumentum Laboris for III Extraordinary Synod of Bishops

The Challenges of the Family in the Context of Evangelization

was published in June 2014.

This “working tool” for the forthcoming Synod on the Family gives a summary of the answers to the preparatory Questionnaire of last year.

The full text (most news services only give shortened versions) can be accessed on the official Vatican website:, English language version, look under ‘Curia/ Synod of Bishops’.


IMBISA Plan for 2014, 2015, 2016

Bishop Sithembele Sipuka  and Fr Wermter, Past. Dept. IMBISA, met in Durban during the Theological Winter School to work out a plan for the Pastoral Department, 2014 – 2016.

They agreed on the following main themes :

1st year :  Communication and Media ( the new media world must become part of the catechetics in preparation for Confirmation, and media ethics must become part of seminary training for our future priests). A questionnaire is about to be circulated to Bishops concerned with formation, seminaries, pastoral centres, commissions.

2nd year: Formation of Women in the Church for their particular roles: the presence of women is strong and they make already a great contribution.  But they are facing new challenges in society, and many also wish to have greater responsibility in the Church. We need to get some women together and hear their views (married women and mothers active in the Church, single women and single parents, professional women, religious women, activists for women’s rights, women young and old) .

3rd year : Health and Healing : Jesus was a healer even though he was more than just a healer, but his healing showed his mercy and compassion – the Church from the beginning was engaged in care of the sick – hospitals became an instrument developed by the Church – in our countries education and healthcare were our main instruments in showing Christ’s love – praying for the sick is a main preoccupation of indigenous churches, though their theology of healing is faulty – pastoral care of the sick shows people that the Church cares about the sick; if pastoral care of the sick is weak then  people turn their backs on the Church – this work includes care of health professionals, professional organizations of nurses and doctors, even the political side of health care: is government accepting the responsibility for the health of the nation? – there are many theological and ethical questions health workers have to deal with, they need information and education, debate and advice  – health care is a question of inculturation : how do we deal with traditional healing ? – The Church is losing its hospitals – what is the alternative to running big hospitals? In what way can the  Church assist in making sure the health of the nation is safeguarded: new clinics and services should complement the work of government hospitals (AIDS, cancer, drug  addictions, maternal care, etc).


We must proceed at IMBISA following the principle of subsidiarity. That means we do not impose anything on the national conferences and individual bishops, but we first ask them what is done about this matter in your country, in your diocese. We first use questionnaires to get this information. On the basis of this information we offer assistance where we see that this is needed.

Formation and on-going formation is also a concern of IMBISA. The last conference of formators was in 1998 in Chishawasha/Harare – Zimbabwe. But first we must start dialogue with bishops responsible for the seminaries and the formators in the various seminaries before we decide on the need, or otherwise, of a conference at IMBISA level. 

Marriage and Family is an on-going concern (see resolutions  made in Gaborone, Botswana at 10th Plenary Assembly IMBISA , November 2013).

What we might want to offer is this : putting marriage and family matters into the context of philosophical and theological anthropology of the sexes; the material offered to the 10th Plenary Session  can be made use of in training of marriage instructors and the improvement of marriage instructions; we need to wait for the results of the  Extraordinary Bishops Synod on Family and Evangelization.

Cardinal Walter Kasper’s speech “The Gospel of the Family” was circulated in shortened form to all IMBISA bishops in IMBISA Documentation No 6 A.

Fr Oskar Wermter SJ   Pastoral Dept/Communications

IMBISA – Harare/Zimbabwe

Migration : Concern of the Church about Millions on the Move

Fr Claudio dos Reis, Justice and Peace, IMBISA, attended a conference of the International Catholic Migration Commission in Rome in May 2014.

War and violence as well as poverty and unemployment drive millions from their homelands to more prosperous countries (sending and receiving countries). Great concern was expressed by a representative of the Secretary General of the United Nations about the reluctance or outright refusal of “receiving countries” to allow refugees and migrants to settle in their countries, even countries like Germany that obviously are in need of workers for demographic reasons (low birth rate).

Within IMBISA we have both “sending” and “receiving” countries. South Africa is attracting from almost the entire continent.

IMBISA Secretariat moves offices

The Bishops of IMBISA agreed at their Plenary Assembly in Gaborone that the IMBISA Secretariat in Harare/Zimbabwe would share their facilities with CAFOD, the Catholic Association for Overseas Development , from Britain. This is now being implemented. The IMBISA Secretariat has moved out of the main building on the premises in 88 Broadlands Road, Emerald Hill, Harare, and moved into smaller offices in some outbuildings on the same grounds.

