En medio de la crisis

(Taken at the Cathedral of the Child Jesus, Lusaka, Zambia)

La crisis económica va a ser larga y dura. No nos hemos de engañar. No podremos mirar a otro lado. En nuestro entorno más o menos cercano nos iremos encontrando con familias obligadas a vivir de la caridad, personas amenazadas de desahucio, vecinos golpeados por el paro, enfermos sin saber cómo resolver sus problemas de salud o medicación.

Nadie sabe muy bien cómo irá reaccionando la sociedad. Sin duda, irá creciendo la impotencia, la rabia y la desmoralización de muchos. Es previsible que aumenten los conflictos y la delincuencia. Es fácil que crezca el egoísmo y la obsesión por la propia seguridad.

Pero también es posible que vaya creciendo la solidaridad. La crisis nos puede hacer más humanos. Nos puede enseñar a compartir más lo que tenemos y no necesitamos. Se pueden estrechar los lazos y la mutua ayuda dentro de las familias. Puede crecer nuestra sensibilidad hacia los más necesitados. Seremos más pobres, pero podemos ser más humanos.

En medio de la crisis, también nuestras comunidades cristianas pueden crecer en amor fraterno. Es el momento de descubrir que no es posible seguir a Jesús y colaborar en el proyecto humanizador del Padre sin trabajar por una sociedad más justa y menos corrupta, más solidaria y menos egoísta, más responsable y menos frívola y consumista.

Es también el momento de recuperar la fuerza humanizadora que se encierra en la Eucaristía cuando es vivida como una experiencia de amor confesado y compartido. El encuentro de los cristianos, reunidos cada domingo en torno a Jesús, ha de convertirse en un lugar de concienciación y de impulso de solidaridad práctica.

La crisis puede sacudir nuestra rutina y mediocridad. No podemos comulgar con Cristo en la intimidad de nuestro corazón sin comulgar con los hermanos que sufren. No podemos compartir el pan eucarístico ignorando el hambre de millones de seres humanos privados de pan y de justicia. Es una burla darnos la paz unos a otros olvidando a los que van quedando excluidos socialmente.

La celebración de la Eucaristía nos ha de ayudar a abrir los ojos para descubrir a quiénes hemos de defender, apoyar y ayudar en estos momentos. Nos ha de despertar de la “ilusión de inocencia” que nos permite vivir tranquilos, para movernos y luchar solo cuando vemos en peligro nuestros intereses. Vivida cada domingo con fe, nos puede hacer más humanos y mejores seguidores de Jesús. Nos puede ayudar a vivir la crisis con lucidez cristiana, sin perder la dignidad ni la esperanza".

José Antonio Pagola

Two ordinations... and a wedding!

St Lucia
Catholic Church

25 May 2013

On Saturday 25 May, after the three and a half hour celebration of the ordination of our two new priests, we joined Terry and Anel for the celebration of the their wedding. They wanted to get married at our Chapel before it would be demolished. In a few weeks' time we will start the building of a new "Retreat and Training Centre" with twelve single cottages, a hall and a new church.

It was a very familiar and carefully prepared celebration. As the photo above shows, the sign indicating "where" happiness could be found pointed to the chapel. 

We met a couple of weeks' ago. They shared with me the readings they had chosen for the celebration. The first one, from the book of Ecclesiastes (4: 9 – 12): "Better two than one alone... Where one alone would be overcome, two will put up resistance; and a threefold cord is not quickly broken". The "third one" being the one to whom they asked to bless their journey together, the one they invited to walk with them...

The second reading was taken from the first letter to the Corinthians... "Love is always patient and kind; love is never jealous; love is not boastful or conceited, it is never rude and never seeks its own advantage...". As Terry said, one might sometimes feel tempted to "pick and choose": this is fine, this I can do without... 

Seeds replaced the rice usually thrown at the end of the celebration. It was the delight of birds and monkeys who kept on coming "to celebrate" the following days.


Being shepherds with...

Frs Mhlongo and Mchunu OSM had chosen the readings. The Gospel was taken from John: Jesus the Good Shepherd. The image in the invitation card was also the Good Shepherd but pointed to the Gospel of Luke, the shepherd carrying the sheep. A familiar image in our Vicariate as it is present in our Cathedral.

These images were an invitation to give their lives for the sheep and to look for "the lost ones" instead of just staying with "the good ones".

There was another "image": the fact that these two priests have been called one to be a diocesan and the other one to religious life. Being ordained together was a call to work together and to work for unity among the priests of the Vicariate. 

I invited them to be shepherds "with" other shepherds: the Bishop, the priests... but also the Sisters and the PPCs. Pope Francis reminded us that women were the first ones to be sent to announce the Risen Jesus. When I said during the homily: "do not think that because they are women they are not Shepherds..." some started clapping.

The PPCs also need to feel that priests are working with them. I prayed they would never think they do not need anyone else and they can decide and do alone. 

The formation journey of both Fr Mhlongo and Fr Mchunu OSM and the way they prepared their ordination indicates otherwise. We thank God for this gift!


