SACBC REPORT to SECAM – 17th PLENARY ASSEMBLY

The Face of the Conference

The Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference (SACBC) is made up of 29 Dioceses, including the Dioceses of Gaborone and Francistown (Botswana) and the Diocese of Manzini (Swaziland). Since 2013 six new bishops have been ordained. There are 31 bishops, of these two were recently ordained. There are two auxiliary bishops hopefully more are coming for the big Metropolitan areas.

Apostolic Nunciature:

Archbishop Mario Roberto Cassari, who had arrived in March 2012, left in 2015. After eight (8) months he was replaced in April 2016 by the new Nuncio to Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia South Africa and Swaziland, Archbishop Peter Wells.

The Beatification of Benedict Tshimangadzo Samuel Daswa

It was with great joy to the whole church in Southern Africa when the Holy Father Pope Francis announced that the Servant of God Benedict Daswa, a layman and family man , martyr , zealous Catechist, coherent educator, heroic witness of the Gospel, even shedding of blood that from now on he be Called Blessed. Being the first of such an event in the SACBC Region the news brought great enthusiasm and faith renewal in the region not only to the Catholic community but the whole country wanted to know more about this man. His Eminence Angelo Cardinal Amato, S. D. B. Prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints presided over the Beatification of the Venerable Servant of God Benedict Tshimangazo Samuel Daswa, on the 13th September 2015.

The Re-structuring of the SACBC

Guided by Africae Munus and in a spirit of prayer and reflection the SACBC, in 2014, embarked on the re-structuring process of the Conference. The major turning point in this process was to establish the Council for Evangelization.

COUNCIL FOR EVANGELIZATION

The Council for Evangelization is an umbrella body that brings Departments of the SACBC together in order to co-ordinate the activities of the Conference in line with the vision for the Conference to be more readily at the service of the Member Dioceses.

NATURE:

The Church exists to evangelize. The Council for Evangelization has been established as the central hub of the SACBC in order to promote the work of evangelization within the Conference Region. It is a direct response to the call for a new evangelization.

SACBC DEPARTMENTS

  • Department for Formation, Life and Ministry of the Clergy

  • Department for Christian Formation, Liturgy and Culture

  • Department for Formation, Life and Apostolate of the Laity

  • Department for Ecumenism and Inter-religious Dialogue

  • Department for Catholic Social Action

  • Department of Finance

Department for Formation, Life and Ministry of the Clergy

The Department oversees and coordinates all different bodies that have to do with promotion and recruitment of vocations, seminary formation, ongoing formation and professional conduct. The Council for Deacons, which represents the Permanent Deacons within the SACBC region.

Department for Christian Formation, Liturgy and Culture

In this Department, the SACBC has included the Catholic Board of Education (CBE). It was launched in January 2016. All the stakeholders within the Catholic education sector have joined hand to form the Catholic Board of Education. It is aimed at coordinating, maintaining and dealing with the matters pertaining to catholic ethos, legal and structural issues of education in the SACBC region.

Committee for Liturgy

A complete text for Sunday Services in the Absence of a Priest now complete and is available in English. The Regional Pastoral Conferences are busy doing the translations into various local languages. The Committee for Catechesis is about to complete the new series for Confirmation Catechesis which will be based on the Lectionary and Liturgical Seasons.

Committee for Culture: Currently, healing is the main focus of the Culture Committee. An exorcist from the US has been invited for January 2017 to workshop the bishops, clergy and the laity on Exorcism and Deliverance – a major problem

Department for Formation, Life and Apostolate of the Laity

In this Department, the SACBC has introduced the Council for the Laity in which all Diocesan Pastoral Council delegate one representative to be member of the SACBC Laity Council. The Council’s mandate is to deal with the matters pertaining to apostolate of the laity.

Family and Marriage Life: The SACBC family desk was fully engaged with the preparation and participation in the last Synod on Family. A couple from the region was sent to Rome to participate in the Synod. Also in Philadelphia, a couple from the SACBC region was sent to participate in the event. The New Apostolic Exhortation, Amoris Laetitia has been received with great enthusiasm and the Council for Evangelization is looking at how to implement Amoris Laetitia.

Youth

In preparation towards World Youth Day in Poland, July 2016, the SACBC Youth office organised a mini-world youth day for those who would not participate in Poland.