CAFOD has started renovating the main building and will move into it in August.

This is to the benefit of both IMBISA and CAFOD. It gives CAFOD  suitable office space at low cost, while IMBISA will eventually get a steady income from the rent.



Friday, 25 April 2014


 Dear Brother Bishops,

You have spoken to me of some of the serious pastoral challenges facing your communities. Catholic families have fewer children, with repercussions on the number of vocations to the priesthood and religious life. Some Catholics turn away from the Church to other groups who seem to promise something better. Abortion compounds the grief of many women who now carry with them deep physical and spiritual wounds after succumbing to the pressures of a secular culture which devalues God’s gift of sexuality and the right to life of the unborn. In addition, the rate of separation and divorce is high, even in many Christian families, and children frequently do not grow up in a stable home environment. We also observe with great concern, and can only deplore, an increase in violence against women and children. All these realities threaten the sanctity of marriage, the stability of life in the home and consequently the life of society as a whole. In this sea of difficulties, we bishops and priests mustgive a consistent witness to the moral teaching of the Gospel. I am confident that you will not weaken in your resolve to teach the truth “in season and out of season” (2Tim 4:2), sustained by prayer and discernment, and always with great compassion.

I appreciate the fact that you, the bishops of Botswana, South Africa and Swaziland, are united to your people where they live and work and study, in solidarity with the vast numbers of unemployed in your countries. Most of your people can identify at once with Jesus who was poor and marginalized, who had no place to lay his head. In addressing these pastoral needs, I ask you to offer, in addition to the material support which you provide, the greater support of spiritual assistance and sound moral guidance, remembering that the absence of Christ is the greatest poverty of all. Here too we need to find new and creative ways of helping people encounter Christ through a deeper understanding of the faith.

Another significant challenge I have already touched on is the reduced number of priests – your first co-workers in the task of evangelization – as well as a significant decline in seminarians. What is required is a new impetus: fresh and authentic promotion of vocations in every territory, a prudent selection of candidates for seminary studies, fatherly encouragement of those men in formation, and attentive accompaniment in the years after ordination.

Together with priests, religious and lay catechists have played and continue to play a vital role in the growth of your communities. It is essential that they receive your encouragement and support, especially through the development of programmes of ongoing formation grounded firmly in the inspired word of God, and introducing children and adults to the life of prayer and the fruitful reception of the sacraments. The sacrament of reconciliation, in particular, must be rediscovered as a fundamental dimension of the life of grace. The holiness and indissolubility of Christian matrimony, often disintegrating under tremendous pressure from the secular world, must be deepened by clear doctrine and supported by the witness of committed married couples. Christian matrimony is a lifelong covenant of love between one man and one woman; it entails real sacrifices in order to turn away from illusory notions of sexual freedom and in order to foster conjugal fidelity. Your programmes of preparation for the sacrament of matrimony, enriched by Pope John Paul’s teaching on marriage and the family, are proving to be promising and indeed indispensable means of communicating the liberating truth about Christian marriage and are inspiring young people with new hope for themselves and for their future as husbands and wives, fathers and mothers.

I have also noted the concern which you expressed about the breakdown of Christian morals, including a growing temptation to collude with dishonesty. This is an issue which you prophetically addressed in your pastoral statement on corruption. As you pointed out, “corruption is theft from the poor… hurts the most vulnerable… harms the whole community… destroys our trust”. The Christian community is called to be consistent in its witness to the virtues of honesty and integrity, so that we may stand before the Lord, and our neighbours, with clean hands and a pure heart (cf. Ps 24:4) as a leaven of the Gospel in the life of society. With this moral imperative in mind, I know that you will continue to address this and other grave social concerns, such as the plight of refugees and migrants. May these men and women always be welcomed by our Catholic communities, finding in them open hearts and homes as they seek to begin a new life.

Pope’s Address to Zimbabwe Bishops


Dear Brother Bishops,

The Church in your country has stood fast with her people both before and after independence, now also in the years of overwhelming suffering as millions have left the country in frustration and desperation, as many lives have been lost, so many tears shed. In the exercise of your prophetic ministry, you gave dramatic voice to all the struggling people of your country, especially to the downtrodden and the refugees. I think particularly of your 2007 Pastoral Letter God Hears the Cry of the Oppressed: “The suffering people of Zimbabwe are groaning in agony: ‘Watchman, how much longer the night?’” There you showed how the crisis is both spiritual and moral, stretching from colonial times through the present moment, and how the “structures of sin” embedded in the social order are ultimately rooted in personal sin, requiring of all a profound personal conversion and a renewed moral sense enlightened by the Gospel.

