IMBISA Theological Reflections on Synodal Process to be Published in New Book

From webinars to book publishing: editorial policy and process in a Synodal Church

Catholic Theologians from the Inter-Regional Meeting of the Bishops of Southern Africa (IMBISA) met at the Europrime Hotel Conference centre in Boksburg, South Africa for the concluding workshop of virtual theological reflections.

In his opening remarks, the recently elected IMBISA Secretariat Director Fr Rafael Baciano Sapato gave a summary of IMBISA, its origins, and objectives. Fr. Sapato further said the intention of the meeting was to “discuss and draw a conclusion of the eight theological reflections that were done virtually by different theologians in the region”, to publish the reflections.

As per the request of the previous leadership of IMBISA, throughout 2022 Catholic Religious and Lay theologians held eight ‘Virtual Theological Sessions’ on the Synodal process. From Tuesday, November 8-11 theologians from Angola, Botswana, Eswatini, Mozambique, Namibia, São Tomé and Principe, South Africa, and Zimbabwe worked on the final IMBISA synthesis on the Synodal process that will be submitted to SECAM for the continental synodal synthesis.

The four-day workshop under the theme ‘From webinars to book publishing: editorial policy and process in a Synodal Church’, was moderated by Pauline Sister Olga Massango gave an in-depth presentation on book publication

Auxiliary Bishop of Pretoria Archdiocese John Selemela says the IMBISA synodal synthesis should prioritize “formation of lay people in general because it is an issue that affects the whole notion of culture, how people leave and interact with one another and also their reflection on the issues of the local Church that affect the local Church like justice and peace.”

“And also issues of migration come into that, which would be another point that I would put as an urgent kind of topic that needs to be prioritized because we do have issues in our country on migration, but we have issues also on poverty, issues also on gender-based violence which pertains to the issue of justice”, he adds.

For Bishop Selemela all the above-mentioned should be put “under the umbrella of formation of lay people.” “Whether you talk about formation in the area of faith but also formation in the area of conscience but also formation in the area of social living and interaction and this would be what I would prioritize”, says Bishop Selemela.

During the four-day workshop, IMBISA Theologians also underscored the “publishing of theological reflections” as the region lags in comparison to other regional bodies in Africa.

South African Theologian Fr. Enrico Parry of Oudtshoorn Diocese says the eight theological reflections should be published “because we in Southern Africa in terms of the theologians and so on, we don’t have a good record of publishing while our mates up in the other parts of the continent already have a fixed track record, which we don’t have and we need to start seriously to lay the foundation for those younger than us to come after us and then to have a house or houses which they can go to have their work published.”

Meanwhile, Namibian Theologian Fr Werner Afunde says that it’s important that the final Synodal document reflects the voices of the Church in Africa, because based on past experiences “there have been contributions from Africa, but in the final analysis, sometimes there was not much really on Africa… I expect that this could be the beginning of reading the signs of the time and where the Holy Spirit is communicating to the faithful.”

South African Theologian Dr. Nontando Hadebe whose “commitment is to ensure that women’s voices” and voices of the marginalized are included says IMBISA Theologians must “ensure that the lived concrete experiences of people are reflected, that the lived experiences of women who have an experience of some of the teachings of the Church not being lifegiving for them, like divorced women or single mothers or LGTBQ women.”

She adds, “It’s so important that in the synthesis those voices come out. As theologians, we’ve been reflecting for years, but now this space needs to be opened up for those voices to be heard, and there the different themes that are being tackled by the theologians, I think, will be an opportunity to raise those issues, and I hope that even when history books are written, it can be said that the Synod opened the gates for all to speak in the church.”

The IMBISA Theologians who participated in the virtual theological reflections have until 31 January 2023 to edit. Topics covered during the virtual theological reflections were:

Co-Responsible in Mission. (Bishop John Selemela, SABC)

Church-Family and the Pastoral Care of “Single Mothers.” (Fr. Rafael Sapato IMBISA Secretariat)

A Description of Syn-Hodos in some Ecumenical relations of the Diocese of Oudtshoorn. (Fr. Enrico Parry, SABC)

The Synodal Journey of the Diocese of Benguela (1997-2002) in the light of the Synod (2021-2023). (P. Jose Brinco CEAST)

Where is your (Sister)? God asked women’s voices and the 2023 Synod. (Dr Nontando Hadebe, SABC)

The fellow Travellers, Borders, Migration, and Identities: Foreigners or Tourists? (Sr Ester Lucas, CEM)

Listening with open minds and Heart: The Contribution of the African Palaver to the Process of Preparing the Synod on Synodality. (Fr Jose Joaquim Comboni Missionary – Mozambique)

Wiwanana’s virtue (Listening to oneself) is the path of the Communion Church. (Celestino Victor Mussomar).



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