Last week I was invited to Harare (Zimbabwe) to attend the meeting of the "Standing committee" of IMBISA (if you look carefully you might see my face somehow hiding behind two of the bishops).

The idea was to consider the possibility of giving a hand in a specific area of our organization. It also gave me the chance to be with them for a couple of days as they met for the first time since their election last November in Lesotho.

The meeting was held at the "IMBISA house" which is the residence of Fr Claudio Dos Reis (Mozambique) the present director. It was big enough to accommodate all of us and gave a very familiar spirit during the time we spent together.

Four of the present members already served in the former committee and probably one or two were part of past committees. The rest are new. In any case, it became clear to Bishop Lucio Muandula (IMBISA president) that the first thing needed was to spend some time to know each other better as they will be working together until the next plenary session in 2019. As Archbishop Lerothlodi said: “No story is like your story”

There was also time to evaluate the last plenary in Lesotho. There were great memories in the hearts of each one of us. Particularly the final Mass with so many people which gave a sense that our organization was really part of the lives. The people of the country had been fully involved both in the preparation and the celebration of the plenary session. It was probably the biggest ecclesial event since John Paul II visit in 1988.

We also remembered the rain at the end of the Mass that cut the speeches short and made all of us look for a place where to take refuge!

The most important thing now is to make sure that the conclusions and commitments taken by each episcopal conference are implemented and deepened. The theme:

“Empowering the laity for effective engagement in socio political and environmental issues: ‘Laudato Si’ as a point of reference.”

would certainly continue to lead our journey in the next two years.

The new standing committee heard the reports of the IMBISA director together with the ones of the financial and social departments. New bishops were appointed to lead these ones and the theological and pastoral one.

Having heard a picture of the past and present, the next step would be to discern a "strategic plan" for the next two and a half years. God willing, it will be done at the coming meetings of July and October.

Last 10 March 2017 bishops from Botswana, Mozambique, South Africa and Swaziland met at Maputo for a "Training and sharing day about human trafficking" affecting our areas.  
Below, the report prepared by Fr Peter-John Pearson, Vicar General of the archdiocese of Cape Town and director of the Catholic Parliamentary Liaison Office (Cape Town).

By Fr Peter-John Pearson

A background note: This meeting was inspired in large part by the larger, international work being done by the Santa Marta Group which seeks to enhance the political will to fight this form of modern slavery.  It is specially focussed on church/police/legislation/policy dimensions. This meeting is part of a series of meetings designed to offer regions the opportunity to zoom in on their particular relationships, policies and mutual engagements around fighting trafficking in persons. Members of the Santa Marta group in Mozambique, funded by CAFOD took the lead in organising this meeting. It was well thought through and was in fact the right constellation of participants since for one, SA looms very large in the  trafficking in persons (TIP) activities of the region.

A very important dimension of the meeting was that it provided an opportunity for the bishops of various countries, to draw up an inventory of the TIP dynamics in their area for both transnational and internal practises. This is important since one has to be quite accurate in responding to TIP practises and policies to fight them and this demands focus. I observed two important aspects in this regard. Not only was there important and accurate ‘mapping’ of the problem, thus allowing for focussed responses. Also there emerged a shared language in describing the realities and an obvious set of shared values in assessing the problems and in providing a language of response. This from a practical point of view but also from a CST point of view, it is important since it builds up an important hegemonic narrative around something that is in some circles, contested.

As for the content of the meeting. We established that Mozambique is on a very busy transit route from Ethiopia, Somalia and Eritrea. Bishops spoke of their experiences on this route and the hectic sex tourism in the resorts and trafficking internal and external to these resorts. In these instances Mozambique serves as a destination. We had a well-researched paper on trafficking in human organs which is a growing trade in Mozambique. We also had insights from a civil society activist (who was also the facilitator) on the integrated road map to deal with this issue and who questioned some of the assumptions of the various speakers from a very grassroots perspective.  This very subtly added to the richness of the insight into Mozambique’s problems but a close listening also pointed to shared problems on the ground! The key note address was from a senior prosecutor of the Chief Prosecutor’s Office dealing with HT and migration. She detailed Mozambique’s policy development, the growing will to prosecute, the public profiling of this scourge so as to counter denialism. She spoke of pilot projects for integrated responses eg legal, medical and psychological, proposed for the capitals of the various provinces. It was a most interesting contribution. It covered the 4 important P’s in this field: prevention, protection, prosecution, partnerships. In all the papers SA emerged as the key destination and the lure of SA loomed large in all the discussions. The need for a better exchange of intelligence, a greater will on the part of SA border authorities, the spectre and practice of corruption all complicated the combatting of TIP.