Christians find themselves on all sides of the conflict in Zimbabwe, and so I urge you to guide everyone with great tenderness towards unity and healing: this is a people both black and white, some richer but most exceedingly poorer, of numerous tribes; the followers of Christ belong to all political parties, some in positions of authority, many not. But together as the one pilgrim People of God, they need conversion and healing, in order to become ever more fully “one Body, one Spirit in Christ” (cf. Eph 4:4). Through preaching and works of the apostolate, may your local Churches demonstrate that “reconciliation is not an isolated act but a lengthy process by which all parties are re-established in love – a love that heals through the working of God’s word” (Africae Munus, 34).

While Zimbabweans’ faithfulness is already a balm on some of these national wounds, I know that many people have reached their human limit, and do not know where to turn. In the midst of all this, I ask you to encourage the faithful never to lose sight of the ways in which God is hearing their supplications and answering their prayers, for, as you have written, he cannot fail to hear the cry of the poor. In this Easter season, as the Church throughout the world celebrates the victory of Christ over the power of sin and death, the Gospel of the resurrection which you are entrusted to proclaim must be clearly preached and lived in Zimbabwe. Let us never forget the lesson of the resurrection: “on razed land life breaks through, stubbornly yet invincibly. However dark things are, goodness always re-emerges and spreads. Each day in our world, beauty is born anew, it rises transformed through the storms of history” (Evangelii Gaudium, 276).

Fearlessly proclaim this Gospel of hope, bringing the Lord’s message into the brokenness of our time, tirelessly preaching forgiveness and the mercy of God. Keep encouraging the faithful to renew their personal encounter with the Risen Lord, and to return to the sacraments, especially to Reconciliation and the Holy Eucharist, source and summit of our Christian life.

As shepherds of the flock ever docile to the Holy Spirit (cf. Acts 20:28), work closely to foster unity with your priests, striving to eliminate every form of dissension and self-interest. I encourage you to continue to seek out vocations to the priesthood: men who once formed with the wide hearts of shepherds and fathers will go out to find their people in every part of the country. Accompany your newly ordained priests attentively, that they may live wholesome and upright lives. Exhort them to continue preaching and living – in season and out of season – the Gospel values of truth and integrity, and the beauty of a life lived in faith, in love of God, and in selfless service of their neighbour, in prophetic hope for justice in the land.

The future of the Church in Zimbabwe and Africa as a whole greatly depends on the formation of the faithful (cf. Ecclesia in Africa, 75). Together with holy priests, the Church needs zealous, well-formed catechists who will work with clergy and laity, so that what the Church believes is reflected in the way her people live in society. Support the many generous religious brothers and sisters who sanctify the country with hearts undivided in love for God and for his people. Show particular concern for the preparation and clear guidance of young Catholics desiring Christian marriage, opening up to them the richness of the Church’s moral teachings on life and love, thus enabling them to find true happiness in freedom as mothers and fathers.


Winter Living Theology 2014

“The Leaders We Deserve”

Prof Al Gini, Loyola University, Chicago

Presented by the Jesuit Institute / Jo’burg SA

Johannesburg – Durban – Cape Town May/June 2014

Since the speaker was American his jokes and anecdotes – and there were many – were all American. And since it was a South African event, it all started with a reflection on South African leadership.

But since this publication is meant for church leaders in altogether nine countries in Southern Africa, I will apply the valuable insights of Prof. Al Gini, a Catholic layman teaching philosophy and business ethics at a Jesuit university, to leadership in the Church, and not just in SA or the US. And since my audience are not undergraduates, and for reasons of space, I will leave out the jokes.

What the teacher of business ethics had to say about CEOs (chief executive officers) and company directors, politicians and leaders in all spheres of life, applies even more to leaders in the Church. What he said about the necessary qualities of good leaders made all good common sense. Even agnostics will accept it as reasonable. And yet for the student of the New Testament it was all very familiar stuff, i.e. the teachings and the actual life story of Jesus.

In Africa (and elsewhere) you may think that leadership is all about power and self-glorification. But “leadership is not about the leader” (Pope Francis). He is a steward, not concerned about his own self, but about the people he leads. “Kings seek their subjects’ good, tyrants their own” (17th century English poet). Bad leaders claim, “I am the State, I am the people, this is about me and not you”. The first and final job of good leaders is to serve the needs and the well-being of the people they lead. St Augustine, the North African, said something like this.

