SACBC Plenary: Amoris Laetitia, Caritas, eSwatini and South Africa
In presenting a summary of Amoris Laetitia to the Bishops, Bishop Noel Rucastle of the Diocese of Oudtshoorn said, Pope Francis with the Apostolic Exhortation, Amoris Laetitia, wanted to provide reassurance, hope, trust, and confidence. He said Pope Francis gave us an incredible bouquet of scriptural exegesis, moral exhortation, theological analysis, spiritual discernment, pastoral reflection and an old fashioned advice-giving.
Bishop Rucastle also highlighted what the document is saying about the inter-disciplinary preparation of seminarians and priests regarding marriage which goes beyond just knowing the doctrine.
He also mentioned that the document points out that more emphasis needs to be put on pre-marital instruction and formation of couples, and there is a need too to understand different situations of different families. Talking about the issue of the divorced he said those who are in a divorce need to know they are not excommunicated and should be encouraged to participate in church life where possible.
During comments the issue of the process of annulment of marriages was also raised regarding especially the need to ensure that processes move faster since Pope Francis has instituted a shorter process where possible.
The question of the five dubia of four cardinals was also raised and Bishop Rucastle answered the dubia from the document itself, first quoting the dubia and going back to Amoris Laetitia to answer the dubia.
It was also mentioned that the issue of polygamy is a matter that also needs serious attention since there are also Catholics who are in polygamous marriages. The bishops will engage further on the issues raised during comments as it was pointed out that there’s a need to have a common understanding and practice.
Caritas South Africa, presided over by Cardinal Napier, and whose national coordinator is Sr Maria Rissini, also made a presentation of the policy to the bishops who agreed in principle to adopt the policy ad experimentum, meaning as a working document for now until the final approval. Among other clauses the policy focused on was the role of the chaplains of Caritas. The emphasis was also made by the bishops that it must be made sure that Caritas always retains its unmistaken catholic identity even though there might be people of other faiths employed by Caritas.
About the Situation in eSwatini
Not wanting to repeat to the bishops the reports they have already seen on eSwatini Bishop José Ponce de León of the Diocese of Manzini asked Archdeacon Bheki Magongo of the Anglican Church in eSwatini to focus on four points: How eSwatini reached the point where it is now; What has the Council of Churches in eSwatini done up to now; Where is eSwatini now; and What future scenarios could take place.
After touching on those points Archdeacon Magongo said the Council of Churches recognises the provisions of the constitution with regard to dialogue but they are not happy with the way it is happening because the dialogue seems like presentations and there is no engagement.
Magongo said they need a SADC facilitated engagement which should happen in a neutral environment where people will easily make their submissions without fear. He said in the long term there is a need to establish strong institutions for accountability and the strengthening of all existing ones provided for in the constitution to function independently, free from undue political influence. Magongo added that there’s a need also to create a platform where minority and dissenting voices will be entertained and heard.
In the end Archdeacon Magongo warned that although it might seem like the situation is calm at this moment it is not so, the worst is still to come if people don’t sit and talk about the issues of the country.
The situation in South Africa
The socio-political situation in South Africa regarding the previous unrest, looting, and violence was the focus of the SACBC Justice and Peace Department. It said the cause was the campaign against the arrest of Jacob Zuma which quickly descended into the chaos of looting and other criminal elements to a point of witnessing other people losing their lives.
Addressing the issue of what needs to happen to avoid the repeat of this chaotic situation the Justice and Peace said although there are those who are rightly calling for accountability and arrest of those who caused this unrest that in itself is not a solution because the root cause has not been addressed.
They said from the point of view of faith there’s a need to go beyond accountability and arrests to find the root causes. In particular, Justice and Peace commission has identified the hunger of the poor as the root cause, also not neglecting the criminality on their part.
They reported that Justice and Peace coordinators have mentioned that there is a lot of anger in the community caused by a number of factors. Chief among them is that for 27 years there has been a lot of promises by the government and those promises have not been realised.
They said the reality that we have is that the country is operating almost like a one-party system and as a result there are voices that are saying there is a need now to migrate to another form of elections to avoid a situation where problems in a party become problems of a nation. Therefore, direct election is what some voices are calling for.
They also pointed out that the lack of investment in rural areas is the cause of thousands of people migrating into cities. The economic structure is built to benefit cities and that needs to change to avoid the mushrooming of informal settlements around the cities.