Saturday morning. No appointments for the day. Good opportunity to catch up with things after some days' away attending an IMBISA meeting (bishops of Southern Africa).

Suddenly a call: "Bishop, we are having a meeting of delegates of the female religious communities in the diocese. We would like to see you... now."

I could not refuse the request. First because it was me who some time last year I called delegates of both female and male religious communities and ask them to organize themselves as religious like the diocesan priests do.

Second, because they were aware I will be away for three weeks from Monday and they did not want to wait. Neither did I.

Not sure if they chose to meet on this day because of any particular reason but it was indeed very appropriate. It is the feast of St Mary Magdalene, called the "Apostle of the Apostles" as being a witness to the resurrection she was sent to announce it to them. 

After the meeting we had last year, it somehow became clear that they will be journeying at different levels: as female religious (four communities), together with the male religious (four communities) but also with the diocesan priests and the whole diocese.

As I said last year, I asked them to help us all understand better what religious life is beyond the specific service they offer in our diocese. We normally link them to education and health but their call is certainly much deeper than that.

It was good to see them and I could not avoid acknowledging that women move faster than men in our diocese and this seems to happen among the religious too. 

As usual, we finished praying together ... and a group photo for the social media!

On the second day of the “extraordinary meeting” of the IMBISA standing committee and presidents of Bishops’ Conferences, Mass was presided by Archbishop Gerard Tlali Lerotholi OMI (archbishop of Maseru, Lesotho).

Taking from the calling of Moses to lead his people, he spoke about the word “leader” being used as an acronym of what it means to be one.

  • L – Being a leader means being able to listen (not answering questions … no one is asking!);
  • E – A leader is someone who leads by example aware that people follow what they see;
  • A – A leader has the “correct” attitude like the one David had facing Goliath (“All those gathered here will know that it is not by sword or spear that the Lord saves; for the battle is the Lord’s, and he will give all of you into our hands.” 1 Sam 17: 47);
  • D – A leader is able to dream and we do not lack familiar examples. Enough to think of Martin Luther King Jr or Nelson Mandela;
  • E – A leader makes sure he is able to empower other people;
  • R – A leader takes responsibility. While a leader delegates many things, taking responsibility cannot be delegated.

Each one of these elements guided the bishops as they continued to give shape to the journey IMBISA will be taking in the next coming years.

At the last meeting standing committee it was decided to have an extraordinary one with the presence of the presidents of the Bishops Conferences members of IMBISA. The goal of the meeting would be to reflect together on the “vision” and “mission” of IMBISA. Though clear in our statutes, the reality of a context that has deeply changed and the appointment of so many new bishops in our countries, made it clear it was important to do so. Therefore we have come together in South Africa for three days (17 – 21 July 2017)


The opening Mass was presided by Archbishop Stephen Brislin, president of the Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference (SACBC).

In his homily he underlined how Providential this meeting is as the Church celebfrates 200 years of being “officially present” in the then Vicariate of the Cape of Good Hope.

He invisted us to move from being a “church of maintenance” to a church that looks for those searching for truth, compassion, healing…

He left us with three points to reflect upon:
  1. The need to deepen in our faith being salt and light, celebrating our sacraments aware of their deep meaning, moving towards a deeper relationship with God;
  2. The need for compassion towards the world. Reflecting on the experience of Thomas after the resurrection of Jesus, he pointed out that Thomas only recognised Jesus divinity when he was able to “touch” his wounds. “Conversion” will come not so much out of ideas but through compassion and tenderness;
  3. The need to always be missionary disciples, being a church that goes out, involving everyone in that process.

I had been asked to replace one of our priests at Mass on Sunday as he was attending a meeting in South Africa. 

ELwandle is an outstation of the Cathedral, outside Manzini. The community uses one of the classrooms at our school for the celebration of the Mass.

I had been there only once. It was in 2014 and I had started visiting the communities of the diocese. Though not difficult to find, I asked for someone to lead me to the place.

The celebration had been prepared with great care and they are already using the "new updated version of Mass in Siswati" which was launched not long ago. In fact, I congratulated them because this was the first place where I found a community following it in every word.

After Mass I was told that they had been asking questions about our faith in order to understand better what we believe and why. They were not just telling me... they wanted to know more. 