New UNAIDS and Lancet Commission to explore HIV and global health in the Post-2015 debate

Malawi President Joyce Banda, African Union Commission Chairperson Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma and London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine Director Peter Piot to co-chair the new UNAIDS and Lancet Commission: From AIDS to Sustainable Health

ADDIS ABABA, 26 May 2013—The Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) and leading medical journal The Lancet have convened a new commission of political and health leaders to explore the post-2015 agenda of AIDS and global health.
The UNAIDS and Lancet Commission: From AIDS to Sustainable Health will be co-chaired by Malawi President Joyce Banda, African Union Commission Chairperson Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma and London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine Director Peter Piot.

“In just a decade, I have witnessed countries move from despair to the conviction that we can end this epidemic,” said President Joyce Banda. “This Commission can offer a way forward that allows us to accelerate our march towards the end of AIDS.”

Informed by a diverse group of HIV and health experts, young people, activists and political leaders, and drawing upon insights gained from online crowd-sourcing and engagement with constituencies, the Commission will deliberate on strategies to ensure that the vision of zero new HIV infections, zero discrimination and zero AIDS-related deaths can be realized in the coming decades.

“Our work now must focus on how to bring the best minds and hearts together to end this epidemic.” said Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, Chairperson of the African Union Commission. “We have seen the devastation that AIDS has wrought—now let our humanity overcome it and lead us to a brighter future.” 

“As a new agenda for development is being shaped, it is time for serious thought on how the extraordinary lessons from the AIDS response can be brought to bear to transform global health,” said Peter Piot, Director of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

“Ending AIDS is a dream that is entirely possible,” said Michel Sidibé, Executive Director of UNAIDS. “The AIDS response has brought the world together to create a vision of shared responsibility and global solidarity—we have the opportunity now to harness this momentum and build a sustainable future, a future without AIDS.”
The first meeting of the Commission will be hosted by President Banda in Lilongwe, Malawi on 28-29 June 

Ordaining a new priest

I believe the ordination of a new priest is a very special moment in the life of a Bishop. Particularly when this (or these priests in this case) belong to your Diocese (or Vicariate in our case). 

Though one of the priests is a member of a religious Order (Servants of Mary) they were both born in the Vicariate of Ingwavuma. 

Two thirds of all our priests were born in the Vicariate. It is a sign of a special blessing from God, a sign of his presence among us. It also shows the readiness of our youth to welcome God's call.

For a "missionary Bishop" it is a sign of the growth of the local Church. One of them might become the future Bishop of this area or be called to serve in any other Diocese of the country or the world. 

At ordination, a very special bond might be born between the bishop and the priest as he shares with him the priesthood he himself has received. 

For some reason in these events I always remember the wonder of the people at the birth of John the Baptist when they said: "All those who heard of it treasured it in their hearts. ‘What will this child turn out to be?’ they wondered. And indeed the hand of the Lord was with him."


PressStatement on E-tolling and government accountability (SACBC, J&P Department)

Faced with the widespread public concern, protest and unhappiness at the decision of Government to go ahead and implement the e-tolling system, we as the Justice and Peace Department of the SACBC feel compelled to highlight some of the key moral issues underpinning this decision:

  1. The Accountability of the Executive
Government has a mandate to govern, by virtue of having won an election. Does this mean that they are unaccountable until the next election? Clearly not! Transparent public consultations on controversial issues are bound to be held and taken into account. We fear that this has not been adequately done in this case.
  1. Taking due care when utilising funds appropriated from the people of the country
When it appears that the cost of a solution being implemented by Government to address a need is highly inappropriate then it is the duty of all concerned people to demand explanation. Brushing this aside by citing the need for confidentiality breeds suspicion. Transparency is one of the cornerstones of democracy.
  1. The appropriateness of the cost of the GFIP project

It appears that the GFIP project will cost R20.63 billion to construct and a further R20 billion in interest over 24 years, thus totalling R40.66 billion. The e-tolling solution costs around R1.7 billion to construct and a further R1.2 billion per year to implement, totalling R30 billion over the 24 years. So the cost of implementing the e-tolling is almost 74% of the total cost of the project! This hardly seems appropriate!

(Download the whole statement by clicking HERE)
(Download HERE Statement on E-tolling and Government Accountability,
to facilitate discussion in local communities)


Two new priests...!

Fr Dominic Velenkosi Mhlongo (on the left), diocesan priest of the Vicariate of Ingwavuma.
Fr Sfiso Bhekinkosi Mchunu OSM (on the right), member of the Order of Servants of Mary.

Click HERE to view more photos of the celebration


Fiesta de la Trinidad

Evangelio Comentado por:

