The third day of the plenary of the SACBC, 19 January, started with a report by Archbishop Stephen Brislin from the Vision Committee which was tasked in the August Plenary session to research the possibility of establishing a Pontifical Academic Institution in the future. The report was well received and it has shown that there’s a lot of work to be done if that is the direction the Bishops’ Conference decide to take.
The next steps of the Synod on Synodality was also part of the discussions in the morning. The celebration of the Continental Synod Assembly will take place at Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, from 1st to 6th of March 2023. Before that celebration the SACBC will have participated in answering some of the questions that accompanies the Document for the Continental Stage (DCS). The DCS is an important document on its own. It is the Vatican’s interpretation of the data which was collated from the episcopal conference and it will be the focus of the seven continental meetings which should take place in the next few months, starting this January. This DCS serves as a preparatory document for the instrumentum laboris (or working paper) that participants will discuss and debate at the October 2023 Synod.
The three questions given in order to assist in further discernment are:
- After having read and prayed with the DCS, which intuitions resonate most strongly with the lived experiences and realities of the Church in your continent? Which experiences are new or illuminating to you?
- What substantial tensions or divergences emerge as particularly important in your continent’s perspective? Consequently, what are the questions or issues that should be addressed and considered in the next steps of the process?
- Looking at what emerges from the previous two questions, what are the priorities, recurring themes, and calls to action that can be shared with other local Churches around the world and discussed during the First Session of the Synodal Assembly in October 2023?
The bishops also took a moment to deal with matters arising from the opening address which was given by the President of the SACBC Bishop Sithembele Sipuka on the second day of the plenary session. Among the main matters discussed was the issue of the poor’s hand in criminal activities as well as the challenge of social cohesion among different races within the Church in the Conference area.
The bishops also received with great appreciation the latest report on Ubungoma research presented by Fr. Thulani Skhosana from the SACBC’s Department for Christian Formation, Liturgy and Culture. The report focused on what has been covered so far and what still needs to be done. Fr. Skhosana also mentioned the challenges encountered and proposed a way forward. The aim of the research is to help the bishops of the conference to understand more this growing phenomenon of Ubungoma to help them further guide how to deal with this as people of faith.
On Friday, 20th January, there will be a presentation of the reports from the seminaries and also from the Southern African Council of Priests. The Land Expropriation
Bill, economy, Zondo Commission, and Campaign for Electoral Reform will are also on the agenda of the day.