South African Bishops to Meet Pope in May 2021
The bishops of Southern Africa will travel to Rome next May to meet with Pope Francis and heads of Vatican dicasteries to report on the state of the Church in their dioceses and pastoral territories, and tell the pontiff about their concerns as shepherds of the Church in the region.
The bishops of a particular territory are required to make ad limina visits to the Vatican every five years. But given the tighter papal schedules — there are currently 3 017 dioceses, prelatures and vicariates globally — the period between these visits tends to be extended.
The last ad limina visit by the bishops of Southern Africa took place in April 2014, at the time of the canonisations of Ss John XXIII and John Paul II.
Previous to that, the Southern African bishops had met with Pope Benedict XVI in 2005.
For several bishops, the May 21 to June 2, 2021 ad limina visit will be their first: Bishops Victor Phalana of Klerksdorp, Duncan Tsoke of Johannesburg (auxiliary), Siegfried Mandla Jwara of Ingwavuma, David Sylvester of Cape Town (auxiliary), Joseph Mary Kizito of Aliwal North, and Noel Andrew Rucastle of Oudtshoorn.
Traditionally, the secretary-general of the Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference (SACBC), currently Precious Blood Sister Hermenegild Makoro, accompanies the bishops on their ad limina visit.
The term ad limina apostolorum means “to the threshold of the apostles”, which requires bishops making such visits to pray at the tombs of St Peter and St Paul.
In 2014, a group of Southern Cross pilgrims joined the SACBC bishops at their Mass at St Paul’s tomb in the basilica of St Paul Outside the Walls.
Each bishop will present a “quinquennial report” on the state of their diocese, outlining its activities and challenges in several chapters. These may address issues concerning the liturgical and sacramental life of the local Church, Catholic education, evangelisation, social communications, social justice, finances, and so on.
The bishops will presumably present the pope and the Vatican departments with the new pastoral plan, “Evangelising Community: Serving God, Humanity and Creation”, which was launched in January.
When the bishops made their ad limina in 2014, they raised such issues as human trafficking, the need for pastoral role models, the sainthood cause of Bl Benedict Daswa (who was beatified the following year), the inculturation of the faith, and various pastoral concerns.
The SACBC confirmed that the ad limina would take place but offered no further information.
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