José Antonio Pagola
san Juan 16, 12-15


A lo largo de los siglos, los teólogos se han esforzado por investigar el misterio de Dios ahondando conceptualmente en su naturaleza y exponiendo sus conclusiones con diferentes lenguajes. Pero, con frecuencia, nuestras palabras esconden su misterio más que revelarlo. Jesús no habla mucho de Dios. Nos ofrece sencillamente su experiencia.
A Dios Jesús lo llama “Padre” y lo experimenta como un misterio de bondad. Lo vive como una Presencia buena que bendice la vida y atrae a sus hijos e hijas a luchar contra lo que hace daño al ser humano. Para él, ese misterio último de la realidad que los creyentes llamamos “Dios” es una Presencia cercana y amistosa que está abriéndose camino en el mundo para construir, con nosotros y junto a nosotros, una vida más humana.
Jesús no separa nunca a ese Padre de su proyecto de transformar el mundo. No puede pensar en él como alguien encerrado en su misterio insondable, de espaldas al sufrimiento de sus hijos e hijas. Por eso, pide a sus seguidores abrirse al misterio de ese Dios, creer en la Buena Noticia de su proyecto, unirnos a él para trabajar por un mundo más justo y dichoso para todos, y buscar siempre que su justicia, su verdad y su paz reinen cada vez más en entre nosotros.
Por otra parte, Jesús se experimenta a sí mismo como “Hijo” de ese Dios, nacido para impulsar en la tierra el proyecto humanizador del Padre y para llevarlo a su plenitud definitiva por encima incluso de la muerte. Por eso, busca en todo momento lo que quiere el Padre. Su fidelidad a él lo conduce a buscar siempre el bien de sus hijos e hijas. Su pasión por Dios se traduce en compasión por todos los que sufren.
Por eso, la existencia entera de Jesús, el Hijo de Dios, consiste en curar la vida y aliviar el sufrimiento, defender a las víctimas y reclamar para ellas justicia, sembrar gestos de bondad, y ofrecer a todos la misericordia y el perdón gratuito de Dios: la salvación que viene del Padre.
Por último, Jesús actúa siempre impulsado por el “Espíritu” de Dios. Es el amor del Padre el que lo envía a anunciar a los pobres la Buena Noticia de su proyecto salvador. Es el aliento de Dios el que lo mueve a curar la vida. Es su fuerza salvadora la que se manifiesta en toda su trayectoria profética.
Este Espíritu no se apagará en el mundo cuando Jesús se ausente. Él mismo lo promete así a sus discípulos. La fuerza del Espíritu los hará testigos de Jesús, Hijo de Dios, y colaboradores del proyecto salvador del Padre. Así vivimos los cristianos prácticamente el misterio de la Trinidad.


Our Lady of Perpetual Help

(by Ginny Kubitz Moyer)
I was sitting at my prayer desk the other night, two flickering candles in front of me, letting my mind wander as I looked at the small framed icon of Our Lady of Perpetual Help that once belonged to my grandmother. It’s an inexpensive framed image, one that she must have had since the 1960s at least, but in the candlelight it shone like pure gold. And as I looked at it – a picture I see every single day -- I noticed something. For the first time, I realized that Mary and Jesus were holding hands.

That moved me.

I’m forever reminding my kids to hold my hand. Anytime we’re in a parking lot or crossing a street, it comes out of my mouth automatically: “Hold my hand.” And the boy in question slips a sticky, damp little hand in mine, and off we go (unless it’s Luke, my little daddy’s boy, who invariably says, “No! I want to hold Daddy’s hand!” and runs over to Scott). I feel far more comfortable walking out in public that way, although the terrifying reality is that in a parking lot with huge cars backing out and turning corners, joined hands can only keep you so safe. But still, it’s something. And it always moves me when I don’t have to say it, when the boys automatically reach for my hand as we cross a street.

Click HERE to continue reading the article

Meeting a joyful witness

It was Sunday afternoon. I was coming back to Manzini (Swaziland) from Hluthi when I got a puncture just before Nhlangano. I thanked God it did not happen the evening before on my way to Hluthi as I arrived when it was already dark.
When I was finishing changing the tyre, a smiling man arrived. I do not remember if I greeted him or he greeted me but he immediately said: “Ngiphuma esontweni” (I am coming from church). Not sure which one. He certainly was not a Catholic nor did he now I was a Bishop of the Catholic Church.

From that moment he started sharing in Zulu and SiSwati his praises to the Lord and I was adding mine. He said: “The Lord is good, the Lord is faithful, the Lord loves us... He sent his only Son... He does not want us to suffer (one of my favourites and I enjoyed listening that from him), He protects us day or night (I immediately thought God would have protected me even if the puncture was the evening before...) He knows everything. He sees everything, even those who want to harm us..."
He did not sound as if he was “preaching”. He was not trying to convince me that his church is better than mine. He sounded more like someone who gives witness to God's love out of joy.
I must say I enjoyed the moment. He never asked me who I was. He was never surprised that though I am white I could somehow communicate in Zulu nor was he distant because of our different races. It was a spontaneous sharing. We never spoke about anything else. That was all. I asked him his name and promised to pray for him. Remembering the Ethiopian baptised by Phillip (Acts 8:39) I think we both continued our way with a smile in our faces.

The keyring

As the Superior General of the “Mantellate Sisters” was visiting Swaziland I planned to go to Our Lady of Sorrows (Hluthi) on Sunday morning to celebrate Mass and meet her. The Sisters invited me to arrive the evening before and join the teachers of the school. They wanted to thank the Superior General for the way she welcomed them when they went to Italy a couple of years' ago. As one of them said: “Had it not been for the way you prepared a place for us, some would have slept on the streets as it was unaffordable to us”.
Before going to bed, one of the Sisters gave me a couple of keys to go to my room. Only in the morning I realised that the keyring had a familiar image... Our Lady Consolata. There was a big smile in my face.
It was probably 1976 when I met the Consolata Missionaries for the first time. We were looking for a priest who would guide our youth group. I joined them as a seminarian in 1979. We've walked together for ...nearly 40 years!
It was a very special moment since there are no Consolata Missionaries in Swaziland and the Sister herself later told me she had not picked up on the detail of the keyring when she gave it to me. God's special touches...

