Imbisa at clergy congress of CEAST

Introduction

It is a great joy for me, representing IMBISA to participate at this Congress of the clergy organised by the Episcopal Conference of Angola and Sao Tome e Principe. Your Congress discusses an important theme dedicated to the sustenance of the clergy. This congress is being celebrated as the Church prepares herself to celebrate the Extra-ordinary Missionary month on the theme Baptised and Sent as willed by Pope Francis. It is a call to re-look and celebrate the great Apostolic Letter Maximum Illud, written a hundred years ago, which gave a great impetus to the Church’s missionary endeavours.

In this brief presentation, which speaks to the experiences of IMBISA on the sustenance of the clergy, I will limit myself to the diocesan clergy, especially those engaged in parish work. Moreover, I will focus on the material and financial sustenance that the church has to provide for the clergy. I will also make some reference to the 2004 IMBISA Plenary Assembly which tacked the topic of self-reliance.

The problem

It is a pity that after a hundred years of the letter by Pope Benedict XV, Maximum Illud, not even one Episcopal Conference in the IMBISA region has created a policy on the proper care, material and financial support for members of the clergy. At best we have seen pious statements not supported by real serious policy decisions which should eventually make an impact on the lives of the clergy.

Theological underpinnings

The matter of the sustenance of those who bring the gospel to others enjoys biblical underpinnings. When Jesus sent out the 72 (Cf. Luke 10:1-12), he invited them to take nothing for the journey. He told them that whenever they enter a house, they should accept and eat what is set before them. “But stay in the same house eating and drinking the things from them”. At the end of that great discourse, he added a line which may remain very important, especially for this Congress. “For the worker deserves his pay”.

The worker in this context is the one who has dedicated his life to the preaching of the gospel. The Council Document Presbyterorum Ordinis (#20), picking up on these matters, emphasises the obligation of the lay people to provide for their priests’ sustenance. “This obligation arises from the fact that it is for the benefit of the faithful that priests are working. Bishops are bound to warn the faithful of their obligation in this connection”. The same document proceeds to give a certain warning, lest there be unequal remuneration in a given particular church. “The remuneration to be received by each of the priests should be fundamentally the same for all living in the same circumstances. Moreover, priests’ remuneration should be such as to afford the priest a proper holiday each year. The Bishop should see to it that priests are able to have this holiday”.

The document thus  emphasises the Bishop’s duty on two important matters. The first is his duty to warn the faithful of their  responsibility to provide for the priests’ sustenance. The second duty of the bishop, which flows from the first, is to see to it that the priest enjoys a proper holiday each year. Particular arrangements should be made that this be a proper holiday, meaning that with the necessary material and financial means. It would be a mistake for us to ignore the adjective that accompanies the issue of the holiday. It must be proper.

An area of great need that Presbyterorum Ordinis (#21) also emphasises is social security to be organised for priests. A ruling is made that some money is to be collected which will subsequently be administered by the bishop together with the help of priests for social security. It is one area in which a document makes a specific and clear indication of the involvement of priests in this work. Lay experts in financial matters are only welcomed where the advantage of such an appointment may make it advisable. Furthermore, there is an invitation that this could even be better done in a region or even at the level of the Episcopal Conference. Tthe document indicates that where social security does not as yet exist, the Episcopal Conference is called upon to establish it. This becomes a form of solidarity as larger and probably richer dioceses come to the aid of smaller and or poorer ones.

Experiences in Imbisa

In the main, at least for the Imbisa region, what seems to be obtaining is that particular churches have made arrangements as to the sustenance and remuneration of priests. There seems to be general agreement that dioceses finance the retreat costs and other exercises of ongoing formation for priests. There is, in the main, a stable figure that gets paid to the priests every month. In some dioceses, at least in the territory of the Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference (SACBC), a monthly stipend ranges from US $150 -250 and on top of that, about US $ 100 a month for medical insurance. The diocese or the parish normally provides and maintains the vehicle which the priest uses for his work. He is also allowed to use the vehicle for his private errands.

Furthermore, the diocese or even more specifically the parish provides for residence including food and the general expenses of running a parish. When the parish cannot afford all these things, the diocese, in the majority of cases, intervenes.

