, 17 January, 2020 / 8:59 PM
The Church in Southern Africa is set to launch a new pastoral plan that will replace the one that has guided evangelization activities in the countries of Botswana, South Africa and Swaziland for the last 30 years.
“Upon reflection, Bishops together with the people of God have become aware of the changed situations and the need to respond to those needs differently and effectively,” the President of the Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference (SACBC), Bishop Sithembele Sipuka has been quoted as saying.
In a document shared with ACI Africa Wednesday, January 15, the Bishops have outlined eight thematic areas of the plan including the ministry of evangelization, the formation of the laity, the ministry of the clergy, family life, young members of the Church, justice and peace, the healing ministry, and environmental protection.
The Bishops’ summary document begins by recalling the vision of the three-nation conference as an “evangelizing community serving God, humanity and all creation” and having the mission “to work together with others for the good of all, by responding to the cry of the poor and the cry of the earth, through Worship, Proclamation of The Word of God, Formation, Advocacy, Human Development and Care of Creation.”
Set to be launched Sunday, January 26, SACBC’s pastoral plan is expected to help and guide the people of God in the three countries “to listen and respond to the leading of the Spirit, to enter into the Father’s plan for our Church and our world; to be missionary disciples of Jesus in the present and to let the Spirit guide us into the future,” the Bishops have stated in their summary document.
In the plan, the Bishops have identified evangelization, described as a “personal relationship with Jesus,” as “fundamental to the pastoral plan,” particularly because all other seven focus areas “flow out of this foundational experience.”
Empowering the laity through their formation is a focus area that will see the Bishops work toward having the lay faithful embrace their vocation of seeking “the Kingdom of God by engaging in temporal affairs and by ordering them according to the plan of God.”
The pastoral plan will also seek to foster the life and ministry of the clergy, especially priests and deacons, described as “a special calling to serve the People of God.”
In the plan, the Church in the Southern Africa region will seek to promote the institution of marriage and family, understood as both “for the procreation of children” as well as for the proper expression of mutual love and its growth and maturity.
In identifying the young people as a focus area, the Bishops have sought to contemplate “witnesses and teachers who can walk with them, teaching them to love the Gospel and to share it, especially with their peers, and thus to become authentic and credible messengers.”
In addition, the Church leaders state, with regard to justice and peace as a focus area, that “action on behalf of justice and participation in the transformation of the world fully appeared to us as a constitutive dimension of the preaching of the Gospel.”
They also describe justice as “the Church’s mission for the redemption of the human race and its liberation from every oppressive situation.”
Meanwhile, the ministry of healing and reconciliation is being regarded a relevant focus area because “It is God’s grace that gives us a new heart and reconciles us with him and with one another.”
“Christ re-established humanity in the Father’s love. Reconciliation thus springs from this love; it is born of the Father’s initiative in restoring his relationship with humanity,” the Bishops have explained in their summary document.
Finally, the pastoral plan will seek to have the people of God pay attention to the care of God’s creation.
“The situation of planet earth and the consequences of the indiscriminate exploitation of creation, call upon us in the Church to live and practise the Gospel in our care for creation and the environment,” SACBC’s summary document reads.
SACBC will “identify possible pastoral agents who can drive the implementation of (these) focus areas and possible pastoral programs, which could be of assistance in the implementation.”
According to a report, Bishop Sipuka of South Africa’s Mthatha diocese said, “It is important that the faithful attend the launch as a way of witnessing to what the Catholic faith was all about – a Church whose faith responds to the needs of the time.”
SACBC is made up of diocesan Bishops and those equivalent to Local Ordinaries as stipulated in Canon Law “serving in the ecclesiastical Provinces of Cape Town, Durban, Pretoria, Johannesburg and Bloemfontein, in and through which members exercise their pastoral office jointly.”
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