Paedophilia is about power

From the court appearances of accused TV stars to historic scandals involving priests, music teachers and care workers, to the killing of young girls, Britain’s news pages, websites and TV bulletins are awash with cases of the sexual abuse of children. This week the shocking details of the depravity of a group of men in Oxford were revealed during a court case which saw a gang of eight convicted of the rape and torture of six girls over more than a decade. The conclusion to be drawn is that in Britain sexual exploitation and predation is endemic; that it goes back decades and continues into the present. Many perpetrators have been allowed to continue their crimes unchallenged.
The Catholic Church was one of the first institutions in this country to stand accused of negligence in its dealing with the child victims of abuse and the handling of their abusers. Some critics of the Church blamed its tradition of a celibate priesthood, claiming that sexual frustration was the primary cause. But the scandals now coming to light show that celibacy is not a common denominator. Paedophilia is about power, about people in positions of authority, or who are famous, or are even ordinary but have gained power through long-term grooming of children, who target the vulnerable and defenceless.
The Tablet, editorial, 18.05.2013


Caricatures of a good intention

"Once, when I was bishop, I was sent an invitation for a benefit dinner for Caritas. Those who attended were the cream of the crop, as they say. I decided not to go. 

That day, the president at the time was in attendance and, after the first course, a gold Rolex was auctioned off. 

What a disgrace; how humiliating. That was a bad use of charity. It sought a person who would use this watch for vanity in order to feed the poor. 

Thankfully, Caritas no longer does this sort of thing. Nowadays, they work continuously in schools, run shelters for single mothers and the homeless, run a bakery where they also sell the handicrafts that the kids in the technical school make. This is promotion of the poor by the poor themselves. Sometimes things are done in the name of charity that are not charitable; they are like crude caricatures of a good intention. There is no charity without love, and if vanity is part of helping the needy, there is no love; it is feigned charity."

(Jorge Bergoglio)

On Social Networks

“In social networks, believers show their authenticity by sharing the profound source of their hope and joy” (Pope Benedict XVI)

I heard the other day about a loyal daily Mass-goer who was harangued by his priest for checking emails during Mass.  The man explained that in fact he had been using a Missal app on his I-pad to follow the Mass – the priest apologised and then took down the name of the app!

Social media has changed the way we work and play – and also the way we pray.  We can read the Bible and the latest Papal encyclicals on our smartphones.  Parishes and church groups are using Facebook to keep in touch with their members.  And the Holy Father has 2.5 million followers on Twitter (even more than über-trendy Jesuit parish priests or controversial cardinals). 

At the Jesuit Institute we are proud to have been making our contribution to this revolution.  We turned Braamfontein’s wonderfully vibrant Joseph Capelle Stations of the Cross into an app that thousands of people could pray on their blackberries and thus also shared South African art and music with the world.  We have taken the 160-year-old Apostleship of Prayer devotion into cyberspace and hundreds are now ‘liking’ it on Facebook (search for ‘PrayingwiththePope’).  And we were the first country in the world to send out extracts from Vatican II documents and Papal teaching directly to people’s cellphones.  This last service has just sent out its 1 millionth SMS and to celebrate that we are giving people a chance to sample the service for 1 week for free.  (Just SMS the word JOY to 31222 between 19 and 25 May.  After the first week if you continue you will be charged R4 per week for the daily SMS.) 

Does any of this matter?

Some people dismiss such innovations as foolish attempts by the Church to seem modish and relevant.  One man complained to me I should be telling people to go to church on Friday evenings in Lent and not encouraging them to pray the stations on their cellphones: though interestingly he sent me an email rather than a handwritten letter!  Others get so excited at the many and varied ways of communicating that the ‘how’ of communication takes precedence over the ‘what’.

A 50 year old Vatican II document (Inter Mirifica) provides surprisingly up-to-date guidance; and this was further developed in Pope Benedict’s message from January with the challenging title Social Networks: portals of truth and faith:

-          Modern media (such as social networks) are good things and are from God
-          They can be used in ways that build the Kingdom by asking questions, sharing information and being present to others using new and effective language (a modern-day Pentecost)
-          But they can also be used in ways that are harmful to us and to our faith and we have a responsibility to avoid those

It of course standard modern communications style to summarise everything in 3 bullet points and I would encourage you to read the original documents (just Google them of course!). 

2,000 years ago St Paul (in 1 Cor 13) was even more succinct and more poetic so let his words be your guide for using modern media: “If I speak in the tongues of humans and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.”

by Raymond Perrier


The Bible at your fingertips

I got this by email from a friend and I converted it into a PDF. In one page you get all the links to the books and chapters of the Bible. The translation used is the New International Version. 

It links to www.biblegateway.com

Once there you can also click on the "speaker" and it will read the text for you.

