Bishops’ statement on the recent attacks on foreign nationals

The Chairperson of the Office of Migrants & Refugees, at the Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference (SACBC), Archbishop Buti Tlhagale has condemned, in the strongest possible terms, the recent attacks on foreign nationals that occurred recently in Soweto and Zeerust. “Once again, we had to see media images of well dressed, well fed South Africans looting foreign owned shops, assaulting the owners, threatening them with death and leaving destruction and shattered lives in their wake” said Tlhagale. The Archbishop said he was taken aback to see the looters loading refrigerators, stoves and other equipment onto trucks, and driving away with it, while the Police stood by and did nothing.

In both Zeerust and Soweto, says the Archbishop, accusations of foreigners selling drugs and selling expired goods should have been brought to law enforcement agencies. But as the events unfolded, the local residents took the law unto themselves. Archbishop Tlhagale says “we are therefore, furthermore, concerned about ongoing reports of incitement against foreign nationals in Mamelodi and Polokwane.

Tlhagale continues that the statistics show that more than 80% of South Africans claim to be Christians (https://www.southafrica.to/people/customs/faiths.php), we therefore appeal to them that the most important commandment that they have to adhere to is “to love their neighbour as they love themselves” (Mark 12:31). Hatred towards anyone (even those of a different nationality, tribe, race, gender or religion) is a direct violation of this command. St Paul said that “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28).

To the 80% of South Africa’s self-identified “Christians” (which presumably includes the majority of those that rampaged through the streets of Soweto and Zeerust) the nationality of their fellow humans shouldn’t have entered the equation. God Himself makes it clear that He has a special concern for refugees: “He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the foreigner residing among you, giving them food and clothing” (Deuteronomy 10:18). Jesus identified with refugees to such an extent, that he said that everyone who welcomes a refugee is welcoming Him (Matthew 25:35).

Archbishop Tlhagale has urged those still walking in the darkness of hatred, prejudice and ignorance, to turn to the light of compassion and human solidarity. He has called for sympathy for foreign nationals who have suffered damage, injury and loss. Archbishop has reiterated that “South Africans should extend their hands to work with all people of goodwill, who want to rid our country of xenophobic hatred and prejudice”.

Every human being is created in the image of God (Genesis 1:27). It is only once we begin to collectively act according to this truth, that God will be able to bless us and heal our land.

For immediate release. For further information contact Fr Patrick Rakeketsi at 012 323 6458 or 073 380 5629

Archbishop in Cape Talk interview

Why won’t priests divulge crimes learnt of in the confessional?

Kieno Kammies, presenter of Cape Talk’s breakfast show speaks to Archbishop Stephen Brislin, Archbishop of Cape Town about why priests won’t divulge crimes learnt of in the confessional. This is in the light of the Catholic Church in Australia saying last week that it would be opposing laws forcing priests to report child abuse when they learn about it in the confessional, setting the stage for a showdown between the country’s biggest religion and the Australian government. Archbishop Brislin explains why.

Here is a link to the live broadcast: https://omny.fm/shows/the-kieno-kammies-show/why-wont-priests-divulge-crimes-learnt-of-in-the-c

Pope Francis’ response to recent abuse crisis

If one member suffers, all suffer together with it” (1 Cor 12:26). These words of Saint Paul forcefully echo in my heart as I acknowledge once more the suffering endured by many minors due to sexual abuse, the abuse of power and the abuse of conscience perpetrated by a significant number of clerics and consecrated persons. Crimes that inflict deep wounds of pain and powerlessness, primarily among the victims, but also in their family members and in the larger community of believers and nonbelievers alike. Looking back to the past, no effort to beg pardon and to seek to repair the harm done will ever be sufficient. Looking ahead to the future, no effort must be spared to create a culture able to prevent such situations from happening, but also to prevent the possibility of their being covered up and perpetuated. The pain of the victims and their families is also our pain, and so it is urgent that we once more reaffirm our commitment to ensure the protection of minors and of vulnerable adults.

