Thoughts on a week that was. The leaders and the Led

Feb 19, 2020

Last week it was the SONA that drew the attention of South Africans. A distracting question had been  ‘Were the EFF going to disrupt proceedings?  Were they going to be allowed to do so?   Is disruption an acceptable response when one doesn’t like something and wants to make oneself heard?”  As it happened there was a more mature response and in spite of an hour’s delay the president was able to present his address.  It was generally well received as presenting a vision of progress on the many issues facing the country but is of course to be implemented. It has been said that the presence of Miss Universe and the 2019 World Cup rugby captain stole the show. One up for the leaders and clever PR work.

In a different domain the Catholic Church worldwide responded to the eagerly awaited release by Pope Francis of his exhortation after the 2019 Amazon Synod.  QUERIDA AMAZONIA contains his personal views but no ground-breaking decisions. Different schools of thought found fault with the fact that no answer was provided to the questions about married priests and women ordained to the diaconate which had been part of the final recommendations towards meeting the needs of the local churches.   A  meaningful comment presented in an article in National Catholic Recorder stated that the Pope did choose to mention the matter, but it is one for ongoing discernment.  He chose to move in the direction of greater synodality, meaning that he is moving away from making such decisions as the Pope, or even in the usual clerical way, but rather is open to discernment more widely by the whole Church.  He himself, though, chose to make the urgent and drastic environmental concerns in the Amazon region his main focus, following up from his 2015 encyclical Laudato Si on The Care for our Common Home.

Back in South African and Africa. South Africa is taking over the chairmanship of the African Union for the year. President Cyril Ramaphosa is reported to be promotion of women one of his objectives with climate change further down the priority list.

The ordination of Ugandan born bishop Joseph Kizito as shepherd of the diocese of Aliwal which I attended was a grand occasion for the small rural diocese  in the northern Cape. The approximately 4000 people who attended the main ceremony included many of the SACBC local bishops, hundreds of priests and religious, some 1000s of laity mainly local,  from around South Africa and a sizeable contingent from Uganda which included 3 bishops and members of the new bishop’s family.  Each of the various ceremonies and rites were beautifully conducted in true traditional clerical form. Inculturation and the need for true Catholic worship were subjects in some of the homilies. A personal question for me is, “Where were women, and where were the laity who play a leading role in the diocese as they lead the Small Christian Communities. These had been especifically visible at the last Aliwal bishop’s ordination. Could it be that this is still very much an open matter as Pope Francis noted too in his Amazonian letter in the subchapter titled “The strength and gift of women.” Will a new vision of the Church’s structures be envisaged in time?

This (the strength and gift of women)  summons us to broaden our vision, lest we restrict our understanding of the Church to her functional structures. That would lead us to believe that women would be granted a greater status and participation in the Church only if they were admitted to Holy Orders. But that approach would in fact narrow our vision; it would lead us to clericalize women, diminish the great value of what they have already accomplished, and subtly make their indispensable contribution less effective.  Without women, the Church breaks down, and how many communities in the Amazon would have collapsed, had women not been there to sustain them, keep them together and care for them. This shows the kind of power that is typically theirs.”    Makes one think!  TR Family Weekly 19 February 2020

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