It can be downloaded by clicking HERE

"You can now read the Bible at the click of a button. Just click on the chapter number you want to read opposite the Book name in the column on the left side. It will also read it to you..."


On the Holy Spirit

Let us ask ourselves: am I open to the action of the Holy Spirit, do I pray for it to give me light, to make me more sensitive to the things of God? This is a prayer we must make every day: “Holy Spirit, make my heart be open to the Word of God, that my heart be open to good, that my heart be open to the beauty of God everyday”. I would like to ask you a question: how many of you pray to the Holy Spirit every day? Probably few, but we must satisfy this desire of Jesus and pray every day to the Holy Spirit, so that he opens our heart towards Jesus.
Let us think of Mary, who "kept all these things and pondered them in her heart" (Lk 2:19.51). The welcoming of the words and truths of faith in order that they may become life, happens and grows under the action of the Holy Spirit. In this sense we must learn from Mary, reliving her "Yes," her total willingness to receive the Son of God in her life, which from that moment onwards is transformed. Through the Holy Spirit, the Father and the Son come to dwell in us: we live in God and of God. But is our life truly inspired by God? How many things do I put before God? (Pope Francis)  

Temples of the Holy Spirit

"One of these truths that hit me between the eyes is so obvious and so straightforward that I should be embarrassed even to want to point it out to you. And you will say, "It is odd, isn't it. Does it take so long for the penny to drop?" Please bear with me. Jesus breathes on his disciples. Jesus says, "As the Father sent me, even so, send I you." We who are the disciples of this one are the bearers of the Holy Spirit. We are sanctuaries; we are God-carriers We are precious beyond computing. So we should not just respect but revere every fellow human being.
In some of our churches you know how they have a special part of the church, a special chapel; they will have a tabernacle, and there will be a light in front of this tabernacle. Normally, when we reverence the altar we just bow, but when we come before the sanctuary where there is this lamp burning, alerting us that there is a reserve sacrament there -- we genuflect..
If you and I took our theology seriously, this is the point -- we bear God in us; we are sanctuaries; we are temples of the Holy Spirit. We shouldn't just shake hands and greet each other in the normal kind of way. We ought, each one of us, to genuflect before one another because we will be saying, as the Hindus and the Buddhists say, "The God in me greets the God in you."
And so, friends, to treat human beings as if they were less than this, is not just evil, which it is; it's not just wrong, which it is; it's not just painful as it frequently must be for those who are victims of injustice and oppression, but for you and for me, it is a veritable blasphemy because it is as if we were spitting in the face of God. And so, what Jesus is saying there is explosive. It is to say, "Everyone, everyone, without exception, everyone, even the most unlikely, even the most undeserving -- the down-and-outs, the derelicts, the louts, the drug addicts, the substance abusers, the prostitutes, the pimps -- if we had but the eyes to see, we would discern even in dark conditions, that they were God-carriers, precious in the sight of God, with a value that cannot be computed. But where we might have felt we needed to recoil, we should, in fact, genuflect, kneeling before them as Saint Francis knelt before the beggar" (Desmond Tutu)

Raccontando qualcosa del mio cammino

In preparazione alla visita a Barzago è stato pubblicato su Vita ecclesiale lecchese questo articolo scritto da Italo Allegri.

"Fill his heart with the tenderness of God..."

The bishops of Portugal and this multitude of pilgrims are at your feet, on the 96th anniversary of your apparition to the little shepherds in Cova de Iria, to fulfill Pope Francis’ clearly expressed wish, that we consecrate to you, Virgin of Fatima, his ministry as Bishop of Rome and universal shepherd.

Thus we consecrate to you, Lady, who are Mother of the Church, the ministry of the new Pope. Fill his heart with the tenderness of God, which you felt like no one else, so that he will be able to embrace all the men and women of this time with the love of your Son Jesus Christ. Contemporary humanity needs to feel that it is loved by God and by the Church. Only by feeling loved will it overcome the temptation to violence, materialism, forgetfulness of God, the loss of its way. And it will be led by you to a new world where love will reign.

Give him the gift of discernment, to be able to identify the paths for the renewal of the Church. Give him the courage not to hesitate in following the paths suggested by the Holy Spirit. Shelter him in the harsh hours of suffering, to overcome in charity the trials that the renewal of the Church will bring. Be always by his side, saying with him those words you know well: “I am the Handmaid of the Lord, let it be done unto me according to Thy word.”

The paths of the renewal of the Church lead us to discover the timeliness of the message that you gave the little shepherds: the exigency of conversion to God who has been offended, because He is so forgotten. Conversion is always a return to the love of God. God forgives because He loves us. This is why His love is called mercy. The Church, protected by your maternal solicitude and guided by this shepherd, must assert herself increasingly as the place of conversion and forgiveness, because in her, truth is always expressed in charity.

You indicated prayer as the decisive path of conversion. Teach the Church of which you are a member and model, so that we will be increasingly a people at prayer, in communion with the Holy Father, the first of this people who prays, and also in silent communion with the previous Pope, His Holiness Benedict XVI, who chose the path of the silent man of prayer, taking the Church more profoundly into the paths of prayer.