1. If one member suffers…

In recent days, a report was made public which detailed the experiences of at least a thousand survivors, victims of sexual abuse, the abuse of power and of conscience at the hands of priests over a period of approximately seventy years. Even though it can be said that most of these cases belong to the past, nonetheless as time goes on we have come to know the pain of many of the victims. We have realized that these wounds never disappear and that they require us forcefully to condemn these atrocities and join forces in uprooting this culture of death; these wounds never go away. The heart-wrenching pain of these victims, which cries out to heaven, was long ignored, kept quiet or silenced. But their outcry was more powerful than all the measures meant to silence it, or sought even to resolve it by decisions that increased its gravity by falling into complicity. The Lord heard that cry and once again showed us on which side he stands. Mary’s song is not mistaken and continues quietly to echo throughout history. For the Lord remembers the promise he made to our fathers: “he has scattered the proud in their conceit; he has cast down the mighty from their thrones and lifted up the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent away empty” (Lk 1:51-53). We feel shame when we realize that our style of life has denied, and continues to deny, the words we recite.

With shame and repentance, we acknowledge as an ecclesial community that we were not where we should have been, that we did not act in a timely manner, realizing the magnitude and the gravity of the damage done to so many lives. We showed no care for the little ones; we abandoned them. I make my own the words of the then Cardinal Ratzinger when, during the Way of the Cross composed for Good Friday 2005, he identified with the cry of pain of so many victims and exclaimed: “How much filth there is in the Church, and even among those who, in the priesthood, ought to belong entirely to [Christ]! How much pride, how much self-complacency! Christ’s betrayal by his disciples, their unworthy reception of his body and blood, is certainly the greatest suffering endured by the Redeemer; it pierces his heart. We can only call to him from the depths of our hearts: Kyrie eleison – Lord, save us! (cf. Mt 8:25)” (Ninth Station).

2. … all suffer together with it

The extent and the gravity of all that has happened requires coming to grips with this reality in a comprehensive and communal way. While it is important and necessary on every journey of conversion to acknowledge the truth of what has happened, in itself this is not enough. Today we are challenged as the People of God to take on the pain of our brothers and sisters wounded in their flesh and in their spirit. If, in the past, the response was one of omission, today we want solidarity, in the deepest and most challenging sense, to become our way of forging present and future history. And this in an environment where conflicts, tensions and above all the victims of every type of abuse can encounter an outstretched hand to protect them and rescue them from their pain (cf. Evangelii Gaudium, 228). Such solidarity demands that we in turn condemn whatever endangers the integrity of any person. A solidarity that summons us to fight all forms of corruption, especially spiritual corruption. The latter is “a comfortable and self-satisfied form of blindness. Everything then appears acceptable: deception, slander, egotism and other subtle forms of self-centeredness, for ‘even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light’ (2 Cor 11:14)” (Gaudete et Exsultate, 165). Saint Paul’s exhortation to suffer with those who suffer is the best antidote against all our attempts to repeat the words of Cain: “Am I my brother’s keeper?” (Gen 4:9).

I am conscious of the effort and work being carried out in various parts of the world to come up with the necessary means to ensure the safety and protection of the integrity of children and of vulnerable adults, as well as implementing zero tolerance and ways of making all those who perpetrate or cover up these crimes accountable. We have delayed in applying these actions and sanctions that are so necessary, yet I am confident that they will help to guarantee a greater culture of care in the present and future.

Together with those efforts, every one of the baptized should feel involved in the ecclesial and social change that we so greatly need. This change calls for a personal and communal conversion that makes us see things as the Lord does. For as Saint John Paul II liked to say: “If we have truly started out anew from the contemplation of Christ, we must learn to see him especially in the faces of those with whom he wished to be identified” (Novo Millennio Ineunte, 49). To see things as the Lord does, to be where the Lord wants us to be, to experience a conversion of heart in his presence. To do so, prayer and penance will help. I invite the entire holy faithful People of God to a penitential exercise of prayer and fasting, following the Lord’s command.[1] This can awaken our conscience and arouse our solidarity and commitment to a culture of care that says “never again” to every form of abuse.

It is impossible to think of a conversion of our activity as a Church that does not include the active participation of all the members of God’s People. Indeed, whenever we have tried to replace, or silence, or ignore, or reduce the People of God to small elites, we end up creating communities, projects, theological approaches, spiritualities and structures without roots, without memory, without faces, without bodies and ultimately, without lives.[2] This is clearly seen in a peculiar way of understanding the Church’s authority, one common in many communities where sexual abuse and the abuse of power and conscience have occurred. Such is the case with clericalism, an approach that “not only nullifies the character of Christians, but also tends to diminish and undervalue the baptismal grace that the Holy Spirit has placed in the heart of our people”.[3] Clericalism, whether fostered by priests themselves or by lay persons, leads to an excision in the ecclesial body that supports and helps to perpetuate many of the evils that we are condemning today. To say “no” to abuse is to say an emphatic “no” to all forms of clericalism.

