Fr. Paul Samasumo – Vatican City.
On the first day of the Plenary, Monday, the president of SACBC, Bishop Sithembele Anton Sipuka of the Diocese of Umtata, thanked the Apostolic Nuncio, Archbishop Peter Wells, for conveying to the Holy Father the disturbing social unrest that engulfed Southern African countries of Eswatini and South Africa.
Pope Francis’ call for peaceful collaboration
“Thank you for conveying to the Holy Father the disturbing and life-threatening situations in the two Conference countries, eSwatini and South Africa and the subsequent message of the Holy Father calling for peaceful collaboration in solving these problems. We appreciate very much this pastoral solicitude from the Holy Father,” Bishop Sipuka told the Apostolic Nuncio, who was also participating in the online plenary.
The exemplary work of pastoral agents
Referencing some of the challenges Southern African countries are grappling with, Bishop Sipuka thanked priests and pastoral workers who have continued to minister, in creative ways, during constraining times of Covid-19. Some of the priests, religious and pastoral workers have, in the process, contracted the coronavirus and succumbed to it.
“Our plenary meeting is taking place in the context of unrelenting attack of Covid-19 infections, increasing unemployment, social destabilisation in South Africa and political revolution in eSwatini. Luckily, in Botswana, there appears to be no crisis of pronounced nature yet. On the side of the Church, its life and work has been going on but hampered by the situation of Covid-19,” said the prelate of Umtata.
The Big man syndrome of politics and the Church
On the political situation of Eswatini and South Africa, Bishop Sipuka urged the Bishops to add their voices to calls from the street. He said Bishops should join calls seeking justice and accountability for the violence and looting in the two countries. The Bishop criticised what he termed as the Big man syndrome in political governance. He warned, however, that the Church was not immune to the Big man syndrome, which presents itself as clericalism.
Holistic and not piecemeal development
“We need to ride the wave of this moment to demand serious economic upliftment of the poor majority instead of piecemeal grants. I am not sure exactly what those areas of upliftment would be, maybe our Justice and Peace Department could identify them, but education and rural development appear to be the most urgent, given that about 63% of young people (in South Africa) are not employed,” urged the SABC President.
Tribute to South Africa’s great musicians
“During this year, we also lost a number of artists in South Africa, Sibongile Khumalo, Jonas Gwangwa, Tsepo Tshola, Steve Kekana and recently a film producer Shona Ferguson. With their gifts of singing and creativity, these artists helped us give expression to our human emotions of joy and sorrow. They lifted our spirits and soothed our souls, enabling us to get in touch with the deepest parts ourselves. With music and drama, they communicated messages beyond words. We thank God for the rare gift of these artists with which they brought us together as a nation in song and drama. May their souls rest in peace,” Bishop Sipuka said.