Bishop: Reconciliation Needs More than Prayer
Reconciliation “must find expression in the concrete situations of conflict and not just in a pious way of resorting to prayer”, according to the bishop of Mthatha.
Preaching at a Mass to celebrate the conferral of doctoral degrees on two priests and a religious Sister, Bishop Sithembele Sipuka said: “You have achieved the highest academic qualification any university could offer — now is the time for you to make a contribution to God’s Church and society.”
Sr Nokwanda Edith Bam CPS received her doctorate in health sciences and Frs Teboho Makoro and John Chikadi Anyanele CMM were awarded doctoral degrees in theology.
Invited to the Mass celebration at All Saints cathedral in Mthatha were all religious of the diocese with the equivalent of a bachelors degree and all priests and laity with a masters degree and above.
Mass was followed by a brief academic ceremony and lunch.
“You are wearing red garments, a colour that is worn by cardinals, which is a colour of sacrifice, martyrdom, honour, integrity, and prestige,” Bishop Sipuka told the new PhD-holders.
In his homily, the bishop referenced 2 Corinthians 6 in which St Paul reminds the Christians to be ambassadors of reconciliation.
“The situations of conflict that exist today, with the present tension within the ruling party, is threatening the social and economic stability of the country,” Bishop Sipuka said. “As doctors with analytical minds, you will do well to look at how it can be resolved for the good of the country.”
He noted that conflict was widespread around the world, with complicated ideological and religious differences that have led to wars, massacres, bombings, and suicide explosions.
“If we say that God is reconciling the world to himself, this reconciliation must find expression in the concrete situations of conflict and not just in a pious way of resorting to prayer,” the bishop said.
“While prayer does play its part, God has also given us intelligence, we must use it to resolve situations of conflict,” he explained.
To be helpful instruments of reconciliation, Bishop Sipuka urged the three new holders of doctorates to be reconciled people themselves, and prepared to work hard and suffer for this work.
“As the work of reconciliation by Christ cost him his life, so you too must be prepared to suffer for it, because it is not something that is easily accepted by the forces we try to reconcile. If we are to be reconcilers, we must ourselves be people who are ready to forgive,” he said.
The bishop added that their doctoral qualifications should serve the role of reconciliation and unity across nationalities, cultures, and languages, and not be a source of division.
“As priests and religious, we are never to take our academic qualifications outside the context of our priestly and religious vows. We are never to think that now that we are doctors, we should be treated differently in terms of remuneration and power,” Bishop Sipuka said.
“We are priests and religious, and the skills we acquire and academic qualifications we obtain are meant for one thing only: to continue the mission of Christ of reconciling the world with God and human beings with each other, and thereby bringing about the kingdom of God.”