A colleague indicates that in a Diocese in Mozambique, the monthly allowance is in the region of US $ 50-100. Similar figures, ranging from about US $ 100- 200 seem to obtain as well in other Episcopal Conferences including Zimbabwe, Lesotho and Namibia as well as occasional mass offerings normally provided by the Bishop. 

Unfortunately, some priests fall in the cracks. This is especially true when it comes to the giving of regular monthly allowances, holiday allowances and medical assistance. Speaking to a priest in one of the countries of the IMBISA region recently, he narrated the sad situation in his particular church. He said that for them, it is possible to find priests who have very different economic situations. One, who probably stays in town and in a rich parish or even working at the chancery with every means of support he may need. On the other hand, there are priests who find themselves in rural areas or economically poorer areas who struggle to make ends meet.

With the dire economic situation obtaining in a number of countries in the region, the priests are thus forced to begin fending for themselves. Some priests, being industrious, begin on self-help projects which might assist them to get some income. On occasion they use parish resources, including land, to do some business. Unfortunately, very little of the financial rewards coming from such projects get used for the advancement of the church’s missionary work. Moreover, pastoral work suffers because the priest is by now very committed to the project that gives him some financial comforts.

One area though that seems to be generally neglected, in the vast majority of the dioceses, is the provision of a holiday allowance. As such some priests always stick around the parish house and have no means to refresh themselves accordingly. This state of affairs, sad as it is, brings about very low morale among the priests and heightened anxiety about the future. Dioceses that do well in creating a system of fair-shares are few and varied. This is where the richer parishes are accordingly assessed and the money shared with poorer parishes for the sustenance of the clergy. Of course, a proper and more transparent administration must be done in the diocese right from the Bishop’s office to the smallest parish and even the so-called poor parishes in the diocese. 

Imbisa 2004 Plenary Assembly

In 2004 the Imbisa Plenary Assembly in Harare Zimbabwe tackled the theme of self-reliance with the subsequent publication of a pastoral letter titled get up and walk. Whilst the theme of the Assembly was self-reliance in general. Nevertheless, I wish to apply its conclusions to the important area of sustenance for the clergy. Among the matters that the Bishops committed themselves to, the following are worth noting:

  1. The sustenance of the clergy may not be understood in narrow terms only but in the widest ways of contributing to a church that is mature and participatory in its tasks of evangelization. The Bishops emphasise that self-reliance or in this case sustenance of the clergy is an ecclesiological theme that is grounded in our understanding of what the Church is, its particular characteristics and the functions and roles of its members. Thus, the issue of clergy sustenance should be understood with the Church as a community, as a family and leaders as servants.
  2. Further to this, the Bishops get more practical in this area with the importance of the optimal use of resources. In other ways, there is a need to avoid every form of wastage in the Church.
  3. Another practical measure relates to the need to transform Church structures in such a way that clergy do not require heavy financial inputs. This includes presbytery living, transport and other financial needs.
  4. The importance of sharing of resources is specifically mentioned with a citation from Ecclesia in Africa #129. “No particular church, not even the poorest, can ever be dispensed from the obligation of sharing its personnel as well as its spiritual and temporal resources with other particular Churches and with the Universal Church”.
  5. The importance of the development of policies on self-reliance which should be done by member Episcopal Conferences is specifically spelt out. Whilst this is visible in some of the Episcopal Conferences in the Imbisa region for supporting the work of the conference, especially the secretariat and the seminaries. Unfortunately, it has not been visible in the particular area of the sustenance of the clergy who are spread out in the dioceses.

Conclusion

The proper sustenance, remuneration and support of the clergy is an important activity in the life of the Church. This is so that the clergy may have the necessary means to accomplish their task as their vocation demands. Unfortunately, none of the Episcopal Conferences in the Imbisa zone has developed a plan on how this can be done. As a result, this causes lots of anxiety among members of the clergy who more often than not embark on self-help projects to make ends meet. Whilst this is not bad in itself, this may hamper the work of the Church as more time and energy are spent on projects and activities that are at times foreign to the missionary spirit expected of the clergy.

The IMBISA Plenary Assembly of 2004 tackled the subject of self-reliance. This should, in a way, accrue to the important subject of the sustenance of the clergy. Whilst there is a lot of good work happening in certain particular churches, we remain aware that some of these churches have not been able to support their clergy accordingly. As such a proper plan, handled at the level of the Episcopal Conference, would seem to be best practice in supporting clergy who, on occasion, unfortunately, fall through the cracks.

