, 22 November, 2020 / 3:28 PM
As Catholics across the world prepare to usher in the Season of Advent on Sunday, November 29, Bishops in Zimbabwe have, in their collective message about the period that leads up to Christmas and a hopeful anticipation of the second coming of Jesus Christ, called reconciliation and unity in the Southern African nation.
In their Wednesday, November 18 message obtained by ACI Africa, the members of the Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops’ Conference (ZCBC) ask the people of God in the country to embrace each other beyond social and political boundaries and to care for the environment noting that Advent is a season of renewal, taken from the Latin word “Advenio”, which means “Behold I come.”
“It is the Lord Jesus who comes to live among us in order to renew us,” ZCBC members say, and add, “The coming of the Lord is also a coming of new things, new ideas, a renewed hope in him and in each other and what we are capable of doing together if only we can trust, reach out and find each other across our set social and political boundaries.”
The Bishops in Zimbabwe encourage efforts toward unity and reconciliation saying, “The cry of John the Baptist, prepare a way for the Lord, make his path straight, must be heard in all the sociopolitical, economic and religious spheres of life.”
Referencing political tensions that have continued since 2019, the Bishops call on government leaders to “extend a new hand of welcome to all the opposition parties so that advent hope can be rekindled among our suffering people.”
They call on politicians to practice politics that is “inspired by the encounter with Christ and imbued with love and political charity.”
“Politics without charity can never bring about the common good. A politician's love for the nation and for the common good is seen in how they treat dissenting voices,” ZCBC members say.
In addressing themselves to politicians, the Bishops make reference to Pope Francis’ Fratelli Tutti saying, “Once more I appeal for a renewed appreciation of politics as a lofty vocation and one of the highest forms of charity in as much as it seeks the common good.”
They emphasize the need for the people of God to embrace each other saying, “God has created all human beings equal in rights, duties and dignity and has called them to live together as brothers and sisters.”
“This call to live together and to recognize each other's dignity and rights is an important Advent message and the basis for a national convergence,” they say and quote the book of Ecclesiastes, “Two are better than one because they have a good return for their work: If one falls down, his friend can help him. But pity the one who falls and has no one to help him!”
Drawing inspiration from the Holy Father’s Encyclical Laudato Si’ where he talks about ecological crisis and calls for conversion, the Prelates lament the destruction of the environment and call on Zimbabweans to care for the earth.
“This ecological crisis as we know is not far from our doorstep. In fact, it is inside our home fueled by poverty, business interests and consumerism,” they lament, adding, “Environmental exploitation and degradation affect people's lives and their God-given rights to enjoy what was created for all.”
ZCBC members further say that the Advent Season calls on Christians to “look again on how we can curb the destruction of this jewel of Africa.”
Acknowledging that Zimbabwe has had a “difficult journey this year” because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Bishops call on the people of God in the country to put “the common good at the heart of our recovery plans.”
“We need to help each other. Simply being kind is one small way to do this,” they say.
They continue, “Returning to communal liturgical celebrations will help foster communion among us. Advent is a good time to resume physical attendance at the Eucharistic celebration if we have not already started.”
“Let us use our time to talk creatively, positively and concretely about the future we dream and desire to build the Zimbabwe We Want,” the members of ZCBC say in their November 18 collective message ahead of the Advent Season.
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Father Don Bosco Onyalla
Editor-in-Chief, ACI Africa