It was held in Johannesburg from the 03-06 December 2015. A great number of youth representatives from all dioceses participated, and celebrated with various bishops in attendance.

Department for Ecumenism and Inter-religious Dialogue

In this Department, dialogue with both the African Traditional religion and the secular culture are the priority and efforts are underway to achieve that dialogue.

Department for Catholic Social Action

This Department has assembled all the SACBC agencies and structures which are dealing with matters of social justice. Reflects on the Catholic Social Teaching, reading the signs of the time in order to strengthen the prophetic voice of the church.

Department of Finance

The Department of Finance spear-heading the process of self-reliant, self-propagating church within the SACBC region through Bishops’ Lenten Appeal and SACBC Foundation. In line with the thrust to become a more self-sustaining Church, the Bishops themselves, have established a Solidarity Fund, to which each Bishop has committed to annually contributing one Percent [1%] of the ordinary income of his diocese. This fund is to be managed by the Bishops themselves and meant to assist some of the more Financial challenged diocese. Truly a wonderful initiative; and a great act of Solidarity. The fund is in its fourth year, growing from strength to strength and undoubtedly will go into a tremendous financial lifeline for some diocese of the Conference.

The Year of Consecrated Life:

The SACBC responded positively to the Year of Consecrated Life by celebrating with all religious on two occasions. The Metropolitan Archdiocese of Durban hosted the ceremony in Mariannhill Diocese during the SACBC Plenary Session on 10 August 2015 which was attended by all bishops and the great number of Institutes of Consecrated Life. The Year of Consecrated Life was closed officially in the SACBC region on 16 January 2016 during the Plenary Session. All bishops together with Institutes of Consecrated Life from both Johannesburg and Pretoria Metropolitans participated in great numbers. Each diocese had its own celebrations.

Joint Projects of the SACBC and LCCL (SA)

Joint Witness

Both the SACBC and the Leadership Conference of Consecrated Life in Southern Africa have been working together from time immemorial. The two conferences hold a triennial session called a Joint Witness. In 2013, Joint Witness reflected deeply on the self-reliant church in the era of democracy in the SACBC region. At the moment, preparatory work is underway towards Joint Witness 2017.

Migrants, Refugees and Counter Trafficking in Human Persons:

The SACBC working closely with the Leadership Conference of Consecrated Life (LCCLSA) and the Jesuit Refugees Services (JRS) have a made a meaningful contribution to the plight of migrants and refugees in Southern Africa. South African government is about to amend the Bill on Migrants and Refugees in the parliament with the scope of more restrictions on migration in the country. The SACBC, through its agencies and office in parliament, is working hard on research to raise some concerns with the pending amendments. With the ever growing numbers of migrants and refugees in the country, the SACBC is heightening its awareness and is consolidating its efforts with other stakeholders such as embassies and other international organisations.

Orientation Program for New Missionaries in SACBC region

This orientation programme is designed as an initial step in the sharing process of a missionaries’ insertion into the concrete realities of the Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference region (Botswana, South Africa and Swaziland). It takes place bi-annually at the Lumko Institute in Johannesburg.

Objectives of the Programme

It is hoped that at the end of the programme the missionary would have:

  • had the opportunity to clarify for him/herself the challenges and implications of being in a new mission context different from the one he/she has been used to;

  • have an initial grasp how can she/he enrich and also become enriched by the new mission context.

  • Such clarification should hopefully lead to a respectful humble attitude of sharing with and openness to learn more about the country and people among whom he/she now lives and ministers,

  • gained some basic knowledge and appreciation of the cultures, politics and economy of the peoples, and particularly exposure to the nature and the structures of the Catholic Church in the SACBC.

SACBC AIDS Office

The SACBC AIDS Office provides support to the Church’s AIDS response in South Africa, Botswana and Swaziland. Some of the donor funding has been accessed by the SACBC AIDS Office itself, but projects in the dioceses in all three countries also continue to receive support from other sources. With funding from PEPFAR having been reduced, the SACBC AIDS Office has also reduced its staff and some of the projects. However, main work of monitoring and evaluation is still continuing in various areas of the region.