Fr. Dumisani Vilakati

Imbisa Pastoral Department

17 August 2019

Viana- Angola

Encontro dos Jovens com o Papa é a maior expectativa da visita a Moçambique

O encontro inter-religioso está catalisar expectativa na preparação da visita do Papa a Moçambique. O evento agendado para o dia 5 de Setembro de 2019, no Pavilhão da Maxaquene, está a mobilizar comunidades de não católicos, um facto de maior importância para o futuro religioso do país.

Numa ronda recente que a nossa reportagem efectuou a alguns pontos do país, conseguimos acolher testemunhos apontam para uma dimensão de um verdadeiro diálogo na preparação do evento. Padre Diamantino da Beira e Lucas Faustino Tomas da Diocese de Tete, partilharam por exemplo o rasgo de unidade como o traço mais visível deste encontro, “para nós a visita já começou com o facto de que católicos e não católicos falamos a mesma língua na preparação deste encontro”.

A partir de Maputo padre Semeão Muchanga disse que a mobilização é grande. A organização conta com a Comunidade Islâmica, Comunidade Hindu, COREM, organização que actua como conselho de Igreja Cristãs “todas a segundas –feiras nós temos encontro “, disse.

Segundo a organização num programa que tivemos acesso, alguns jovens foram escolhidos para apresentarem ao Papa os seus grupos e estes farão uma foto com Francisco, depois de lhe apresentarem suas inquietações. Em segunda, o Papa fará uma  oração inter-religiosa e apresentará a sua mensagem.

Pope Francis is going to meet young people in Mozambique

Among the Holy Father activities in Mozambique in will be an interreligious gathering with young people. The event will take place on the 5th September 2019, at the Maxaquene Pavilion.

Recent events indicate that a great deal of interreligious has been done to prepare for the gathering. This was confirmed by Fr. Diamantino of Archdiocese of Beira and Lucas Faustino of Diocese of Tete. Both indicate that unity is a basic and most visible feature of the gathering. In their words, “For us the visit has already begun with the fact that Catholics and non-Catholics speak the same language in preparation for gathering”.

Fr Semeao Muchanga of the Archdiocese of Maputu also confirmed that preparation for the gathering have been positive. Those to be present at the gathering include member of the Muslim community, Hindu Community and COREM which is a local organisation of Christian churches.

The preparation for the gathering indicate that each community will tender a song and a representative of them will greet the Holy Father and introduce his group to him.

It is expected that the holy father will made a prayer and present his message. This is an important gathering especially as it will direct and influence relationship between religious in Mozambique.

Francisco poderá entrar na história como mais próximo do continente

A convicção foi partilhada pelos argentinos espalhados pelo mundo
contactados por nós. Os nossos interlocutores apontaram para a grande coragem do argentino em defesa dos emigrantes, “Lâmpadusa é um exemplo”, disseram.

O Papa Francisco asseverou as suas relações com a europa, dando um exemplo de acolher os pretos  defende-los na terra alheia. “Este Papa não é nosso”, disse uma eupeia residente em Africa.

Francisco ainda arcebispo de Buenos Aires, várias vezes manifestou desejo de conhecer a Africa, especialmente Moçambique com que teve uma relação afetiva, enviando padre missionários para aquele país. Trata-se da diocese de Xai-Xai, onde a Igreja Argentina tem missionários no quadro da missão ad gentes.

O Bispo de Xai ’Xai, partilhou que não o surpreende esta visita a Moçambique, do agora Papa Francisco. “Adivinho que ele vem confortar e falar da missão ad gentes”, disse.

O continente africano no quadro dos 50 anos do SECAM rejubila com esta
visita de Francisco. Ao mesmo tempo espera de maiores incentivos para a missão no continente, como forma de rejuvenescimento da Igreja.

SACBC Statement on Sexual Abuse August 2019

“The crimes of sexual abuse offend Our Lord, cause physical, psychological and spiritual damage to the victims and harm the community of the faithful.”  With these words, Pope Francis has called for “a profound conversion of heart” and “concrete and effective actions” on the part of the Church to eradicate the scourge of Child Sexual Abuse.