The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10: 45). A good leader does not put himself in the centre, but the ones whom he leads and serves. Surely this must apply most of all to leaders in the Church, certainly bishops and priests, but also lay leaders.

This is a great art a young priest has to learn: to have authority and yet use it only for the people in his care and for their benefit, and not for his own advantage!

Seminaries must train future leaders entirely in the mould of Jesus. With what kind of role model in their heads and their hearts do they leave the seminary and start their work with the people? Has Jesus and his style been imprinted into their hearts (or the style of the traditional chief, of the local political party boss, or of the country’s President) ?

Since Africa suffers under selfish tyrants, she needs the counter-cultural witness of leaders who are merely stewards and caretakers of God’s gift, not owners who claim power and possession for themselves. If the Church were to produce such leaders and show steward-leadership she would render a great and wonderful service to this continent and its people!

The speaker listed ten qualities a good leader must have:

  • Deep honesty. Outstanding leaders avoid deception and misrepresentation.
  • Moral courage. In the face of possible job loss, embarrassment, ostracism, and even physical threats, great leaders stand up for their values.


  • Moral vision. Great leaders not only exhibit moral courage, they are able to understand the meaning of the values they fight for, and they are skilled evaluators of people’s character.
  • Compassion and care. Great leaders are able to connect with and resonate to the needs of their followers.
  • Fairness. Outstanding leaders are able to put aside personal biases to judge people on their merits.
  • Intellectual Excellence. Outstanding leaders are curious about their natural and social environment, about new insights being developed in politics, science, and culture that can affect our understanding of things.
  • Creative Thinking. Great leaders innovate and “think outside the box.”
  • Aesthetic Sensitivity. In a competitive global environment, beauty and efficiency in design are features of winning, high value products.
  • Good timing. Knowing when to act is often as important as knowing how to act.
  • Deep Selflessness. Great leaders always put their organization’s success ahead of their own.

Let us apply these Ten Qualities of a Good Leader (a CEO of a company, a political leader, a teacher or headmaster, a physician in charge of a medical team, a leader of a civic organization) to the Church:

Deep Honesty: politicians are notorious for corrupting the language by habitually telling lies and misrepresenting the facts. A priest must be absolutely trustworthy. He must tell the truth, even if it is to the disadvantage of the Church. The abuse scandal has done so much damage because prominent bishops and priests were misleading people by hiding the truth. We must undo the damage by being scrupulously truthful.

Moral Courage: Telling the truth does not make you popular. Reading out a pastoral letter denouncing powerful people in government for corruption may be dangerous. That is no reason not to do it. People hunger for the truth and for clear moral guidance in a world full of lies and deception. When Jesus calls someone into his service he does not promise safety and a comfortable risk-free life. The Martyrs of Uganda understood this.

Moral Vision: a politician wants power whereas a statesman is driven by a vision of human dignity and freedom.

A cleric is ambitious for himself and wants to climb up the ladder to high ecclesiastical office; a disciple of Jesus wants to share in Jesus’ life and suffering by carrying the burden of the distressed, the downtrodden and despised.

He proclaims boldly the will of God, even if that makes him unpopular, e.g. warning the rich against greed and the self-indulgent against sexual abuse and exploitation of women and children.

Compassion and Care: a good shepherd can put himself into the shoes of the distressed within his flock. If disaster strikes he is there and takes action. Like Pope Francis he reaches out to those who live in the shadows. He is pained by the pain suffered by his people. AIDS for him is not an occasion for moral condemnation, but for listening to the afflicted and visiting the outcasts. “If one member suffers, all members suffer together with it”.

Fairness : even if public opinion condemns (‘trial by the media’) a man, a bishop must be a fair, just and yet merciful judge when he is confronted with scandal and the one who caused it.

As an employer it is not enough to stick to government rules and regulations, he must ask: Is justice being done? (Not all legislation is just!)

Intellectual excellence: a shepherd and guardian of the souls of men and women has enormous responsibility. He can only do his duty and be truly helpful if he is well informed about people’s troubles. He must never be complacent and think he knows all. He must forever be curious and want to know more, reading, watching documentaries, talking to knowledgeable people. He must be keen on on-going formation, attend workshops and do further studies. Like Paul on the Areopagus he must be able to have dialogue with thinkers and opinion makers. Like Jesus he must be able to listen to individuals and speak to strangers (e.g. Nicodemus, the Samaritan Woman).