In your message to the little shepherds, here in Cova de Iria, you highlighted the Pope’s ministry, “the man dressed in white.” Three of the last Popes were pilgrims to your shrine. Only you, Lady, in your maternal love for the whole Church, can put in Pope Francis’ heart the desire to be a pilgrim to this shrine. It is not something we can ask him for other reasons. Only the silent collaboration between you and him will attract him to this pilgrimage, in the certainty that he will be supported by millions of believers, willing to hear your message again.

Here at this altar of the world, he will be able to bless humanity, to make today’s world feel that God loves all men and women of our time, that the Church loves them and that you, Mother of the Redeemer, lead them with tenderness on the paths of salvation.

+JOSE, cardinal patriarch

(thanks Zenit)

Remembering Fr John Berte IMC

Fr John Bertè IMC was, together with Fr Jack Viscardi, the first Consolata Missionary to arrive in South Africa for pastoral work. It was March 10, 1971.

Our presence in South Africa had started in 1948 in Cape Town. The goal at that time was to welcome young missionaries for further studies who would then be appointed to Kenya and Tanzania.

Being both called "Giovanni" (Bertè and Viscardi) it seems they agreed to be called "John" and "Jack" and that is how we always knew them.

When Fr Michael Paschal Rowland OFM was appointed first bishop of the newly created Diocese of Dundee, Fr John was appointed Vicar General. Together with the Bishop and the diocesan secretary, Mrs Isabel Seady, the three formed an excellent team that made this diocese run a huge number of projects with a very small and dynamic structure.

John was an expert in buildings. Once the bishop and his council would decide on a new one, John would follow it from beginning to end and while going from one place to another he would stop to visit the priests at other places. 

It was probably in 2003 when he had to leave South Africa and go back to Italy due to his health. He died at the beginning of 2005. 

After becoming a Bishop I always had in my heart the wish to go and pray at Prada, where he is buried. His family was very happy with the idea. The problem was for me to find the time... 

It finally happened at the end of April. Arriving in Milan, his sister Anna and his brother-in-law Franco took me to Prada where the rest of the family gathered in the evening. On Wednesday May 1st together with the community of Prada, we gathered for Mass and thanked God for having sent Fr John Bertè to South Africa (after working for some years in Kenya).

Probably the main building we will always be grateful for is the "Pax Christi Pastoral Centre" in Newcastle. The centre is not just at the service of the Diocese but of the whole Metropolitan Province. A Catechetical Training in English and Zulu is run for at least six dioceses every year in January, on-going formation for priests have become a yearly appointment, the "baby bishops" met there at the beginning of our service in 2009... 

Last April 21 Fr Rocco Marra IMC shared on Facebook the tenth anniversary of Maria Consolata Parish (the last one built by Fr John Bertè). Below there was this comment from Fr Musa Mncwango, a diocesan priest from the area:

Auguri a tutti i parrocchiani della Parrochia Maria Consolata! e Grazie a tutti i Missionari della Consolata che hanno lavorato con impegno per la creazione e per lo svilluppo della nostra diocesi! Oggi è un giorno di pregare per Padre Giovanni Bertè!!! Siyanibongisa nonke!!!!

While thanking all the Consolata Missionaries who worked for the creation and developing of the diocese, he had a special word for Fr John. 

He is remembered by the lay people, religious and priests of the diocese. We now count on his intercession from heaven. 

Bishops of Zambia with IMBISA delegation

Click HERE for more photos

Push for life


Blessed Maria Theresa Ledochowska

"I think I can start the homily with the words of Pope Francis a few weeks' ago and say: 'Dear Sisters you've gone to the end of the world to get a Bishop to preside this celebration'. Well, I know those were not exactly his words but... you get the idea". (Homily)

Blessed Maria Teresa Ledochowska is the founder of the Sisters of St Peter Claver. She was born on 29 April 1863 and the Sisters of St Peter Claver wanted to celebrate her "150 birthday" at the Basilic of "Santa Maria Maggiore" (Rome). 

I somehow understood the reason of the invitation to preside the Eucharist: born in Argentina, bishop in South Africa and Swaziland... it was a sign of the missionary spirit of the Church. The Sisters, like we see in Pope Francis these days, look more for gestures, signs than words. Everything should be able to point to the missionary work of the Church all over the world.

Though personally grateful for their support to our projects in South Africa (Zulu translation of the Bible, building of a retreat and training centre...) and Swaziland (building of Good Shepherd Hospital, formation of the seminarians...) I felt I was representing the whole world and thanking them for their constant support. In one year (2010/2011) and thanks to their friends and benefactors they were able to support projects in 567 dioceses in 81 countries in every continent. As the Superior General said: "No one would have been able to do something like that alone." 

Together we remembered and celebrated the gift of Blessed Maria Teresa and at the same time we renewed our commitment to be, like Jesus, Good News for all the peoples. 

Click below for
(St Peter Claver webpage)

and watch a video on the Founder


Preparing for Pentecost

All loving God, 
your Spirit is dwelling deep in the hearts of each of us, 
urging us to work for peace, justice, reconciliation 
and respect for the wonderful world you have given us. 

We ask that you give us the courage 
we need to see your Holy Spirit at work 
within us and among us, 
and lead us into more joyful and courageous ways 
of working together for the coming of your Kingdom.