It is always helpful to remember that “in salvation history, the Lord saved one people. We are never completely ourselves unless we belong to a people. That is why no one is saved alone, as an isolated individual. Rather, God draws us to himself, taking into account the complex fabric of interpersonal relationships present in the human community. God wanted to enter into the life and history of a people” (Gaudete et Exsultate, 6). Consequently, the only way that we have to respond to this evil that has darkened so many lives is to experience it as a task regarding all of us as the People of God. This awareness of being part of a people and a shared history will enable us to acknowledge our past sins and mistakes with a penitential openness that can allow us to be renewed from within. Without the active participation of all the Church’s members, everything being done to uproot the culture of abuse in our communities will not be successful in generating the necessary dynamics for sound and realistic change. The penitential dimension of fasting and prayer will help us as God’s People to come before the Lord and our wounded brothers and sisters as sinners imploring forgiveness and the grace of shame and conversion. In this way, we will come up with actions that can generate resources attuned to the Gospel. For “whenever we make the effort to return to the source and to recover the original freshness of the Gospel, new avenues arise, new paths of creativity open up, with different forms of expression, more eloquent signs and words with new meaning for today’s world” (Evangelii Gaudium, 11).

It is essential that we, as a Church, be able to acknowledge and condemn, with sorrow and shame, the atrocities perpetrated by consecrated persons, clerics, and all those entrusted with the mission of watching over and caring for those most vulnerable. Let us beg forgiveness for our own sins and the sins of others. An awareness of sin helps us to acknowledge the errors, the crimes and the wounds caused in the past and allows us, in the present, to be more open and committed along a journey of renewed conversion.

Likewise, penance and prayer will help us to open our eyes and our hearts to other people’s sufferings and to overcome the thirst for power and possessions that are so often the root of those evils. May fasting and prayer open our ears to the hushed pain felt by children, young people and the disabled. A fasting that can make us hunger and thirst for justice and impel us to walk in the truth, supporting all the judicial measures that may be necessary. A fasting that shakes us up and leads us to be committed in truth and charity with all men and women of good will, and with society in general, to combatting all forms of the abuse of power, sexual abuse and the abuse of conscience.

In this way, we can show clearly our calling to be “a sign and instrument of communion with God and of the unity of the entire human race” (Lumen Gentium, 1).

If one member suffers, all suffer together with it”, said Saint Paul. By an attitude of prayer and penance, we will become attuned as individuals and as a community to this exhortation, so that we may grow in the gift of compassion, in justice, prevention and reparation. Mary chose to stand at the foot of her Son’s cross. She did so unhesitatingly, standing firmly by Jesus’ side. In this way, she reveals the way she lived her entire life. When we experience the desolation caused by these ecclesial wounds, we will do well, with Mary, “to insist more upon prayer”, seeking to grow all the more in love and fidelity to the Church (SAINT IGNATIUS OF LOYOLA, Spiritual Exercises, 319). She, the first of the disciples, teaches all of us as disciples how we are to halt before the sufferings of the innocent, without excuses or cowardice. To look to Mary is to discover the model of a true follower of Christ.

May the Holy Spirit grant us the grace of conversion and the interior anointing needed to express before these crimes of abuse our compunction and our resolve courageously to combat them.

Vatican City, 20 August 2018

FRANCIS

 

Why We Need Science

By Anthony Egan SJ

Let us consider today a community, once heavily persecuted but now the establishment; a community of contemplation and action on behalf of humanity, driven by flashes of insight backed up by systematic hard work; a community that has sought the good – and sometimes made terrible mistakes.

No, not Christians or any other faith, but scientists.

The scientific method – hypothesis, experimentation, verification etc. – has become the default way of generating knowledge and new technologies.

Despite unfortunate by-products like nuclear weapons, science has made our world a better, safer place overall. Many political observers even note that it may be that the existence of nukes prevented a third world war. Scientific advances in medicine, even in the poorest countries, has dramatically reduced infant mortality, eliminated killer diseases like smallpox and drastically limited the lethality of others.