So, just there, a short session of "questions and answers" started about different topics: forgiveness of sins, sexual relationships before marriage, contraception and homosexuality.

I really enjoyed it. In fact I encouraged them to do it in a different way, choosing a certain topic and inviting someone to help them understand it better. Hope they will do so.

In fact, I wish all the communities would do so. I remember an Italian Bible scholar who used to quote a familiar text from the Gospel of Matthew: 'You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.' He said: "also with all our minds... we need to understand our faith"

The "local council" of the outstation had organized lunch for everyone and I was invited to wait and join them. A lovely time together.

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It is now a "tradition" in the diocese of Manzini. Once a year, a fundraising event is organized in the diocese to support our seminarians. 

I believe it started in 2013. You might remember if you are in our diocese:
  • 2013: Archbishop Buti Thlagale OMI on "The Catholic Church in the XXI century"
  • 2015: Fr Nick King SJ on "The scandal of Christian disunity"
  • 2016. Sean-Patrick Lovett on "Everything you wanted to know about Pope Francis and the Vatican but were afraid to ask"
It is also becoming a "tradition" to do it in partnership with the Jesuit Institute in South Africa. 

This year was no exception. As they invited Fr Tom Weston SJ to talk on "Finding God in addiction" we were able to add Swaziland to his busy schedule in South Africa. He was in Manzini on Saturday 8 July.


Fr Tom is a recovering alcoholic himself. He has been sober for 40 years. A favorite quote of his is: 
Anyone can do 30 years sober. It's cobbling together the first 11 days that is the real miracle. 
He has been involved in 12-Step Programs since 1976.

The commitment of the people to support the fundraising event plus the importance of the topic became very clear as about 200 people gathered at The George Hotel. 

"Addiction" seems to be very much part of our families and our society though it seems we choose not to talk much about it... In fact, answering questions, Fr Tom insisted on one point: "Start talking. Get information"

I was encouraged by people asking "What is the church planning to do about it?", "Is the Church planning to start support groups for families?". Questions he could not answer being just a visiting priest. Questions I threw back at those present. The answer needs to come from... the Church, which is all of us.

As he was talking about his own personal journey, people could identify with what he was saying. They had experienced in themselves, their families or friends. Particularly when he said that "addiction is like a tornado going through the lives of other people"

Among other things he said:
  • "I don't take the first drink" (If I don't take the first I cannot get drunk)
  • "I do this for today" (one day at a time)
  • "I have to ask for the support of God and friends" (his community and support group)

The talks are now available on a CD for those who would like to listen to it again or ... missed it!

We are grateful for this partnership with the Jesuit Institute in South Africa and to the Diocesan team who so generously work to make it possible.

We have good news too: we already have the name of next year's speaker and have already committed him to come to Swaziland. 


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The diocese of Manzini is blessed with six seminarians doing their formation at St John Vianney (Pretoria, South Africa). Twice a year at least they are back in the diocese for their holidays. Well... there are not real "holidays" in the journey to the priesthood.

Their time in the diocese is divided between days in a parish and days at home with their families. 

We also find time to spend half a day with the bishop and this is what we did on Friday. They all came to the bishop's house in Manzini.

We decided we would start with the celebration of the Mass. The liturgy of the day presented the calling of Matthew to follow Jesus. It was a good opportunity to share on the choices Jesus made when calling people to follow him. I always wonder the face the apostles put when they saw Jesus calling Matthew out of all people to join the group...!

It also helped us to reflect on the choices we make as a Church, as a diocese, in our parishes... Jesus raised people's eyes: ‘Why does your master eat with tax collectors and sinners?’

After Mass we met for a while. It is our time to catch up with news of the diocese and about their journey at the seminary. They are free to ask anything they need to know and to share ideas for the future.

Then, as usual, we finished with lunch. Soon they will be back in the seminary.
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Saturday 1 July 2017 saw the first march against Gender Based Violence organized by the Justice & Peace commission of the diocese of Manzini. It was the first one because we plan to have similar ones in other parts of the country later this year. 

It has held at Hlatikulu and involved the parishes of Christ the King (Hlatikulu) and Sacred Heart (Nhlangano) and had the presence of Mr I. M. Magagula, the National Commissioner of the Royal Swaziland Police Service as a sign of the partnership between the Police and the Catholic Church in the fight against gender abuse. 