We ask this through Christ the Lord

(from CAFOD)

The Bell of Peace

Passing through Roveretto, I was taken to visit "The Bell of Peace". I could not avoid remembering the words of the prophet Isaiah 2,4: 
"They will hammer their swords into ploughshares and their spears into sickles. Nation will not lift sword against nation, no longer will they learn how to make war." 

Fusa con il bronzo dei cannoni di tutte le nazioni che parteciparono al primo conflitto mondiale, vincitori e vinti, secondo il progetto del sacerdote roveretano don Antonio Rossaro, "Maria Dolens" (questo il suo nome di battesimo) è la più grande campana esistente al mondo che suona a distesa per invocare pace e fratellanza fra tutti i popoli del mondo.

Issata sul torrione Malipiero del castello di Rovereto nel 1924, dopo il restauro del 1965 trova una sua più adeguata collocazione sul Colle Miravalle, luogo più adatto ad accogliere i numerosi gruppi in visita alla campana, ma anche alle cerimonie di pace che frequentemente si celebrano e che coinvolgono tutte le nazioni del mondo. Fu benedetta da Papa Paolo VI nel 1965.

Tutte le sere cento rintocchi si diffondono nella valle per ricordare i caduti di tutte le guerre e portare un messaggio di pace.

* * *

The Bell of Peace, placed on the Miravalle hill in the city of Rovereto, has been ideated and wanted by the priest from Rovereto Father Antonio Rossaro after the Great War as an eternal symbol of condemnation of conflicts, pacification of consciences, brotherhood between men, solidarity between peoples. It has been made with the bronze of the cannons offered by the Countries that took part to the First World War and it rang the first toll on October 4th 1925 in front of the King Vittorio Emanuele III.

During these years it made its voice clear, striking every evening the one hundred tolls reminding life and peace.
Authorities, Presidents and Ambassadors, together with citizens from many Countries, paid homage and keep listening to it as it was their consciousness voice. Already eighty-four Nations have put their flags around Maria Dolens, the proper name of the bell, along the Viale delle Bandiere and in the Piazza delle Genti, to testify, in a visible way, the loyalty to a message, to a sort of “Peace Agreement”.

First Colombian Saint: Maria Laura Montoya Upeghi

"The second thought we can draw from the words of Jesus that we have heard in the Gospel: "I pray for those who believe in me through their word: that all may be one; as you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us" (John 17:20). St. Maria Laura Montoya was an instrument of evangelization first as a teacher and then as a spiritual mother of the indigenous people, to whom she gave hope, welcoming them with God's love and bringing them to him through an effective pedagogy that respected their culture and did not oppose it. In her work of evangelization Mother Laura truly made herself all things to all, according to the expression of St. Paul (cf. 1 Cor. 9:22). Today too her spiritual daughters live and bring the Gospel to the most obscure and needy places, as a kind of vanguard of the Church.

This first saint, born in the beautiful country of Colombia, teaches us to be generous with God, not to live our faith alone – as if it were possible to live the faith in an isolate way – but to communicate it, to convey the joy of the Gospel with words and the witness of life in every place in which we find ourselves. Wherever we live let us let this light of the Gospel shine! She teaches us to see the face of Jesus reflected in the other, to overcome indifference and individualism, which corrode Christian communities and corrode our heart, and she teaches us to welcome all without prejudice, without discrimination, without reticence, with sincere love, giving them the best of ourselves and above all sharing with them what is most precious to us, which is not our works or our organizations, no! Our most precious possession is Christ and his Gospel."

Pope Francis


It was only in 2011 that Caritas Zambia started monitoring the national elections. Even though there were already many organisations doing so at that time 

Monitoring is very demanding. It requires being involved before, during and after the elections, developing training material, helping in the registration of voters, being involved in the reviewed of the "code of conduct" and, most of all, identifying "monitors". 

There are about ten thousand polling stations and, in order to do a good job, two people had to be appointed to each polling station. In other words... twenty thousand people had to be recruited, trained, and sent. They were able to reach 90% of the polling stations. 

Funders required Caritas Zambia should work with other organisations and they were able to identify seven with whom they could do so. Together they formed the "Civil Society Election's Coalition". 

The whole project was a success. As votes were counted at each polling station before being sent to a central office, Caritas and their partners already had the final results 24 hrs after the elections while the government took three days to announce them. 

The Bishops of the Zambia Episcopal Conference were behind the whole process and very supportive according to the Sam, Director of Caritas.


Two months with a Pope “from the other side of the world”

"Vatican Insider" takes a look at what changes have been and will be made during Francis' pontificate


What has Bergoglio done in the two months since he was elected Pope and what kind of a Pope has he been?

Fondness and confessions
The wave of affection for the new Pope is undeniable, with requests to attend papal audiences skyrocketing. Bergoglio has made contact with the crowds a focal point of his papacy. He spends a great deal of time among the faithful in St. Peter's Square, getting out of the pope-mobile to greet them. During last Wednesday's General Audience he dedicated almost half an hour to talking about contact with people and faithful. Some are sceptical and even irritated by this "honey moon" between the Pope and the people, expecting things to turn sour any minute. This could happen for example is the Pope adopts a rigid stance in the field of sexual morality. It would be a mistake to believe that this new relationship is being blown out of proportion by the media. Pope Francis spoke of mercy right from the outset and this triggered something deeper than mere fondness in the hearts of faithful. So many approached the Catholic faith again after decades of estrangement from the Church and they themselves say Francis' words are to thank for this.