Of course there have been unintended consequences: rapidly rising population and degradation of the environment by pollution-inducing technologies causing climate change. Yet here too, the scientific method’s inbuilt commitment to revisiting hypotheses and self-correction have offered ways to address these crises.

So why do many religious communities resist science or treat it with suspicion?

First there is the claim that scientist are ‘playing God’, manipulating the natural world in their own image. But everyone plays God: every time one takes a headache tablet, goes for a winter flu jab, plants crops in an area where they don’t grow naturally, to name but a few. If we are to be consistent we should do nothing: become migratory hunter-gatherers. And die young and hungry.

Second, there is the claim that science has gone too far, that it is out of control. Whose control? And by what criteria should we judge too far? Scientists set controls. No respectable research is done these days without ethics clearances, the latter obtained after systematic, careful and often tedious review by peers and representatives of the wider community, subject to state and international laws.

Third, one hears that science is anti-religion, Godless. This is partly true: though many scientists have personal religious beliefs, the scientific method holds to no religious creed because its primary concern is exploration of the natural, material world. Many scientists, including believing scientists, object to religious people giving supernatural ‘answers’ to questions that short-circuit or deny research-based evidence.

I don’t blame them. We in the religious community need to look to our theologies to see what has gone wrong. Science blossomed in medieval Muslim cultures and in many eras of Christian Europe. It only broke down (and then only in parts) when religion lost its political dominance. Secular governance and the scientific method fed off each other. Religions struggled to come to terms with this. Fundamentalism is its tragic result.

Instead of retreating into condemnations of science, religions need to engage with science and with their own theologies. On the latter we should ask ourselves how far our doctrines are framed in pre-scientific language and need updating or revision.

I honestly don’t see how we can avoid this if we are to survive in the Third Millennium.

Archbishop’s Homily at the Bicentennial Mass

Read Archbishop Stephen Brislin’s homily at the Bicentennial Mass.

Remember the past with gratitude, live the present with enthusiasm, and look forward to the future with confidence. These words of St Pope John Paul II have provided the framework for our bicentennial celebrations over the past year. We have recalled the past with gratitude, we have recalled especially the Religious Congregations who came to southern Africa and who are responsible for establishing the Church throughout the region. But we have also not forgotten the ordinary men and women who, over the past two centuries, have sacrificed so much, and with such generosity, that we can rejoice today in the faith that has been handed on to us.

As we bring to a close this year of celebration, it is appropriate now to look to the future – not only to look to future but, as the Pope says, to do so with confidence. The baton of faith is in our hands, we are entrusted not only with our faith but with the faith of future generations. We bear the responsibility not only for the present, but for the future. As we turn to the future St John the Baptist provides an example for us. At the time of his birth, people asked “what then will this child be?”. The question we have in our hearts “what does the future hold?” We are all too aware the rapid and confusing changes in the world and the Church, and so perhaps that question does not inspire much confidence or hope within us. The very foundations of our faith and values seems to have slipped from beneath us – even in our own families we experience this divergence from what we believe. For some, the words of the first reading might resonate in their hearts “I have toiled in vain, and for nothing, uselessly spent my strength”.

But knowing we are entrusted with the baton of the faith another question arises – it is the same question many asked John the Baptist when he was baptizing in the river Jordan. They went to him and asked “what must we do?”. Given the complexities and confusion of our times, we to ask: what must we do?

The life of St John the Baptist points to the answer. St John the Evangelist, writes of him in his Gospel: “He came for testimony, to bear witness to the light, that all might believe through him. He was not the light, but came to bear witness to the light” (Jn 1:8). Our mission is to bear witness in the world, to be the light of the world as commanded by Jesus himself when he said to his disciples You are the light of the world (Mt 5:14), resonating the mission given to the people of Israel in the First reading of today’s Mass: “I will make you a light to the nations that my salvation may reach the ends of the earth”. We share in this magnificent vocation, a calling that is given to us in baptism. We are not the true light but, like John, a witness to that light. The Light is Christ. The early Fathers compared our light with that of the moon which reflects the light of the sun. So we are meant to reflect the true light, Christ the Lord.