We gathered at Esakeni at 09.00 am from where we marched, led by the Police band and majorettes from the school, for about 3 km up the mountain to Hlatikulu. While walking someone told me: "this road is marked by blood... just the other day someone was killed and the body left by the road as if it had been hit by a car"

After marching in town we walked to the parish where the main event would be held.


I had been asked to open with a short reflection and prayer. I chose three images:
  • We have been created in God's image and violence against anyone being a man or a woman, an adult or a child, is violence against God;
  • God's question to Cain after he had killed Abel: "Where is your brother?" which is the same question we are being asked today;
  • Jesus preaching at the beginning of his ministry: Repent and believe... 
In his address, Mr Maduduza Zwane, Interim Mayor of Hlatikulu Town Council said:
It is one of the most pervasive violations of human rights in the world, one of the least prosecuted crimes, and one of the greatest threats to lasting peace and development in Swaziland and the entire world.
The Hlatikulu Town council has been inundated with gross violations of respect for human life.  Females have been found dead in the forests in Hlatikulu. People have been murdered not far from our esteemed mission. Cases of abuse are endless. 
As a town, we are delighted that you have publicly come forward to say No to these appalling crimes.



In his speech, the National Commissioner of the Royal Swaziland Police Service underlined how pleased and delighted he was at having been invited to participate at this event to raise awareness of the reality of gender based violence. He at a more opportune time when the phenomenon is escalating instead of going down. 
It is encouraging that the Catholic Church has seen it fit that this kind of campaign so that we may together fight the scourge with all the weapons at our dispose. It is also pleasing to know that this is not going to be the first and the last of this initiatives. I am told similar campaigns will be staged across the country. That is applaudable. If we had partners like the church, partnering with us, talking with one voice with us that gender violence is not the answer. 
We cannot continue to hide until the old culture of silence... the culture of swiping issues under the carpet is long gone. Expose criminals of this crime so that the law may take its course. If you keep silent you are condoning the problem, you are not helping yourselves... Have the courage to expose people who commit such crimes.
Once more we thank the Catholic Church for joining hands with us in this war. We will win this war.


Download remarks by the Interim Mayor (Maduduza Zwane) of Hlatikulu Town Council 
by clicking HERE

Click on the photo below for photos of the event

2017SZ_GenderBasedViolence

Press Release

Pledge launched to mobilize 
1 million Catholics on Climate Change

Launch coincides with 2nd Anniversary of Papal encyclical

Global - In celebration of the 2nd anniversary of Pope Francis’ historic encyclical Laudato Si’ (June 18, 2015), the Global Catholic Climate Movement (GCCM) is launching a Laudato Si’ Pledge campaign to keep the Pontiff’s message alive and encourage mass Catholic action to address the climate crisis. 

The Laudato Si’ Pledge (see text below) is a way for Catholics to commit to the transition to renewable energy in their homes and communities, and to push elected leaders to take strong action on climate change. It will target four different audiences: individuals, families, parishes and organizations. The goal is to get 1 million Catholics engaged to address the climate crisis through this new initiative.

The Laudato Si Pledge was launched with the support of Cardinals, Bishops, and other high-level leaders (see quotes below) to encourage interest by the wider Church. 

A major kickoff event took place in Manila on June 17th (pictures below), with the support of high-level Church leaders as Cardinal Tagle and Archbishop Socrates Villegas (president of the Bishops Conference of the Philippines). The location is significant given how vulnerable the island nation is to the impacts of climate change, as well as how active Filipino Catholics have been in raising the ecological issue. 

The pledge will be distributed online in English, Spanish, Portuguese, and Italian, with other languages to follow soon. Signatories of the pledge will receive invitations to turn Laudato Si’ into action through GCCM initiatives taking place throughout the year,  such as the ecumenical Season of Creation (September 1-October 4) and Earth Day. 

The Catholic Church with a collective carbon footprint of 1.2 billion faithful (17% of the world’s population) and the institutional Church (220,000 parishes, 150,000 schools) has a significant role to play in addressing the climate crisis.

Laudato Si Pledge text: Answering Pope Francis’ urgent call in Laudato Si’, I pledge to: 

1) Pray for and with creation 
2) Live more simply 
3) Advocate to protect our common home.

