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The Holy Spirit Fosters Unity among Church Leaders, Catholic Bishop in South Africa Says

Bishop João Noé Rodrigues during his homily at the opening Eucharistic Celebration for the first annual Plenary Assembly of the Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference (SACBC). Credit: Sheila Pires

The sense of communion among Church leaders is “a fruit of the Holy Spirit” in their respective lives, a Catholic Bishop in South Africa has said. 

Bishop João Noé Rodrigues who was reflecting on the Prayer to the Holy Spirit in his homily at the opening Eucharistic Celebration for the first annual Plenary Assembly of the Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference (SACBC) described the gathering of Catholic Bishops in the three-nation Conference as “a moment of grace.”

We are called to have a sense that we have the same mind as a group, especially as Bishops, as leaders of the Church, which is really a fruit of the Holy Spirit in our lives,” the Local Ordinary of South Africa’s Tzaneen Diocese said during Tuesday, January 18 Eucharistic celebration.

Bishop Rodrigues added that the unity of Church leaders is echoed in the Prayer of the Holy Spirit “which in one part says, do not let us promote disorder and it says let us find in you, the Holy Spirit, our unity so that we may journey together to eternal life.”

He explained that unity is not only the profound sense of being one in communion, but also a sense to have the same mindset and underscored the role of the third Person of the Holy Trinity saying, “the Holy Spirit helps us to forge a common mindset.”

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The seven-day Plenary Assembly that is taking place within the context of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity is expected to conclude on January 25 is the first to be held physically since January 2020. Previous meetings were held virtually amid COVID-19 restrictions.

The meeting that is bringing together Catholic Bishops in Botswana, Eswatini, and South Africa will be addressing “the synod on synodality, the economic status of the country, unemployment, and will also elect a new SACBC troika,” SACBC President told ACI Africa correspondent in South Africa.

“Top on the agenda is the synod. To hear from each other how it has been received in the Dioceses and what is the progress,” Bishop Sithembele Anton Sipuka told ACI Africa correspondent on the sidelines of the Plenary Assembly that is taking place at St. John Vianney Seminary in the Catholic Archdiocese of Pretoria.

Bishop Sipuka added, “Another important topic is the question of the economy in the country. There are astronomical levels of unemployment.”

“We feel that we need to be informed more about this, then make whatever contribution we can make towards it because it might be reaching an explosive level,” the Local Ordinary of South Africa’s Umtata Diocese said.

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SACBC members will also discuss humanitarian issues surrounding the deportation of illegal Zimbabwean migrants in South Africa, Bishop Sipuka further said.  

With reports that at least 89,000 illegal migrants from Zimbabwe have been intercepted and deported to their country as they were trying to cross into South Africa, the South African government recently tightened its laws and beefed up security to block undocumented Zimbabweans from flocking the country.