“What a moment to be here physically after a long time as a conference”, said Bishop João Rodrigues, the Bishop of Tzaneen, in the opening words of his homily during the opening Mass of the Plenary Session. The plenary is taking place at St. John Vianney Seminary in Pretoria, the same place where the bishops last met physically for a plenary meeting back in January 2020.
“Quite a pleasant return to this plenary session here at John Vianney Seminary,” said Bishop Rodrigues. He added that it is an opportunity for bishops in the grace of the Holy Spirit to see how God has given them this time to come together physical as opposed to what they have been doing the previous meetings.
In this Mass, presided by Bishop Sithembele Sipuka, the SACBC President, in which the Mass of the Holy Spirit was celebrated Bishop Rodrigues acknowledged the inclusion of the prayer to the Holy Spirit as the closing prayer of the prayers of the faithful noting its importance as the Church journeys through the process of the Synod to end in 2023.
Relating the prayer to the reading at the Mass the bishop said the letter to the Philippians “exhorts us to have the same love in the Spirit but also the same mind, the sort of unity and mindset that we are called to sense that we have the same mind as a group, especially bishops, as leaders of the Church, which is really the fruit of the Holy Spirit.”
The Bishop of Tzaneen said there’s a need to admit that we live in a very disordered world. He noted still with dismay the shocking looting that took place in South Africa in July 2021, “I was shocked when there was that looting. I could not believe that such a thing was happening in our country so quickly.” He pointed out that division and disorder is not the fact that people have differences, but that the problem is when these differences are used as the points for division rather than being aware that there is greater unity that is much more powerful amongst them. “The communion of God that binds us is so powerful than the differences that tempt us towards division and disorder,” advised Bishop Rodrigues.
The bishop also touched on the theme of the Synod, communion, participation and mission, “the prayer to the Spirit is a prayer asking the Spirit to help us to participate in a way that we can be able to receive the complete truth.” Noting also the part of the prayer that speaks about partiality the bishop said partiality is part of our problem as it can be seen in heresies. “Heresy is when we pick and choose the truth we want, and we deny the other truths.” Still on the prayer he said the prayer to the Holy Spirit is that “we must have the whole truth and act according that whole truth without partiality which leads us to make wrong decisions.”
The bishop said this participation should extent even to their meetings where they should share with one another and so not hear from one and the same people always. He remarked that they need to know what everyone has to say about the matters they are discussing. Also, that they should pray that the Spirit help them to have the desire to want to listen to what other brothers have to say on what they are discussing. “That we don’t only want to be heard, but we also want to hear others,” added the bishop.
The two aspects Bishop Rodrigues emphasized ending his homily was, “asking the Spirit to help us understand that our communion is much more powerful than what divides us. Our voices need to be heard that the Spirit speaks through each and everyone of us.”
It is in this plenary session that the new troika will be elected. The elections of the President and his two vice presidents was supposed to have taken place in the plenary session of August 2021 but due to the inconveniences of having to elect online the elections were postponed to this current plenary session. The plenary will end on the 25 January 2022.