Creative Thinking : the Saints did not go with the crowd. They were able to follow new and hitherto unknown paths. The Lord wants for his Church people able to “think outside the box”. Charity drives priests to think about mercy to be shown to people caught in moral dilemmas. Pope Francis understands that.

We all must learn from our mistakes. Never say, “There is nothing we can do”. With such a mind you may end up stoning the ‘woman who was a sinner’. Jesus’ love was limitless and set her free.

In the Holy Land Pope Francis was deeply troubled by the great wall dividing Israel and Palestine on the way from Jerusalem to Bethlehem. He invited the two leaders, a Muslim and a Jew, to Rome to find a way out in prayer.

Aesthetic sensitivity: the Church values truth and the search for truth. That is why the intellectual formation of priests takes many years. But the Church also values beauty and art. She does not just fill the ears of people with many words, but also appeals to their eyes with images which is very important in our visual media culture.

Our churches, often deteriorated into mere assembly halls, must become treasure houses of visual art and beauty once more. Our liturgy must cease to be excessively verbose and make Christ ,”the image of the invisible God”, visible once more through visual art rooted in the local culture. Liturgical music must not shun patterns of popular music with which our young people feel at home.

Good timing: Southern Africa is familiar with the New Testament concept of “kairos”, the right time God has chosen to act. Leaders of the Church must be able to discern when the time has come to act, when God wants them to speak out because “He listens to the cry of the poor”. Wait too long, and your message will be a ‘waste of time’. A sense of timing is crucial in any public debate. Saying the right thing may be irrelevant once public attention has moved on.

Deep selflessness: selfish leaders burn their country if only they can retain their own personal power. Jesus gave his body and shed his blood , gave his very self, as he died “for us” so that his people would have life abundantly.

Ministers of the Church who seek only their own prestige and prosperity betray Jesus like Judas did when he took thirty pieces of silver.

Daily in the Eucharist the priest , as he shares in Jesus’ body and blood, leaves himself behind and gives himself to Christ and to Christ’s faithful.

A good leader is forgetting himself for the sake of those whom he leads. He is preoccupied with them, not with himself. “The Good Shepherd gives his life for his sheep”.[1]

Pope Francis as a role model of a true leader

In the words of Prof Gini: ‘For Francis, the church, the Pope must not just teach, preach and command. Rather, says the Pontiff, “today’s world stands in great need of witness, not (just) teachers, but rather witnesses. It’s not so much about speaking, but rather speaking with our whole lives”.

As Pope Francis has placed himself at the core of the central problems of our time: wealth and poverty, fairness and justice, transparency, globalization, the role of women, the temptations of power. The true job of the church, says Francis, is its commitment to something more than itself. It should rather be committed to the wants, needs, and aspirations of those that they both lead and serve.’

Africa’s crisis is a crisis of leadership. The Church has the best steward-leader/shepherd there ever was. It is up to us to make him a powerful presence and model.






Book Review

The Church in South Africa – a Portrait

A Story Worth Telling: Essays in Honour of Cardinal Napier, Edited by: Stuart C. Bate OMI and Anthony Egan SJ, published by the Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference, Pretoria, SA, 391 pp.

Cardinal Wilfried Napier OFM, Archbishop of Durban, was born in 1941 (70 years), entered the Franciscan novitiate in Irleand in 1960 (50 years) and became archbishop of Durban in 1992 (20 years); he was president of SACBC 1987 – 1994. Reason enough to invite the Church in South Africa which Cardinal Napier served for so long to reflect on its work, achievements and troubles.

The first essay is on social justice, a central concern of the Bishops of South Africa, both during and after ‘apartheid’. Bishop Graham Rose reflects on “structural greed”, taking up the thinking of St John Paul II who often warned against “sinful structures”. Business today “attempts ruthlessly to achieve the maximum financial return with the absolute minimum of human engagement, and that in the shortest possible time” (7). Anticipating Pope Francis’ call that “money must serve, not rule” Bishop Rose hopes for a “world where government and economics are under genuine human control …where there is a maximum of decentralized decision-making”. Not accumulation is central, but “scattering” and distribution of what we produce.