Laudato Si Pledge website: www.LiveLaudatoSi.org 

Pictures of #LiveLaudatoSi and People’s Climate March: LINK

Pictures of kickoff event in Manila (to be uploaded on June 17 at 3am US Eastern Time): LINK

About the Global Catholic Climate Movement: The Global Catholic Climate Movement (GCCM) is an international network of Catholic individuals and organizations responding to the Pope’s Laudato Si’ call for climate justice. Founded in January 2015, GCCM has grown extremely quickly by bringing together 400+ member organizations and thousands of Catholics to take action through innovative campaigns to bring Laudato Si’ to life. In 2015, GCCM led a massive campaign gathering over 900,000 petition signatures calling for the 1.5C target which were delivered to the French president Francois Hollande and UN climate chief Christiana Figueres in interfaith events in Paris during the COP21. 



QUOTE SHEET: 

Endorsements from Leaders of the Catholic Church

Cardinal John Ribat, Archbishop of Papua New Guinea and President of the Federation of Catholic Bishops' Conferences of Oceania: “This is a crucial ministry to help the global Church respond to the climate crisis. On behalf of the vulnerable communities of Oceania, I urge all Catholics to join and support this important effort to bring Laudato Si' to life.” 

Cardinal Blase Joseph Cupich, Archbishop of Chicago: “Laudato Si’ is an unequivocal call to action to protect our common home. As we mark the second anniversary of this groundbreaking document, there is an even greater urgency to work together to honor the gift of our creator. In doing so we will shield the poor and marginalized from the effects of climate change and preserve our small planet for future generations.”

Cardinal Sean O’Malley, OFM, Cap.  Archbishop of Boston: “Pope Francis provides an important contribution to the good of the world we live in by making clear that we have a responsibility to care for the extraordinary gift of God’s creation, showing respect  for the needs of all people throughout the international community.  The Holy Father appropriately calls us to consider how our actions today will impact the well-being of those who will follow us in the future.”  

Cardinal Wilfrid Napier, Archbishop of Durban, South Africa: “The Laudato Si’ message is important because it is asking everyone to put the smile back on God's offer as he continues to inspire and guide us his children to take care of the creation, which he created so good.” 

Archbishop Emeritus of Trento Mons. Luigi Bressan: “The message of the Encyclical Laudato Si' has an integral vision comprehensive of human being in connection with economics, relations, nature and community. It' s a very clear and deep message: all we are interconnected and not isolated from each other.”

Fr. Antonio Spadaro, SJ: “We need today to assimilate the wide and holistic vision of the world that Laudato si’ offers us. Pope Francis shows us the world as a "common home", a living environment, and not a simple "object" to use. The universe is seen as a place where we find "multiplicity and variety" and where everything is in a relationship, united by invisible bonds, and all "connected". The Laudato si’ is important today because we need to rediscover the world as a network of relationships.”

Mons. Francesco Alfano, Archbishop of Sorrento - Castellammare di Stabia: “In this time of big environmental challenges that humanity must deal with urgency and foresight, the Laudato Si' launches a cautious and challenging appeal to all men and women of good will who care about the future of our planet and who want to help building the one human family based on fundamental rights to be recognized and on the duty of participation and co-responsibility.”

Tomas Insua, Executive Director, Global Catholic Climate Movement: “The Laudato Si Pledge is the Catholic Church’s chance to witness to and co-create the new, clean, life-giving paths forward that our world desperately needs. Pope Francis helped transform the climate debate by reframing it as a moral issue. Now is the turn for the Church to “walk the walk” and bring the encyclical’s message to life.”

Fr. Richard Rohr, OFM, writer and theologian: “Pope Francis has brilliantly and courageously reconnected the Catholic and Christian tradition with its neglected foundation in creation and nature itself. He is more Franciscan than Jesuit! He takes the Incarnation to its logical conclusions.” 

Sr. Sheila Kinsey, Executive Co-secretary of the JPIC Commission of the International Union Superiors General and GCCM Steering Committee member: ”GCCM is a voice of integrity that speaks after listening to the "cry of the earth" and the "cry of the poor". I urge you to listen deeply to these cries, then add your voice in support of Laudato Si.”

Fr. Sean McDonagh, Columban priest and Eco-theologian: “Laudato Si is an important step in the Church’s understanding of our human relationship with both the Creator and all of creation. We must continually learn from science, evolve our theology, and humbly situate ourselves in the wider creation story that began with the initial flaring forth 13.7 billion years ago to the world in which we live now and into the future.  We must be open to encounter creation and learn from it.” 