On the one hand we have this illustrious and humbling mission. On the other, it is difficult for some to embrace it with confidence, as they encounter so many changes. Fundamental Christian values are not only questioned but dismissed. Those we love question or even reject religious belief and practice. This dent to our confidence and self-esteem is the result of four major reasons.

(a) Secularization: Religion,especially in the West, has lost its social and cultural significance. The role of religion in modern societies has become restricted, faith lacks cultural authority, religious organizations have little social power, and public life proceeds without reference to the supernatural. i The practice of religion is tolerated but is viewed as a private affair that should not impinge on the public domain. Faith is ultimately considered subject to secular law, even in areas of moral teaching.

(b) The Abuse cases: The number of cases of child abuse by Catholic clergy and others, as well as the bad-handling of a number of those cases, has caused a deep lack of confidence in Church authority and has weakened faith. Rightly, we experience deep shame as a result of what has happened. We know that this has happened due to human weakness and that it does not mean that faith is wrong or that it is not the true faith. But a consequence of the abuse cases is disillusionment and insecurity.

(c) Divisions within the Church: The Church is, and always has been, diverse. This is a blessing and richness from God – we are many parts, but one body, united by faith in Christ. But the aggressive adherence and promotion of ideologies, even within the Church, is divisive and tears people apart.

(d) Advances of science and technology: The rapidity of scientific and technological advances potentially gives rise to feelings of incompetence the we are not qualified to address pertinent issues that impact on people and society.

The problem with losing confidence in our faith or our mission, even if we know the reasons for it, is that it can lead to a siege mentality. We are tempted to seek security by remaining among like-minded people conversing and dialoging among them, fearing to go beyond what is comfortable. It may cause us to idealize the past, believing in “golden era” of our faith which we should try and re-capture. This is a foolish endeavour since we live in the world of here and now with all its present problems, mentality and attitudes. Of course we must remember and learn from the past, but we can never turn back. We can only look to the future and embrace the challenge to be the light of the world and a light to the nations. The words of author of the Book of Hebrews captures the sentiment we require: “But we are not among those who shrink back and so are lost, but among those who have faith and so are saved” (Heb 10:39). We need to regain our confidence in the mission of the Church and what God expects of us.

In his book The Shape of the Church to Come, written in the early 1970’s, the famous Jesuit theologian, Karl Rahner, made a prediction about the future. He suggested that the Church will become the “little flock”, diminished in numbers. He says, “We are a little flock in society and we shall become a much smaller flock, since the erosion of the preconditions of a Christian society within the secular society still continues and thus takes away the ground more and more from traditional Christianity”. But his conclusion is more important than his prediction. He says that the only defense that will lead to success in promoting the Christian faith is a missionary offensive – in the words of the last three Popes – a New Evangelization. The missionary era of the Church is not over and never will be until the Kingdom of God is brought to perfection. Mission is integral to what it mean to be Church. The nature of mission may be different from what it was 200 years ago, its shape may have changed, but it is part and parcel of what it means to be Church.

And so, perhaps the first step of regaining our confidence in the future is to recognize that the Church is and always will be, “the little flock”, not necessarily in terms of numbers but for the mere fact that we do not have, nor should we have, political, economic or military power. We depend only on the strength of God and thus we need, as our first step to being the light of the world, to re-affirm our faith in Christ’s abiding presence, to re-affirm our belief in his message and to acknowledge that he has chosen us as his instruments. St Mother Teresa says that we are like the power lines running alongside the streets. “Unless the current flows through them there is not light. The power line is you and me, the current is God. We have the power to allow the current to flow through us and thus to generate the light of the world – Jesus. Or to refuse to be used and thus allow the darkness to spread.” We may feel the insecurity of a decline in numbers of practising Catholics in some countries. But as another famous Jesuit theologian and mystic, Urs Von Balthasar, said “the Church does not dispense the sacrament of Baptism in order to acquire for herself an increase in membership but in order to consecrate a human being to God and to communicate to that person the divine gift of birth from God”. The numbers are not the most important thing, those willing to accept their baptismal consecration to God is what counts.

So what must we do?

Firstly, to express our willingness to be Christ’s instruments, to be the “moon” reflecting his light, by focussing our lives on Christ and submitting ourselves to his commandments and to his will. The commandments are not out of date, Scripture is the living Word of God speaking to us at all times – it cannot be relegated to the past or interpreted as being for a specific culture, as some would have.

