Planned Plenary Assembly of Catholic Bishops in Southern Africa to Focus on Young People

Some members of the Inter-Regional Meeting of the Bishops of Southern Africa (IMBISA) during the 19th Plenary of SECAM in Accra, Ghana. Credit: ACI Africa

The planned 13th Plenary Assembly of the Inter-Regional Meeting of the Bishops of Southern Africa (IMBISA) will focus on young people, the Director of the Secretariat has said. 

In an interview with ACI Africa Wednesday, August 31, Fr. Dumisani Vilakati said, “It is the first time that the Bishops will focus on young people; there's never been an IMBISA Plenary that made a well-intentioned focus on young people.” 

Delegates of the Plenary Assembly will reflect on Pope Francis’ Post-synodal Apostolic Exhortation to young people, Christus Vivit,  Fr. Vilakati said, adding that they discuss how the Papal document “can be translated into practical areas of for young people in the region.”

He highlighted migration, unemployment, formation in the faith, self-care among the issues to be discussed during the Plenary Assembly scheduled to take place in Windhoek, Namibia, adding that the delegates will examine how COVID-19 “has affected young people”.

There are also issues of how young people themselves can contribute towards the building up of societies”, the Director of the IMBISA Secretariat said about the September 22-27 Plenary Assembly that is to bring together Catholic Church leaders from Angola, Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, São Tomé and Príncipe, South Africa, and Zimbabwe under the theme, “Building forward together-Reimagining the Church’s Engagement with young people in the IMBISA Region”.


There will also be a “theme on entrepreneurship, how young people instead of being seen as just passive people who need to be given things can themselves also contribute to the building of not just the Church, but also the building up of a proper society in Southern Africa,” Fr. Vilakati told ACI Africa August 31.

He added, “There will also be a reflection, obviously on violent extremism and on how young people can avoid being sucked into that world, given the situation that already exists in parts of IMBISA; and I'm speaking here of Northern Mozambique, Cabo Delgado”

Youth representatives from each the Catholic Bishops’ Conference will be present at the Plenary Assembly “so that they may also make their own contribution,” the member of the Clergy of Eswatini’s Manzini Diocese said. 

The participation of the young people in the IMBISA Plenary Assembly is important, Fr. Vilakati said, and explained, “It is the Pope himself who says in Christus Vivit that young people are not just the future of the Church in society, but they are the present of society so we cannot postpone their contribution to what can build the Church in society.”

Giving attention to the youth “must be done now”, he said, and emphasized, “It must be something that happens at every moment.”

More in Africa

The IMBISA official said that young people in Southern Africa are eager to participate in the 16th World Youth Day (WYD) scheduled to take place in Lisbon, Portugal, in August 2023.

“We have had online meetings with young people to talk about their experiences of previous world youth days, and their expectations for the next Youth Day,” he said, and added in reference to the August 1-6 event, “We foresee a bigger group of young people attending the Youth Day in Portugal.” 

Young people have also expressed their desire to see the World Youth Day in Africa, Fr. Vilakati told ACI Africa.

Young people in Southern Africa “appreciate these World Youth days,” he said, and added, “But they have a dream also to see a Youth Day at the level of IMBISA, with youths coming from all the Conferences; it is something that is still being distant and I'm sure it will come up at the Plenary”.

“There is also a dream for young people in the continent, to have a continental Youth Day. But there is also a further dream to see these World Youth days also coming to Africa at some point,” Fr. Vilakati further said. 


He continued, “This comes from young people who have attended the World Youth Days and so now they are asking why are we left behind? All the continents have hosted youth days, when is it time for Africa to also demonstrate its hospitality and receive young people from other parts of the world?”

Sheila Pires is a veteran radio and television Mozambican journalist based in South Africa. She studied communications at the University of South Africa. She is passionate about writing on the works of the Church through Catholic journalism.