‘Scattering the Word’ is the concern of Archbishop Stephen Brislin in his essay on New Evangelization which must avoid “personality cults, showmanship, polarity drives, syncretism”. Instead it needs priests and evangelizers who are people of “deep prayer and communion with Christ” (36). Bishop Sithembele Sipuka reminds his fellow bishops, in the words of Vatican Council II, that “among the more important duties of bishops, that of preaching the Gospel has pride of place”. He reminds bishops and priests “we must move from just being a maintenance Church to an evangelizing Church like the Church of the Apostles.” Catholic do not know their faith and as such cannot be evangelizers. “Part of the problem is that we admit them to sacraments before they are properly evangelized.” He demands a long Catechumenate. Home visiting puts priests in touch with what people feel and think. The message of the evangelizer must go out to where the people are and meet their concerns and worries. But this does not mean a false ‘adaptation’ to their wordly thinking, as yet untouched by the Gospel. “There are some topics and gospel values that at best we tiptoe in speaking about them or even worse we play them down as no issues….Yes, the truth of the Gospel in relation to the way we behave and live must be spoken, with gentleness, yes, but also with firmness”. One such area is sexuality. People need to hear “how the Word of God can release them from their destructive sexual behaviour….if Christ is the savior, it means that he is able to save us [also] from our depraved sexuality …in a world that is saturated with materialism and explicit sex” (54). “Some of the people involved in corruption sit in our pews and we have become friends with them and it is awkward to challenge them.” But it has to be done. And yet, we should not be harsh and unsympathetic preachers, but, aware of our own failures, be “wounded healers” and speak with compassion.

Corruption is also an ecumenical issue (Archbishop George Daniel, Ecumenism and Inter-Religious Dialogue). A Methodist businessman reported on attempts to “introduce a code of ethics into the work environment”. A Catholic businessman shared his experience with such a code in the Philippines. The poor sometimes are trapped in corrupt practices without their fault. Government and business must be approached first. “Christians against corruption” is a showpiece of common ecumenical action.

It is amazing that the South African Bishops were able to contact such a wide range of religious leaders. Dialogue with Muslims comes first. The AIDS epidemic offered many opportunities to work together with religious communities, other than Christian. Dialogue with Jews is theologically highly relevant since theirs is the first Abrahamitic faith, and we share the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament with them. For future priests an encounter with Judaism as a living religion is a good experience. Vatican Council II (“Nostra Aetate”) has opened the door. Three rabbis met the SA Bishops Conference, where Bishop Graham Rose suggested to “invite the Chief Rabbi to give lessons to Christians on the Old Testament”. Did this actually happen?

It is good that the painful subject of sexual abuse by church personnel was included. Fr Desmond Nair wrote that the document “Integrity in Ministry” was presented to priests and candidates for the priesthood. He noted that newly ordained priests need “support and supervision”. This is of course generally true, not only in the context of abuse. On-going formation in matters of life-style, spirituality, pastoral practice and theology is indispensable today. What the reader would like to know is this: are all priests familiar with “Integrity in Ministry”, or only a few? Are clergy associations cooperating? On-going formation must be an ongoing exercise and become part of priestly life generally, not just for a few zealous volunteers.

Self-reliance, so much talked about in the Church, is not just a financial strategy. It is based on our Faith. All we are and all we have is a gift of God. Giving to the Church for her work of evangelization is giving freely since we are receiving freely: Giftedness, Gratitude, Generosity – the three Gs (Bishop Wuestenberg). “The Church exists to evangelize”. This needs the support of all of us. We are all supposed to be evangelizers. At the Forum 2008, “the lay delegates expressed great wonder at what they had heard and learned” (Fr Barney Mcaleer). This is the greatest obstacle : so many just do not know their faith and the great responsibility they have in the Church. That is the great virtue of this book: it confronts us, not just with our achievements and triumphs, but also with our weaknesses which call for action.

The Church must “walk the talk” and engage with the people and their troubles. Siyabhabha Trust (Caritas South Africa) is remarkable for basing its work on the spiritual guidance of the Church. There are Catholic development agencies which seem to be alienated from church and faith. ST “upholds the spirituality of work”. Indeed, if work is not to be slavery, it must be service as given by Jesus. Justice and Peace (Mike Deeb OP) likewise “emphasizes the spirituality underlying J & P”. This work is not for “politically” inclined Catholics, but for all “at parish level”. “Action from the base can change the world”.

Migration is often the result of injustice, especially war and poverty. “The majority of displaced people are on the continent of Africa”. Do ordinary Catholics know this? Do they care? Bishop Dowling, following Benedict’s Caritas in Veritate argues that receiving countries should see migrants not so much as burden and a threat, but as a “rich resource”.

The Church must protect and nurture whoever is threatened by abuse and by dehumanizing practices. “WE should choke with anger, disgust and shame that instead of nurturing and protecting children, we have within the Church those who have abused children” (Bishop Abel Gabuza).