Secondly, not to succumb to the attempts to “privatize” religion, wittingly or unwittingly, or allow ourselves to neglect the mission that we have been given “to the world”, not to be intimidated by the so-called progress. Pope Benedict XVI has said: “Many scientists in our times say that the universe has to come from something; that we should look at this question again. At the same time, people are acknowledging a new understanding or religion, not just as an ancient, mythological reality but as something as having an inner relation with the Logos”. In the words of Mother Teresa, to allow the current to flow through us and so light up the world.

Thirdly, to be compassionate to people in their struggles. Despite all the changes in the world, people are still searching for meaning and seeking the purpose of life. The superficial image of self-sufficiency and self-reliance is deceptive. Many are struggling to make sense of their lives. Pope Francis has pointed out that many are afflicted by loneliness and isolation, especially in the anonymity of city life. People are thirsting and hungering for truth, for compassion and for mercy.

Fourthly, we know that the greatest gift the Church has to offer humanity is salvation. But it is also that we have something to offer that makes the world more human, just and caring. In the words of Cardinal Murphy O’Connor: “The Church has a perspective and a wisdom which our society cannot afford to exclude or silence. The Church’s teaching has the whole human good in mind; that is why it is not simply one lobby group among others”ii. I will name just three examples:

The first is our fundamental belief in the dignity and sanctity of life – whether the life of a strong healthy young person, a mentally challenged person, a person who lives on the street, one who is at the end of his/her life, or life in the womb. Each person is made in the image of God, and thus no person should be exploited or enslaved, demeaned or derided. Each has a place and it is incumbent on all to respect life and for those in authority to protect it.

The second is the economy. The Church does not offer a blueprint on economic practice but does argue that the economy is at the service of people, rather than people at the service of the economy. No person should be treated as a commodity, the economy must operate within a moral framework and must advance the common good and provide opportunity for all.

The third is the profound and beautiful teaching that the Church has on marriage and family. We cannot be fulfilled as persons without others. The family is the foundation of society and consistently, people express the importance of family in their own experience. Yet, we live in a era of experimentation with the meaning and structures of marriage and family.iii The undermining of the concept of marriage as a life-long commitment of fidelity between a man and woman, open to the transmission of life, threatens human flourishing by denying a fundamental good of society.

We have no reason to be ashamed of our faith – it is the way to life and salvation. We have no rieason to shrink back or allow ourselves to be intimidated by what we perceive to be an indifferent, hostile or frightening world. We do not succumb to being blown in the wind like a feather, going this way and that way, in order to accommodate what seems to be an insatiable desire in the modern world for novelty and sensationalism. We do not retreat into a laager, seeking a comfortable space for ourselves. We do not dream of a mythological “golden era” of the Church and try to re-capture something that, in fact, never existed. As much as we may feel that we are like a voice crying in the wilderness, even that we may have laboured in vain – we have faith that God is still at work in the world, that his Kingdom is indeed like the mustard seed, tiny but steadily growing into the biggest bush of all; that God’s presence in the world is like the gentle breeze in which Elijah recognized God’s presence, not in the noisy sensational mighty wind, earthquake or fire. Our trust is in the Cross of Christ and so we proclaim the message of repentance, calling people to conversion.

Negativity and pessimism are the greatest enemies we have to face. The homilist at the Youth Day Mass last week made a brilliant point: he asked the young people whether a ship sinks because of the water around it. Of course it does not. It sinks because of the water that gets into it. While we remain realistic and with our feet on the ground, our faith brings hope and we can never allow pessimism to destroy those most important gifts of hope and belief.

Last Friday, a group of us bishops were walking down the hustle and bustle of Plein Street towards the Chancery, talking among ourselves. A shop keeper called to us. He said: Fathers, why are you walking stooped with your faces down. Lift your faces, you are men of God”. His words are reminiscent of those of Jesus who said that when we see “these things happen”, stand up and lift up your heads. We lift our faces and look to the future, confident but not arrogant, filled with hope not despair, focussed on Jesus Christ not on pessimism, always committed to keeping the commandments and walking in his ways, repentant, active in love for God and neighbour, affirming our belief in the reality of beauty, goodness and truth. For God has created what is beautiful, good and true; amidst the scars and distortions caused by humans, we neglect to recognize that beauty. But when we look beyond the surface, we recognize God’s hand in the unfolding history of the world and we encounter Christ our Saviour.