Marie Dennis, Co-President, Pax Christi International: “The honest reflection of Laudato Si’ on broken relationships within the whole earth community challenges us all to deep personal and societal transformation, while the concept of integral ecology at the heart of the encyclical offers an enormously hopeful grounding for a more peaceful, as well as a more just, future.”

Bill Patenaude, CatholicEcology.net: “The connection between our ecological sins and our sins against the dignity of vulnerable human beings—the unborn, the infirmed, the homeless—resides at the heart of the Catholic understanding of ecology. This was taught by Saint John Paul II and Benedict XVI, and we must be forever grateful to Pope Francis for turning up the volume of that message. It is this link that Pope Francis emphasized a thousand fold in Laudato Si’ with the term “integral ecology”--and it is this link that can help foster the unity that today is so needed within the Church and the world.”

Fr. Benedict Ayodi, OFM Cap., Capuchin Franciscan General Secretary for Justice, Peace and Ecology and GCCM Steering Committee member: “Climate justice calls for bold actions, not just bold words in dealing with Climate change. Laudato Si provides both.  Let us act now to care for creation” 

Kevin Roussel, Executive Director, Catholic Welfare and Development, Cape Town, South Africa and GCCM Steering Committee member: “The Global Catholic Climate Movement breathes the life of Laudato Si into the actions of many who hold harmony with the earth and each other as a central part of our evangelisation mission. Through the wonderful campaign points, resources and the ongoing development of the movement, those who care for the environment are finding a spiritual home for our actions and many more are being called to God’s creation.” 

Marianne Comfort, Institute Justice Team of the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas: “Pope Francis, and the Global Catholic Climate Movement, are calling us not to just read, reflect on and pray with Laudato Si, but to LIVE Laudato Si. The pledge challenges us to respond to the encyclical through ongoing prayer for Our Common Home, ecological conversion in our lifestyles, and advocacy for bold and effective public policies to keep global warming well below 2 degrees celsius.”

Amy Woolam Echeverria, Columban International Coordinator for Justice, Peace, and Integrity of Creation: “Living Laudato Si’ is at the heart of living the Gospel of justice, peace, and wholeness with all of Creation.  The Laudato Si’ Pledge opens the journey for any person of faith towards ongoing ecological conversion that lasts a lifetime.”  

Marie Venner, Chair, National Academies of Science & Engineering Transportation Research Board and GCCM Steering Committee member: “As Catholics it is necessary for us to respond morally to the situation before us, which is detrimental to life and the ability of all to flourish.  Instead, a system of domination, heedless destruction and short-term profit and decision-making prevails.  Pope Francis stresses that we must come back to the common good, the core of what our religion teaches, and bring about the cultural revolution and concrete changes needed, including transition off of fossil fuels, without delay.  We must act in a timely and courageous fashion, putting ourselves at risk, as certain people did in the face of the Holocaust.  With faith, we can make the massive and rapid shifts we need.  Catholics can and should play a leading role in bringing this systemic change about, bringing Laudato Si’ to life.”

Endorsements from other Global Leaders:

Christiana Figueres, former UN climate chief: "Now more than ever, the world needs to heed the moral imperative of Laudato Si’, and step up to the bold and urgent action that is necessary.” 

Yeb Sano, former lead climate negotiator for the Philippines: “Laudato Si' has brought clarity and urgency to the Church's message on care for creation.  As we already see the devastating effects of climate change taking place, it is important for each and every one of us to hear Pope Francis' call for an "ecological conversion" and a response that includes individual change, peaceful political action, community solidarity, prayer.” 

May Boeve, Executive Director, 350.org: "The message of Laudato Si still rings out as clear as a church bell and as loud as a trumpet: the time for climate action is now! It's a call that has been taken up around the world, especially at the grassroots level, with Catholics and non-Catholics everywhere rising to this great challenge of our time. Now, with the forces of denial pushing back against our hard won climate progress, we must redouble our efforts to care for our common home. Laudato Si remains an inspiration for so many of us in this struggle."

MEDIA CONTACT: 

Christina Leano, Global Catholic Climate Movement
Email: christina@catholicclimatemovement.global 
Telephone: +1 786 459 5667

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