Child Safeguarding “by all” to be Discussed at Plenary of Southern Africa Bishops, IMBISA

IMBISA Bishops at the Closing Mass of the 11th Plenary Assembly, Maseru, Lesotho, 22-26 November 2016
Credit: Public Domain

The need to have all members of society, and not just clergy and religious, become aware of and abide by the requirement that children are protected and safeguarded will be deliberated during planned 12th Plenary Assembly of the Inter-Regional Meeting of the Bishops of Southern Africa (IMBISA), one of the organizers of the five-day meeting set to start on November 13 has told ACI Africa.

“The plenary will not only look at abuses by members of the clergy or Church workers, it will focus on abuses of children and vulnerable persons by all members of the society,” the Coordinator of the Pastoral Department of IMBISA, Fr. Dumisani Vilakati told ACI Africa Friday, November 1.

“The aim of the plenary is to stretch out a bit, to be aware of abuses that take place at various levels of human society or human life,” Swazi Fr. Vilakati said and clarified, “abuses also happens in the workplace, in clubs and in the domestic sphere.”

He admitted to the reality of child abuse within his ecclesiastical region saying, “IMBISA is no longer in denial about this matter which has wreaked havoc in society as well as in the ecclesiastical sphere.”

He justified the decision to include the challenge of child abuse in the Plenary agenda saying, “It is important to begin a discussion around these matters so that the Church may be better prepared to assist in the necessary spiritual, physical and psychological healing of victims.”

The discussion will take place against the backdrop of Pope Francis’ May 7, 2019 Apostolic Letter Vos estis Lux Mundi (You are the Light of the World) in which the Pontiff has established new norms that oblige Bishops and leaders of Religious Orders and Societies of Apostolic Life to report cases of child abuse by clergy and religious and to ensure accountability.

“Whenever a cleric or a member of an Institute of Consecrated Life of a Society of Apostolic Life has notice of, or well-founded motives to believe that (delicts against the sixth commandment of the Decalogue) has been committed, that person is obliged to report promptly the fact to the local Ordinary where the events are said to have occurred or to another Ordinary,” reads in part procedural norms by Pope Francis, which came into force on June 1, 2019.

Meeting under the theme, “Reinforcing communion in IMBISA for effective collegiality to respond better to the protection of children and vulnerable persons as well as the earth, our common home,” the Church leaders from six conferences of Bishops will also deliberate on the protection of the earth, our common home with reference to Pope Francis’ Encyclical Laudato Sì.

According to Zimbabwe-based Fr Vilakati, the discussion about the care for creation will aim at taking “stock of work done since the last Assembly in Lesotho three years ago which was dedicated to this Encyclical (Laudato Sì).”

“There is a feeling that more work needs to be done in the area of care for the environment and that Laudato Sì seems to cut across many issues of Church life,” Fr Vilakati disclosed and added, “It is important to see the matters that the Bishops will be discussing as part of the Missionary mandate of the Church.”

Missionary work is called upon to heal relationships and we do well in healing our relationship with the earth, neighbor and God himself. As such therefore, care for the earth is not an option but very central to the message of faith, the native of Swaziland Fr. Vilakati explained.

The deliberations about the care for our common home seems consistent with the message of Pope Francis for the 2019 World Day of Prayer for Care of Creation that has the Holy Father encouraging Catholics to make simple changes to their lives so that God’s creation is treated with respect.

The Plenary Assembly, planned in Mozambique’s capital, Maputo, will also cover issues around the Coordinated Leadership Plan of Bishops in the IMBISA region.

“In normal terms this is the Strategic Plan, which has been developed over the last two or three years, which seeks to delineate clearly the direction of IMBISA for the foreseeable future,” Fr Vilakati told ACI Africa and added, “this plan aims to encourage Bishops to commit themselves to the work of IMBISA so that they may, by common action, give witness as Christians in this part of the world.”

The meeting is expected to bring together some 80 Bishops and heads of dioceses in Southern Africa region who will also meet the local Church in Maputo at the celebration of the Holy Eucharist slated to take place Saturday, November 16 at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception.

With its mission to foster the spirit of communion within the Universal Church, Harare-based IMBISA comprises the Episcopal conferences of Mozambique, Lesotho, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Sao Tome and Principe and the Southern African Bishops’ Conference (Botswana, Eswatini, South Africa).


ACI Africa was officially inaugurated on August 17, 2019 as a continental Catholic news agency at the service of the Church in Africa. Headquartered in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, this media apostolate will strive to facilitate the telling of Africa’s story by providing media coverage of Catholic events on the African continent, giving visibility to the activities of the Church across Africa where statistics show significant growth in numbers and the continent gradually becoming the axis of Catholicism. This is expected to contribute to an awareness of and appreciation for the significant role of the Church in Africa and over time, the realization of a realistic image of Africa that often receives negative media framing.

Father Don Bosco Onyalla
Editor-in-Chief, ACI Africa
[email protected]