And so we face the future with confidence. We turn to Our Lady Assumed into Heaven, Patroness of Southern Africa, and we seek her protection and intercession. She who points us always to her Son Jesus, will never desert us. With her loving kindness and gentleness she will show us the way to continue to be the missionaries that her Son has called us to be, to continue to witness and proclaim the faith, and to always see beyond, recognizing the goodness that still holds sway in the world.

ihttp://sociology.emory.edu/home/documents/profiles-documents/lechner-secularization.pdf

iiCardinal Murphy-O’Connor: Gaudium et Spes – The shape of the Church past, present and to come… 27th February 2009

iiiIbid.

Statement on Malmesbury Mosque attack

On behalf of the Catholic Bishops of Southern Africa, and the Catholic Church, we wish to express our deep shock and abhorrence of the recent atrocity at the Malmesbury Mosque. We offer condolences to the families of those who lost their lives in this brutal attack and pray that the Almighty will give them comfort and consolation. We also pray that the community of the Malmesbury Mosque who have been traumatized by the violation of a sacred space will receive strength and solace.

A month has passed since the attack on the Mosque near Verulam and we encourage the Police Services to continue working tirelessly to bring the perpetrators to book. Although the circumstances of the Malmesbury attack appear to be different from that of Verulam, nonetheless there needs to be a full investigation as to the motivation of both attacks.

As faith leaders we will continue to maintain the mutual respect and acceptance among different faiths in this country. We will not allow those with sinister motives to set one faith against another, nor to exacerbate tension within faith groups. We appeal to all South Africans to express their unconditional respect for human life and their commitment to work for peace.

+Stephen Brislin

President: Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference

15 June 2018

Allowing God to be God

By Russell Pollitt SJ

God’s silence in the midst of life’s chaos is often a haunting reality. How many times do we wonder why God, when we feel at our most vulnerable, seems to shut the heavens and retreat into a disturbing silence? I read something recently which, against the backdrop of tragedy, I want to rehash, as some things need to be said over and over and over again.

We feel the apparent absence of God more acutely when tragedy overwhelms us, death strikes the unexpected, the world around us seems hopeless or when we are confronted with the insignificance of our lives in the greater scheme of things. Guilt may gnaw at us because we know that we have got it horribly wrong and are now powerless to put it right. When these things happen, we feel abandoned by God, and, in the midst of our vulnerability, might even want to blame or curse God.

Mother Teresa of Calcutta’s diaries (made public after her death) revealed a sobering truth that shocked many people: during the last sixty years of her life, she questioned God’s existence and had no affective experience of either the person or the existence of God. Despite this, everything in her life appeared to be focussed on and committed to God. She was selfless, altruistic and devout. She was a world icon for ‘proof’ that God existed, for faith. She was a quintessential modern saint – few dared dispute that.

Some might accuse Mother Teresa of being dishonest or incongruent. But let’s consider this. Her feeling or sense of God’s absence and the way she chose to live her life are not opposed to each other. Mother Teresa, because she had no affective or personal experience of God, could not manipulate God to fit her needs or vision. She could not control God. She received God on God’s terms, not hers. The initiative was with God. She allowed God to be God.

Often we are led to believe that having a strong sense or feeling of God’s reality and action in our lives indicates robust faith. When confronted with those who struggle with faith and/or belief – especially in our most vulnerable moments – we are always tempted to say things like “this was God’s plan” or “just have faith”. Although, no doubt, said in sincerity, what these very often reveal is an ego or manipulation of God (and religion) for our own benefit. We need to guard against creating God in our own image and likeness and using that image to further our own interests or impose our feelings or worldview on God.

When we are powerless to manipulate our own image or experience of God, or use God for our own benefit, it is then that God can act on God’s terms. We simply don’t like that because we cannot resist manipulating religious experience and faith to make it work for ourselves. Despite convention, God’s seeming absence in the midst of life’s chaos or when we are at our most vulnerable, may just be God putting a stop to our all too arrogant egos. Paradoxically, God’s absence might just be the most pure moment we encounter God: on God’s terms.

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