A 'listening' and prayerful Church

Archbishop Stephen Brislin greeting Pope Francis
Few weeks' ago, marking the 50th anniversary of the Synod of Bishops, Pope Francis said: "A Synodal church is a listening church, knowing that listening "is more than feeling." It is a mutual listening where everyone has something to learn. Faithful people, the College of Bishops, the Bishop of Rome: we are one in listening to others; and all are listening to the Holy Spirit, the "Spirit of truth" (Jn 14:17), to know what the Spirit "is saying to the Churches" (Rev 2: 7)."

Though it was not "a Synod", last week in the diocese of Manzini we had a lovely experience of listening, of being "a listening church" with the visit of Archbishop Stephen Brislin.

Archbishop Brislin is the archbishop of Cape Town and the president of the SACBC (Southern African Catholic Bishops' Conference). He was elected to this service in 2012. It lasts three years (starting in January 2013) and has just been re-elected for another three year term starting in January 2016.

The SACBC gathers three countries: Botswana (2 bishops), South Africa (26 bishops) and Swaziland (1 bishop). Having South Africa the highest number of bishops, it is normal that most of the matters we talk about during our sessions are related to that country. It is also true that at every meeting a slot is given to particular issues of the other two countries.

Aware it is not enough, we had been planning a visit of Archbishop Brislin to Swaziland so that he can know more about the country. Last week he was finally able to come. A short but intense visit. He arrived on Tuesday 17 in the morning and left on Wednesday 18 in the evening. We gave him no rest.

It was for him a good opportunity to listen and to pray for our country. It was an opportunity to come to know more about the joys and challenges of the country and to entrust them to the Lord in prayer. It was a practical example of what the bishops said 50 years' ago during the II Vatican Council: "The joys and the hopes, the griefs and the anxieties of the men of this age, especially those who are poor or in any way afflicted, these are the joys and hopes, the griefs and anxieties of the followers of Christ." (GS 1)

It started with a courtesy call to the Prime Minister of the country, Dr Barnabas Sibusiso Dlamini, who not only welcomed our delegation (the archbishop, myself and Fr Mahazule our Vicar General) but also invited us to meet the members of cabinet. Different meetings followed that day and Wednesday until the very last minute. Different people with different and complementary views. 

Tuesday evening, together with all the priests of the diocese and many of our people, we gathered at the Cathedral for the celebration of the Mass. Listening made us gather and pray. We wanted to pray for the country, particularly for rain, for safety on the roads and for peace. Three key elements in this moment. 

Because of the lack of rain around 100.000 people are food insecure in this moment and up to 250.000 could be by March next year pointing to a national disaster. We have committed to support government through "Caritas Swaziland" in the caring of the most vulnerable in the country.

Being close to the festive season we also prayed for road safety remembering those who died in car accidents this year and praying each one of us care for the gift of life, each other's life.

Like every Sunday, we concluded with St Francis' prayer: "Make me an instrument of your peace".

Just before the final blessing and noting that it started raining during Mass I joked saying we forgot to be more specific and pray that rain would come once we were home...!

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Bishop of the Diocese of Manzini (Swaziland)

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