Witnessing to God's mercy and compassion

Bishop's address at the oficial opening of the 6th Congress
of the English Speaking African Region of CICIAMS
23 - 27 August 2016
Diocese of Manzini (Swaziland)
Your Excellency the Honourable Prime Minister
Honourable Minister of Health
WHO Country Representative
Members of Both Houses of Parliament
Principal Secretaries
The Regional Administrator
The Secretary of the Pontifical Council for Health Workers
The SACBC liason bishop for CATHCA and the AIDS office
The International Ecclesiastical Adviser CICIAMS
President of the English Speaking Africa Region of CICIAMS
Reverend Fathers and Sisters
Members of the Nurses Guild
Distinguished Guests
Friends of the Nurses Guild
Media representatives

I feel proud and humble being the Bishop of the Catholic Church in Swaziland, which – in the eyes of many is small – but at the same time is capable of hosting an international event of this magnitude.
I am particularly pleased to have among us His Excellency the Right Honourable Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Swaziland Dr. Barnabas Sibusiso Dlamini together with the Honourable Minister of Health, Sibongile Ndlela-Simelane and other dignitaries at such a busy time in our country with the Umhlanga sacred festival and SADC meetings.
Around a year ago I had the pleasure of welcoming in my office Mrs Juliana Nwazuruoke (the Africa Region President). Among other things we spoke about this gathering and she asked me if I felt we would be able to do it. My answer at that time (and it is the one I usually give) was: “one thing I know: when the people of this diocese say they would do something, they never fail.” They've done once again.
We are blessed by having you here among us. Delegates from eleven countries and three continents travelled all the way to the Kingdom of Swaziland in Southern Africa.
* * *
You are celebrating this 6th congress at a very special time as we celebrate the Jubilee of Mercy – called by Pope Francis – which started on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception of Mary (December 8) 2015 and will conclude on the Feast of Christ the King (November 20) 2016.
During this time we are led by Jesus' words in the Gospel of Luke: "be merciful like the Father" (Luke 6: 36).
In the words of Pope Francis:
We need constantly to contemplate the mystery of mercy. (...) Mercy: the bridge that connects God and man, opening our hearts to a hope of being loved forever despite our sinfulness.” (MV 2)
Mercy is the final test that we are Christians. It is not in the churches we build or the prayers we say but in our recognising Jesus in the hungry, the thirsty, the sick, the foreigner, the one in prison...
Mercy is, therefore for me, what defines the greatness of a country. We normally think of her beautiful buildings, roads and landscapes. For me it is in:
  • the quality of mercy of her political, social and religious leaders;
  • the quality of mercy of her families;
  • the quality of mercy of her people
because “mercy” is the bridge that connects God and man (as Pope Francis said) but also is the bridge that connects us to one another.
Catholic nurses, Christian nurses... nurses who understand that being a nurse is God's call in their lives and not just a profession or a job, are a marvellous expression of this mercy. It is beautifully expressed in the theme of the conference: you are “the merciful carers of humanity”.
* * *
The Catholic Church in the Kingdom of Swaziland witnesses to God's mercy & compassion in so many ways. The health area is just one of them but also a huge one. Enough to think of the Good Shepherd Hospital, the Nursing College, the seven Catholic Clinics, Hope House (our hospice)...
We are grateful for our partnership with His Majesty’s Government at this level. And I would like to take this opportunity to thank His Excellency the Right Honourable Prime Minister Dr Barnabas Sibusiso Dlamini for his initiative to include nurses' salaries in His Majesty’s Government payroll. We also thank the support of the Minister of Health in this regard.
It would certainly make a difference in the service we offer and much more in this moment when our beloved country goes through the worse draught in history with those that are sick and poor suffering it most.
* * *
Two or three things mark the service of the Catholic Church in our country:
  • the first is that – as we bishops of Southern Africa say – we see ourselves as a “community serving humanity”. We are a Church at the service of all, particularly the poorest in the country. I believe everyone knows that our doors (the doors of our institutions) are always open to everyone and not just Catholics;
  • everyone also knows of the merciful care of the people working in our institutions. There is a particular “human touch” which expresses this merciful care of God our Father;
  • finally, that – when training people – once again we go beyond the borders of our Catholic Church and through the Nursing College and the Parish Nurses we work to offer the country the best possible Christian nurses – professionaly and spiritually – opening the doors of our trainings to non-Catholic students and nurses.
* * *
While grateful to God for all the work being done in our country and in the countries you represent, we pray that these days help you and us become more and more aware of the particular needs we face in this moment and also give us the courage to face them generously as we have been called to be God's healing touch to the sick.
May you be able to always “See Christ in every person” and – as I said yesterday – “to be Christ to every person” you are called to serve.
And in Paul's words, may
the One who began a good work in you continue to complete it” (Phil 1:6)
UNkulunkulu aqale umsebenzi omuhle kini angawuqedele”

Mrs Sibongile Ndlela-Simelane (Minister of Health)
and Fr Thomas Nairn OFM (International Ecclesiastical Adviser CICIAMS)


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