Catholic hospitals are almost a thing of the past. But that does not mean the Church ceases to care about health and healing. There are “new areas of need” for clinics serving vulnerable children, provision of anti-retroviral medication, palliative care and mobile services. The spiritual base must be Jesus the healer. The AIDS crisis (Sr Alison Munro OP) has taught the health workers of the Church to use unconventional ways. Women are most vulnerable also because of forced prostitution and human trafficking, and again women, religious and their married sisters, are in the forefront of counteracting this threat (Sr Melanie O’Connor HF). “Far more women and children are shipped into brothels each year, than were African slaves shipped each year into slave plantations”. Slavery is far from over! Do the male users of women, euphemistically called “sex workers”, know this? The Church is a vast communication network and a most useful tool in this new “anti-slavery” campaign.

The Denis Hurley Peace Institute (DHPI) reaches out to the rest of Africa giving the local church support in fighting injustice (Fr Sean O’Leary, M.Afr.). Building a just and civil order is a task for every generation. Benedict XVI who has been teaching the Church far more on social justice than he is being given credit for said, “All who partake of the Eucharist must commit themselves to peacemaking in our world scarred by hunger, violence, war and today particularly terrorism, economic corruption and sexual exploitation”, quoted by Fr Peter-John Pearson (Catholics Parliamentary Liaison Office – CPLO).

On a global level the Church can work together with the United Nations, Fr Pearson explains. But SACBC is also concerned with people on the ground, e.g. women in rural areas who have fallen into the hands of loan sharks. Which goes to show that there is hardly any human affliction the Church is not concerned with in a practical way somewhere (Rosanne Shields). Rural unemployment calls for action in building “small businesses that do not need to compete with imports from the East”. Indeed, church activists are often closer to the reality than national leaders.

There is no problem of the global church that is not reflected in these essays from South Africa. Some women religious, decreasing in number, are concerned about priestly ordination for women. But, Sr Ann Wigley OP concedes, “for many, these issues are insignificant in the light of the enormous need to work for the alleviation of poverty and to end the horrific abuse of human rights and dignity.” But she also says, “To others, both are important and linked.” Improved formation for the young religious is a more immediate concern to make them fit to work for a culture of justice and peace.

Catholic schools play a pivotal role in a country whose educational system has suffered badly. They render great service, but are they Catholic, many ask? The report by the Catholic Institute of Education speaks about “Catholic tradition” guiding their schools. Is that the same as being committed to the Catholic faith, one may be permitted to ask.

Deepening the knowledge of the faith, on-going formation of catechists and spiritual formation (mystagogia) are the concerns of the Committee for Catechetics (Sr Patricia Finn, FMA). Parish catechesis must be strengthened in parishes, as we follow Pope Francis in his call for New Evangelization. The social and charitable work of the Church in South Africa and elsewhere is admirable, but it will not last without its spiritual base, its roots in the Gospel.

The Bishops of SACBC seem to be the only ones within the IMBISA region that have decided upon a programme of on-going formation for priests : On-Going Formation for the Priests of Southern Africa , 2007. Bishop Mlungisi Pius Dlungwane quotes Saint John Paul II (Pastores Dabo Vobis – I will give you shepherds) who said that ongoing formation is essential if a priest is “to be and to act as a priest in the spirit and style of Jesus the Good Shepherd”. So there is a good tool with which to promote on-going formation of priests – is it being used? Are priests making use of the opportunities offered?

Priests come from families, they remain in touch with their families and they are expected to support the family in its present crisis. The family is the domestic church. The Church is family. How can you be a priest of the Church without taking care of the family? The IMBISA Bishops decided that every national conference and every diocese should have a “family desk”, consisting of a team, to support the Parish Family Ministry programme. Every parish is primarily a community of families, not of individuals, women’s sodalities….(Toni Rowland). If that is so (some would debate it) then let us keep it that way which will not be possible without special attention to marriage and family (which is what Pope Francis wants who has called an Extraordinary Synod in Rome, October 2014).

Bishop Edward Risi OMI raises an interesting ecclesiological point in his essay on liturgical translations, “The Second Vatican Council assigned the task of approving translations of the Roman Missal to Conferences of the Bishops.” That is certainly what Vatican II did, but it is not, with due respect, what actually happens. Rome had the last word on the recently introduced new translation into English, not the Bishops’ Conferences. Even vernacular translations go to Rome for approval, though there are no Zulu or Sotho or Tswana speakers in the Congregation for Divine Worship. But Pope Francis wants to act more collegially, give Bishops’ Conferences more authority and Synods more influence in the government of the Church, so maybe we see better coordination in this field too.

