On Wednesday morning, 05 August 2022, the bishops of the SACBC discussed a possible establishment of a body that might be called the SACBC Missionary Commission which would fall under the SACBC Council for Evangelisation.
This commission would represent the missionary dimension and concern itself with mission outreach, mission practice and promotion. It’s specific aim in the conference would be to create a greater awareness of the missionary mandate of all the baptised and also helping with the implementation of the SACBC Pastoral plan. This body will somehow develop an environment under which the Pontifical Mission Society (PMS) will also be able to bring out especially the spiritual aspect of the PMS as opposed to only the more known side concerning finances.
The discussion on the missionary commission was followed by another deliberation of the mission on education with the bishops’ sights set on their future vision on entities like St. John Vianney Seminary and LUMKO. It was a discussion mainly on how they envision the national seminary taking shape in the future in terms of how it is going to function going forward. The discussions about the future of the seminary are work in progress but there are great possibilities that in the future it will take a very different shape from how it is currently functioning. One of the future possibilities are separating academic formation from human, spiritual and pastoral formation in terms of offering them at different separate places. Once the bishops have figured out the minor details of this in the future it shall be communicated.
There was also a moment in the morning session given to the bishops of Eswatini and Botswana to give an update to the conference on the current social, economic and political situation in their countries. Among some of the things highlighted by the Bishop Jose Ponce de Leon of Manzini is that at the moment, “It is a type of an uncertainty, we don’t know where we are, we don’t know what is going to happen.” The bishop said it seems the goal of the government is to reach the 2023 elections without doing any changes. Bishop Ponce de Leon said at the moment Eswatini has a low-key violence and the opposition groups are currently quiet, and so basically it is a situation of wait and see. Turning his focus to the faithful the Bishop of Manzini said Catholics need to start being vocal on matters that require comments from the Church because they too, together with the bishop are the church, not just the bishop. He suggested that individuals and groups within the Church need to start projecting their voices into the public squares concerning the affairs of the country.
From Botswana Archbishop Nubuasah spoke about the political situation of the conflict between the current and the former president, who is now exiled in South Africa. He mentioned that politically the opposition party is getting weaker everyday because everyone wants to be a presidential candidate. He said the projections are that the current government will win again even though they are weakened themselves. Bishop Anthony Rebello of Francistown spoke about the immigration problems they have encountered recently but eventually Archbishop Nubuasah and government officials managed to sort out the problem. The challenge there was that it was taking a very long time for people to get visas, but now they are given much quicker. Another challenge that was raised with that due to covid restrictions it was impossible to have access to the detention centre which has about 650 people with no legal documents. But now the detention centre is open. The need to go to the detention centre is there because they need to help with the proper documentation for the release of the detainees.
The open session ended in the afternoon with a slot to discuss the future of the National Professional Conduct Committee of which Fr. Michael Lewis SJ made a presentation to the bishops. He spoke about the present challenges and a need for a further rollout and implementation of Diocesan Child Safeguarding Policies, training of parish and deanary structures and the promotion of safe environments. He also touched on the promotion of professional conduct amongst the clergy and religious and other proposals.