Tuesday, September 29, 2009

SEcond African Synod

AFRICA : Hopes for the Second African Synod by Peter Henriot, S.J., (The following article appears in the September 2009 issue of Hakimani, the e-newsletter of the Jesuit Hakimani Centre, a peace and justice center in East Africa. Fr. Peter Henriot, S.J., is the director of the Jesuit Centre for Theological Reflection, Lusaka, Zambia.)
[When some 200-plus bishops and advisors from all over Africa gather in Rome in October, a special focus will be on how the Catholic Church can best serve the people of this continent.
The Second African Synod (officially called the Second Special Assembly for Africa of the Synod of Bishops) meets October 4-25, with the theme "The Church in Africa in Service to Reconciliation, Justice and Peace: ‘You are the Salt of the Earth…You are the Light of the World.’"(Matthew 5: 13-14)
Preparations - Preparations for the Synod have been going on for the past three years, with efforts of mixed success to involve a cross section of Catholics to explore the significance of the theme and its implications for theological reflection and pastoral practices. I say "mixed success" because in many dioceses and parishes much activity has gone on and in many others very little activity.
In 2006, a set of discussion guidelines (in Latin, Lineamenta) was circulated to prompt early conversations about the theme, inviting an "examination of conscience" about our life as "family of God."
The results of these conversations were then communicated to the Vatican for preparation of the agenda (Instrumentum Laboris) to focus the debates of the Synod. When Pope Benedict XVI visited Cameroon in May, he presented the agenda with a call for reflection and prayer to engage all of us in this important event.
Personally, I am struck by the relevance of the agenda topics to the life of the Church in Africa. There is an honest reflection on the difficulties of implementation of the First African Synod (1994), with clear recognition that many parts of Africa have in the past decade been severely wracked by armed conflicts and ineffective governance. The concrete experience of the Church in relating to this challenging situation is sketched with obvious questions regarding the effectiveness of our responses.
Challenges - Of many points that can be emphasized about the significance of Synod debates and decisions, here are three that seem to me to be very important:
First, is the necessary formation that needs to be done in the church social teaching (CST) across all of the Church – bishops, clergy, religious, laity. There still is too much ignorance of the content of the CST and/or reluctance to take seriously its call for prophetic stances by everyone in the Church.
Many lay people, including those in important positions of government and business; simply do not know about the CST because many priests and pastoral leaders have never communicated its content and challenge in homilies, workshops, catechetical programs, etc.
Second, priority is to put high emphasis upon promotion of the dignity of women in both Church and society. As the agenda clearly notes, "Women and the laity in general are not fully integrated in the Church’s structures of responsibility and the planning of her pastoral programs."
Anti-evangelical cultural and ecclesial attitudes, patterns and structures must be challenged head on by the Synod if any true reconciliation is to be possible.
Third, priority that Synod discussion and decision must address is something which is surprisingly absent from the agenda. This is the topic of environmental concern touching issues such as climate change (global warming), ecological integrity, life-style adjustments, and industrial pollution by new investors coming to the Continent (e.g., in the extractives sector).
Aside from one passing reference to multinational corporations’ not paying adequate attention to the environment, this topic that is so much in the forefront of problems in Africa is not explored. Surely, the actual Synod deliberations will take up the topic! - http://www.jesuithakimani.org/

Monday, September 28, 2009

Experience -> The Great Teacher

Wounded God...> Healing wounded World
Victor Edwin SJ "Yesterday, I went to Chester, a little city close to Wales. I was walking around in the city centre. City centre was full of weekend visitors. There I found an Afro British man standing behind a small table with literature on Jesus was speaking about Jesus. Often I have seen Evangelical Christians and Muslims distributing reading materials for free in city centres.
Earlier, I have never shown any interest in listening to such preachers. However, some how I felt I should listen to this man who was giving witness to Christ. I went closer to him and listened. He was talking about compassionate God. I could not but think of Paul speaking to the audience on Athens about his faith! His message was simple.
He said God is good and loving. He gave his son out of love. Jesus, son of God through his woundedness heal the wounded world. Jesus is the face of wounded God. Only way to respond to this loving God is to love one another and forgive others. He repeated this in many beautiful ways.
There were many other, mostly teenagers were listening to him. First of all I was indeed surprised about his courage: to stand amidst a large number of week end visitors and speak about Christ. Secondly, he was saying something which I do feel the world need to hear. Indeed he set the tone for my whole day of reflection and prayer.
Thinking of his message I went to visit and pray at Chester Cathedral. The Cathedral has a rich and fascinating heritage. Chester Cathedral is a truly remarkable building, with a history spanning almost two thousand years.
According to legend, a prehistoric Druid temple existed on this site, which was succeeded by a Roman temple dedicated to Apollo. When Christianity became the state religion of Rome in the fourth century AD, the pagan temple may have become a Christian church. A picture and a statue of the Virgin and Child impressed me a lot.
The picture is painted on the web of a caterpillar. This famous painting is about 200 years old. A Tyrolean art form, there are apparently only 64 remaining in the world, and this is the only one in the UK.
However, the statue of our Lady with toddler Jesus struck me very deeply. I felt the statue somehow deepened the message of the preacher at the City Centre. The sculptor has used loose and uneven scrap copper sheets to make this beautiful statue. The statue powerfully highlight the poverty of Mother and Son.
The sculptor's note which is kept at the feet of the statue tells that the sculptor used scrap and broken sheets to convey the woundedness of God. The sculptor wanted to show that the wounded Lord is shown to be the healer of the wounded world. I was deeply moved by the words of the preacher at the City Centre and the words of the sculptor which came alive in the statue. The challenge is to forgive others, so that we can really talk about woundedness of God and bring about healing. " ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Courtesy: Victor Edwin SJ
Email: victoredwinsj@gmail.com