Feast of the Ascension

There are many stories to help us reflect on the ascension of the Lord. One of them says that when Jesus ascended into heaven, the angels gave him a great surprise party. At a certain point one asked him: "now that you have ascended into heaven... who is going to continue on earth your work?" He spontaneously replied: "my disciples" to which another one wondered... "don't you have a plan B?"
It was a fair question considering the experience he had with the apostles after two or three years walking together.
I'd like to point out two elements from the Gospel of Luke
  1. The experience of the ascension underlines the mission entrusted to the apostles and to us all to be witnesses. "You are witnesses of these things". This is a great link to the book of Acts where we will find many times the apostles saying exactly that: we are witnesses of all this... Take time to reflect on this. Take time on what it means to be a witness. It only becomes clear when, like it happened to me years' ago, you witness an accident and the police asks you: are you ready to testify in court? Nomusa told me she was called to testify in court. One day she was home and the son of the neighbour arrived in a car. He was looking for his parents. They were not there. He asked her where they were. He then left. Nothing wrong, isn't it? Well... he was driving a stolen vehicle! She had to testify she saw him driving that vehicle. She did not want to. She knew the risk.
    A witness talks about what he/she saw. We talk about God's presence in our life, what we really believe, what – who leads us daily... A witness somehow puts his life, reputation at risk... Lawyers on one side or another would try their best to proof you wrong, to proof you are lying, to proof you cannot be trusted... That is why many people would prefer to avoid becoming witnesses. Could it be the same in our daily life when called to witness our faith?
  2. We are not on our own. "I send the promise of my Father upon you... until you are clothed with power from on high". This prepares us to celebrate the feast of Pentecost next Sunday. The Spirit leads us. When celebrating confirmations I used to remind all that it is not a "once off" injection to protect us or give us strength but a daily gift of the Father we ask for. 
    Like the Apostoles, after two thousand years we still experience the need to be led by the Spirit so that we can become Good News in today's world.
The celebration of the Ascension of the Lord calls for these two elements to be present daily in our lives: being witnesses, by the power of the Spirit.
Fr Alberto Maggi OSM says: "non è separazione, è unione più intensa". It is not separation but a deeper union.

Snakes and ladders: SA's education and employment

From the Mail & Guardian (www.mg.co.za)

IMBISA Bishops take to the Twittersphere

Bishops from the Inter-Regional Meeting of the Bishops of Southern Africa (IMBISA) have taken to the Twittersphere to spread the word of peace ahead of Zimbabwe's elections planned for later this year.

In a two day 'Get Media-Wise' workshop in Johannesburg, the Bishops learnt amongst other media tools,  how to use Twitter as a means of communicating their messages.  Father Richard Menatsi [IMBISA Director] said:"This is a brilliant opportunity for the Bishops to take the good news of peace and reconciliation beyond the pulpit and into people's lives and homes."

The Bishops recently published an open letter in response to Zimbabwe's referendum and the planned elections for later in the year, calling for: 'peaceful elections, free of violence and intimidation'.

Bishops attending the workshops agreed that all too often the Church can seem out of touch. Learning these news skills bring them up to date and better able to communicate their messages to the faithful.

Father Richard continued: "We draw inspiration from Pope Francis whose commitment to the poor and to peace, has made a strong impression on us with regard to our own responsibilities as people of faith. So, in collaboration and in solidarity we will look to use the media more widely in urging our messages of peace."

Notes to Editors:
IMBISA is made up of Bishops from the following countries: Angola, Botswana, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, Sao Tome e Principe, South Africa, Swaziland and Zimbabwe.

IMBISA's recent press statement on Zimbabwe's forthcoming elections can be found here [http://www.scribd.com/doc/130120927/IMBISA-Press-Statement-Zimbabwe-Elections]


Bishop Giuseppe Sandri @sandrijoe

Bishop Jose Luis @bpbhubesi

For further details please contact Mr Simon Jeffery on email bpministry@imbisa.com

Zambian Bishops share their experience

After presenting the IMBISA statement there was some time to share on the political journey of the country. 

A common concern seems to be the place of the media before, during and after the elections. Particularly in countries where there is only once voice and where opposition parties hardly get any space. It is also true that many people today turn to the "satellite TV" in order to hear other voices. For example it is very clear in the outskirts of Harare (Zimbabwe) where one finds lots of dishes outside the houses.

One sentence from the IMBISA statement was underlined and appreciated by the Bishops: the need to protect the vote, the voter, the result. In order to protect the result, in Zambia, votes are counted at every polling station before they are being sent to a central office. In this way, the risk of messing with ballot boxes is reduced. A huge amount of work was done to make sure that people understand that each vote counts and should be protected. 

We also shared on the usual question... "why are you bishops involved in 'politics'?". The archbishop of Lusaka commented: "anything that affects the lives of the people affects us... being health, food security, education, elections"

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