All the participants presented reports on the practise of TIP and on various responses. It was encouraging to hear just how much is being done on diocesan and national level especially in what can broadly be called the pastoral response. Much more needs to be done to develop national legislation and a huge amount needs to be done in synchronising policies and legislative responses in the SADC region so as to really deal with the problem appropriately.

There is an obvious need for closer collaboration between these IMBISA countries at all levels. Plans were put forward for pastoral responses across borders, for the greater use of social media and for advocacy to heighten the political will and continued refinement of policies to provide for more effective strategies to combat HT.  Since it was the first of the regional meetings it provided a very valuable opportunity to focus on the contextual dimensions and strengthen regional political will. We are also aware that it is such meetings that will provide strength and insight for the Santa Marta group.

It is also of interest that the national Justice and Peace Commission of Mozambique took the opportunity to call a meeting on the side to speak about work with Parliament, MPs and people in the public domain. Bishop Luiz of Pemba in the north of the country who is the bishop president of J&P Commission asked to meet with me about the way CPLO functions in SA. He was joined by two of their staff and a secretary who took minutes of this meeting. Their key intention at the moment is to find ways of letting MPs across party lines (many of whom are Catholic) to get to know the Catholic Social Teaching (CST). They will be hosting a series of seven seminars on various themes of interest to MPs (hopefully) and to relate them to CST. Those I noted were peacebuilding (of critical importance at the moment when there is great political and social fragility), corruption, education, the role of the Holy See in diplomatic efforts for a new world order. They feel that this is the best way of engaging politics in their structure and they aim to ‘educate consciences.’ Down the line they might consider something more CPLO (Catholic Parliamentary Liaison Office) like. It was a great meeting because they were really interested in various models of advocacy and a theology of advocacy. I explained the key characteristics of our model. I was fortunate to have Bishop Jose Luis of Swaziland interpreting and adding some very useful insights.

Over supper in the evening we were fortunate enough with members of the San Egidio community to also gain some insights into the work around establishing a viable peace in Mozambique. The Saint Egidio community together with the Nuncio and SA have been involved in this quest. It was interesting to pick up albeit briefly on the inside track of the process.

Click below for photos of the meeting

St Charles
Sunday morning (March 12) I was able to continue my visit to the communities of the diocese. As always, two important elements had to be met. First, that I had not been there before. Second, that the priest would not tell the people I would be going.

I must confess, all these year I never thought of making the list of all the communities we have in the diocese of Manzini. I only did it a few weeks' ago. I was convinced we had around 100 places churches and that, having visited 80 of them, I would be able to visit them all very soon.

I was wrong. It seems there are still nearly 40 I have not visited. That is why it becomes so important for me not to go to the same place again until I finished a first round of visits.

This Sunday it was the time for St Joseph's (Mzimpofu). 

The first Mass was at St Charles. Slowly the church was full. Everyone, of course, surprised to see me. At the end of Mass they told me about their plans to extend the church (which they have already started to do), the struggle for funds to finish the project and their hope that during this year I could be back to bless the extended building.

"Today we are happy because we see the bishop... live! Not on TV. He is here among us, small as we are as a community". I enjoyed it. I had not heard that before.

Immaculate Conception
The second Mass was at "Immaculate Conception". Not an easy road to follow, particularly after the last rains. The distance was not long but the road made it a long drive.

Everyone was waiting for the leader of the celebration who had been with us at St Charles and were therefore ready to start.

In none of the two places Mass had been planned but just the Liturgy of the Word. It all changed with the arrival of the bishop! But it was great to see them gathering on a Sunday even when they know the priest will not be there.

I was told on the way that "Immaculate Conception" church was built by Fr Ciccone OSM with the help of his family after the death of his mother. The name of the church was chosen after his mother too. I believe the picture I found in the church might be the one of his parents.

"I ask you, how many of you pray for persecuted Christians?" (Pope Francis)

It must have been one of the most better organized workshops we have held... and one of the most challenging too!

During the month of December 2016 all the priests were informed about the coming training of lay ministers of our diocese. Fr Mafola, their chaplain, asked all the priests to submit as soon as possible the name of the people that would be attending the workshop in February. He needed to know who would be coming and how many, distinguishing also between men and women in order to provide accommodation.

Nothing prepared them and us for the result: more than 160 people were in the list. There was no way we could take them all. Not enough accommodation and no hall was big enough for the meetings. 

It was then decided to cut it to half and ask those attending to train the rest. Taking the decision was easy but making others accept it... not so much. In fact, by the time the training started, instead of having 80 people there were over 100.

Fr J. Mafola (lay ministers' chaplain)

The training was run by Sr Phuthunywa Siyali (Holy Cross Sister) who serves at the Department of Christian Formation, Liturgy and Culture of the Southern African Catholic Bishops Conference (SACBC). 