At our recent Plenary Conference held in Mariannhill, the Bishops of the SACBC, were addressed by Fr Hans Zollner SJ, a member of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors.  Fr Zollner outlined the latest “concrete and effective actions” that are being taken in the Church to fight Sexual Abuse.  As one of the Bishops commented “it was good and necessary to feel the sense of outrage and urgency” in Fr Zollner’s presentation.  The President of the SACBC Bishop Sithembele Sipuka, thanked him for, amongst other things, precisely, his passion.

Catholics are perhaps not sufficiently aware that immediately after the Bishops’ Conference in January this year, Bishop Sithembele along with the Presidents of all the Bishops’ Conferences in the world, had been summoned to Rome by the Pope.  Following this February gathering, an Apostolic Letter was issued by the Pope on the 1st May.  “Vos Estis Lux Mundi” or “You are the Light of the World” is a significant document, whose “concrete and effective actions” have – from the 1st June of this year – had legal force throughout the Catholic world. 

After speaking about Sexual Abuse in the Church in general, Fr Zollner highlighted the more significant facts of the Pope’s document – especially as regards the Bishops.

It is important that all Catholics be made aware of these.

The document names FOUR specific CRIMES:

  • Sexual acts with anyone by violence, threat or through the abuse of authority
  • Sexual acts with a minor or a vulnerable person
  • Child pornography – which includes production, exhibition and recruitment
  • Omissions or failures to act (especially as we shall see, on the part of Bishops!)

It is also important that we Bishops publicly acknowledge the developments concerning ourselves that have taken place in Church law.

  • A procedure is now in place to report any of the above crimes alleged to have been committed by a Bishop
  • On submission to the local Metropolitan (or Archbishop) such reports must be sent to Rome who must then respond within 30 days
  • A final report must be completed within 90 days

As is always the case with legal processes, there is more detail, however, the above facts illustrate the determination of the Pope and the Church to hold us Bishops accountable.  We cannot in any way, avoid our responsibilities.  In simple terms, we cannot “sweep things under the carpet.”  In the words of “You are the Light of the World” we have to take “concrete and effective action” against “crimes of sexual abuse”.

We Bishops of the SACBC wish to make it clear that we have received the law of “You are the Light of the World”.  Besides this grave responsibility that lies on our shoulders – personally and collectively – we recognize the urgent need for the work that must be done in the Seminaries of the Conference and also and especially, in the ongoing formation of our Clergy and Religious.

We confess that where a terrible darkness has entered the Church, we are committed to do all in our power to restore Light to Southern Africa.

Bispo culpa o clericalismo como uma das causas de abuso sexual

O bispo Sithembele Sipuka, que é o bispo de Mthatha na África do Sul, bem como o presidente da Conferência dos Bispos Católicos da SACBC, culpou, entre outras coisas, o flagelo do clericalismo predominante em alguns setores da Igreja como um dos as causas do abuso sexual infantil.

O bispo Sipuka estava falando na assembleia plenária de 2019 da SACBC que está ocorrendo atualmente em Mariannhill, África do Sul. Em sua opinião, o clericalismo é o “uso de status clerical ou poder por razões egoístas e se safar com isso. No caso do abuso sexual, a razão egoísta é o envolvimento sexual pervertido com os filhos, cometido pelos sacerdotes impunemente, sendo oferecida a oportunidade de repetir a ofensa ao ser encoberto pelo bispo e pelos leigos ”.

A SACBC, sendo uma Assembleia dos Bispos de Botswana, Eswatini e África do Sul, escolheu o tema do abuso sexual infantil para estudo durante a atual sessão plenária. Para este fim eles convidaram padre Hans Zillner SJ, que trabalha nesta área há vários anos. Uma delegação de Conferencia Episcopal de Lesoto estão no encontro.

No mesmo discurso, o Bispo Sipuka relembra a reunião dos Presidentes das Conferências Episcopais, realizada em Roma em fevereiro, como uma ocasião importante para a Igreja universal na luta contra o abuso sexual infantil. Para ele, a reunião em Roma não foi apenas um esquema para salvar as aparências de uma igreja lutando com sua imagem. Pelo contrário, a reunião conseguiu também focar no fato de que tais abusos acontecem até mesmo fora da igreja e, como tal, as causas do abuso são muito mais do que mero clericalismo.

Os Bispos da SACBC normalmente se reúnem duas vezes por ano para refletir sobre a vida da Igreja em seu território e esta é sua segunda reunião para 2019.

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