SECAM Year of Reconciliation

When SECAM announced the Year of Reconciliation, the SACBC embraced it fully and realised that it is urgent and that the Church needs to make a substantial response thereto. The suggestions were made that the Year of Reconciliation be blended into existing programmes that the Conference was already running:

  1. Family

  2. Year of Consecrated Life

  3. Year of Mercy

Round Table Discussions on Race, Racism and Reconciliation

Round Table discussions are being organised from time to by groups within the church and by civil society where bishops, priests and laity take part.

Pastoral Letter on Racism

The bishops have issued a Pastoral Letter on racism challenging the whole church to address seriously address racism and racial divisions in our country. To pray for peace, healing and the reconciliation.

Year of Mercy

The Year of Mercy has been well received in the SACBC region. The Conference has identified the group of priests led by the Redemptorists to be missionaries of mercy who will move in the region to preach, teach and celebrate the Year of Mercy. A pilgrimage to Rome for priests has also been organised led by the Chairperson of the Department for Clergy. A reflection day was held with bishops and all the members of Clergy Department to look at how should issues of forgiveness, reconciliation, healing and renewal be given emphasis in the lives of the clergy so that they will not only be helping others but experiencing mercy in their own lives too.

At a Conference Level: A booklet, containing stories of mercy has been compiled for distribution among the people for reflection. Also in circulation are the books from Vatican on mercy (parables, psalms and Fathers of the Church). A prayer pamphlet has also been compiled (in local languages) and distributed throughout the conference region. It contains a prayer for the Year of Mercy.

Diocesan level: Many Dioceses had a diocesan celebration to launch the Year of Mercy – these were generally well attended and captured the enthusiasm of our people as they celebrated mercy. Each diocese also devised special programmes and retreats that would further help the faithful come to a deeper understanding and lived experience of mercy.

On a Parish Level: Many bishops have also allowed each parish to celebrate the Year of Mercy in a special way. In many parishes, talks, sermons, study days, penitential services, retreats and reflections on mercy are being held from time to time.

SACBC beyond its Boarders

Denis Hurley Peace Institute (DHPI)

The Denis Hurley Peace Institute is named after South African Catholic Archbishop Denis Eugene Hurley, a critical voice of the Church during apartheid, It was established in 2005 with the blessing of the Southern Africa Catholic Bishops’ Conference, to serve people in conflict situations by ensuring that building peace addresses the root cause of conflict and that the processes by which peace is achieved respects the human rights of people.

Over the years DHPI has become a respected peace-builder in Africa and internationally, actively upholding the Social Teaching of the Church that peace is much more than the absence of war. Their work has spanned the African continent offering assistance to: Sudan, South Sudan, Uganda, DRC, Ethiopia, Zimbabwe and Swaziland and recently also in Lesotho and Burundi. In its 10th anniversary in November 2015, DHPI was blessed to have former South African President Thabo Mbeki giving a keynote address on the status of African politics. He challenged the church to play its critical role in peace building in Africa.

Local Election

2016 is the year for highly contest local elections in South Africa with the new EFF party. The SACBC has engaged with Election Commission to set up a forum of dialogue and collaboration in order to ensure free and fair elections in August 2016.

Challenges:

Racism

South Africa is still rocked by incidents of racism. The SACBC has organized in various moments of Plenary Sessions and Administrative Board meetings some reflections on the extent and impact of racism in the country. A commission has been set up which is looking at addressing racism through dialogue and social cohesion. A movie is being prepared by media Production Company in collaboration with the SACBC on racism and social cohesion.

Government Level:

Corruption at all levels

Poor Service Delivery

Crisis in Education

Police Brutality

Political intolerance

Social Level:

Eruption of tertiary student protests on the high fees for tertiary education.

Violent protest which lead to property destruction

High level of Anger

High rate of unemployment

Abuse of women and children

HIV/AIDS

Influx of Migrants and Refugees which leads to xenophobic attacks on the foreigners as people fight for limited resources

Moral decay of society and breakdown in family structure

Ecclesial Level

Urbanisation

Prosperity Gospel

Decline in vocations and ageing Religious Communities.

The SACBC is committed to the service of the Catholic Church in Southern Africa through its leadership, secretariat and all agencies of education, health and social development. In spite of the challenges which are daily experiences, there is a good story to tell about the SACBC in its leadership of the church in Southern Africa.

Archbishop Stephen Brislin

SACBC President

Sr. Hermenegild Makoro CPS

Secretary General

May 2016

English
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