Before the training, she met fhe priests of the diocese for a few hours. Though we hardly have priests' meetings on Friday morning, they themselves decided not to miss this opportunity and make sure they could share with Sister Phuthunywa the reality of their parishes. 

Lay ministers at the end of the Mass with the Bishop
I had been invited to preside Mass on Saturday morning. Taking from the readings where the disciples seem to be deciding what Jesus should do or not, I invited them to make sure they always remember who they are and their place in the Church avoiding the temptation to take the place of their priests. I also asked them to make sure that they do not see this service as any type of promotion. 

I shared with them a personal story. 

Once, while waiting for the archbishop of Cape Town at our airport and I was asked by security personnel who I was and what I was doing (I had arrived early and had been walking and taking photos of the place). When I explained I was the Catholic bishop waiting for an archbishop, I was asked: "if you are a bishop, why did you not send your driver" In their minds, a bishop should have a driver. Probably like a minister of government. Some easily tend to believe that civil and religious authorities behave in the same way but as Jesus says... "not so among you" (Matthew 20:26).

Then, during the day, whenever I was free, I joined them during the workshop just listening to their questions and what they thought the way forward should be.

We are grateful for their service, commitment and availability. This has certainly been an important step forward and we do hope, not the last one.

It was at the beginning of 2016 when, for the very first time, we gathered at our Cathedral all the catechists of the Diocese of Manzini (Swaziland) for a day of reflection, prayer and commissioning. The gathering was a success and we committed ourselves to continue doing it every year.

We also saw it would be important to "improve it" and that is why this year we were able to offer  some food to all of them after Mass. Fr Ncamiso Vilakati solemnly announced that: "the Bishop has cooked for you", while I asked for patience as "it is my first time to do it"

The names of about 300 catechists were read during Mass. Each parish priest or parish catechetical coordinator presented them to the bishop for commissioning. They lit their candles and renewed their baptismal promises and commitment to serve in their communities. 

This followed by the handing over of the material to be used in the parishes. 

Click below to browse photos from Flickr


During the homily I reminded the catechists once again of something I believe we always need to keep in mind. 

We usually talk about "teaching" catechism. There is, indeed, a dimension of "teaching" in our journey of faith. 

Still, I told them, I would prefer to use three other images. Catechism is about helping children, young people and adults to:
  • know Jesus
  • love Jesus
  • follow Jesus
Knowing Him should particularly include Jesus' mercy towards sinners. As John 4:18 says: "In love there is no room for fear, but perfect love drives out fear, because fear implies punishment and no one who is afraid has come to perfection in love."

We all need to treasure Jesus' calling of Levi to be an apostle, his eating with sinners, his decision to go to Zacchaeus' home, his parables of the lost sheep and the merciful father... 

Their service as catechists should help us build a church where God's mercy is constantly experienced, where love drives away fear and where everyone is invited to follow Jesus' wholeheartedly.


In the Catholic Church, February 11 is the day of prayer for the sick as we celebrate the feast of Our Lady of Lourdes. It was then Providential (with a capital "P") that we chose the day before to gather at Hope House for a short prayer for our sick children and their families.

For some years' now we have partnered with "Rocking Horse" at Hope House to extend our care for the sick to children too.
​Our aim is to provide palliative care to improve the quality of life of children when a curative treatment is no longer an option.​ 
We offer help for the physical, psychological, social and spiritual needs of children and their families. 

As some units have been fixed it was appropriate to gather and say a prayer together, remembering all the children who passed through our project, those who are present now and those who will be welcomed in the future. 

One particular detail is that their names are written on the walls of some units. Today, after the prayer, some other names were added. Some of the children even had a chance to choose the sunflower on which their name was going to be written and to watch as it was being done.

The prayer, though, was not just for the children. This project is possible thanks to so many people which we even do not know. In one way or another they share their gifts, their time and resources. We prayed for them too that the Lord bless them abundantly. 

Finally a "free Sunday". Free to continue visiting the communities of the Diocese of Manzini (Swaziland). I started visiting them in 2014 and have not finished yet!

This time I went to "St John Vianney" under Regina Mundi (Piggs Peak) Parish. Fr Khuluse, the parish priest, was grateful I would be going as he would be celebrating Mass at a new outstation of the parish. A great sign of a Church that keeps on growing.

As usual... I needed help. I do not know where people meet. I was asked to be at a T-junction by 8.45. As I was approaching the place I realized someone was already waiting for me. The church was not far from there.

Just by the road, this is one of the few churches we still have in wood. When I got of the car I found that it was full: men and women, young people and children. They were ready to start the celebration.

Small community and very vibrant. The small choir beautifully led all the hymns. Every detail of the celebration had been properly prepared.

Before the final blessing they shared with me that their community had been gathering at this place for the last ten years and they believed it was time for them to build a proper church. 

I could not agree more!