The editors , Frs Stuart C. Bate OMI and Anthony Egan SJ, have produced a very rich book. Some of the essays make better reading than others. Especially writers on social and developmental issues tend to write a rather abstract “NGO jargon” which outsiders find hard to digest; the “people out there” in the townships and villages would never grasp what is being said about them.

Priests in need of “on-going formation” would do well starting by reading this book critically in the light of their own experience, followed by a debate with confreres. Many other church workers and lay leaders would find that this volume enables them to look beyond their own garden fence into what the neighbour is doing. – oWe

Book Review

Participation in Public Life – A Christian Duty

A Revolution of the Spirit, Daily Meditations for Lent 2014, by Fr Anthony Egan SJ, Jesuitinstitute, edited by Raymond Perrier and Fr Chris Chatteris SJ, printed by Mariannhill Mission Press.

Lent 2014 is long gone, but the basic message of this small book (111 pages) still needs to be spread around among Catholics (and Christians generally).

It says on the front cover: “Responsible citizenship is a virtue, and participation in political life is a moral obligation” (Pope Francis, November 2013). Basing his reflections on the scripture readings of the Lenten season up to Easter and a few texts from elsewhere, Fr Egan takes the reader on a rapid journey through the present political landscape in South Africa while often looking back to where the country has come from, the’ Apartheid’ era , the struggle for liberation and near civil war.

This little book is a passionate plea for Christian participation in public life; it is also a thorough critique of government and leadership in SA. At times it becomes a sophisticated essay in political science, to the surprise of readers who were looking for spiritual reading. But that is the point: politics needs inspired people, not mere professional politicians, without depth or spirituality. Remember the first African Synod which called for “holy statesmen”?

Too many Catholics refuse to get involved in matters of social justice because that is “politics”. Jesus did not come to “restore the kingdom of Israel” (Acts 1), true, but his call for “servant leadership”, for love of the poor (Mt 25) and even the enemy (Mt 5: 44) and his rejection of violence (“Those who take the sword will perish by the sword” , Mt 26: 52) have political consequences. The leaders of the Church identify with no party, but they have a message for all politicians of whatever party. Catholics who claim that “the Church must not be political” merely repeat political propaganda by leaders who fear the prophetic word of the Church.

Inspired by Jesus, Christians bring their own perspective into politics. They see the same violence at work in Sharpeville and in Marikana, and say so openly, much to the embarrassment of the leaders. Does today’s xenophobia not resemble yesterday’s discrimination?

Democracy as a system does not guarantee progress. It is based on moral values like respect for human dignity, human rights, respect even for the opponent, tolerance, and readiness to participate in public affairs even at great cost to oneself. Fr Egan tries to analyze why democracy has not yet succeeded in transforming South Africa. Democracy, he tends to think, has arrived “when the party of liberation loses an election and graciously hands over administration to the winner” . The reviewer agrees and thinks that South Africa is not alone in longing for this day when political maturity is reached.

The author had a little problem: the biblical texts used during Lent did not all have a message with political implications. Occasionally the connection between scripture and commentary turned out to be a bit artificial and not all that convincing , e.g. Jesus saying in the temple, ”You know me and also know where I am from” (from John 7, 4th April). I do not see how this connects to the question of ‘proportional representation’ in parliament. The writer admits in his afterword that he had a problem there.

It must also be mentioned that religion, i.e. our relationship to God, can never be a mere means for a political end. Relating to God is an end in itself, the final goal and aim of our lives. But once we relate to “God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ”, our relationship to our brothers and sisters, our neighbours as well as strangers, will change dramatically and have profound political consequences.

This very readable little book should be in the hands of all preachers and teachers of the faith to encourage them to explain the Gospel in the social and political context of present-day South Africa (or Zimbabwe, Mozambiqe, Angola, Namibia, Lesotho…). It should take away their fear of being too “political” when they challenge leaders (of the nation as much as of the local parish council) to watch Jesus’ leadership style. It was a good idea to re-publish in print what had been published before in the daily Lenten e-mails of the Jesuitinstitute. – oWe


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[1] Prof Gini did not like the parable of the Good Shepherd very much. “Sheep are eventually slaughtered. Is that what the Good Shepherd does?” Parables have a point of comparison. In this parable it is the care and self-giving of the Shepherd, Christ. The rest does not lend itself as a ‘point of comparison’.

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