The second "Meeting of Bishops President of Episcopal Conferences and Presidents of Caritas in Africa" (Dakar, Senegal) was opened this morning with Mass presided by Cardinal Tagle. Here are some notes from his homily.

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All today's readings (1 Timothy 2:1-8 & Luke 7:1-10) speak about prayer. Intercessory prayer. Praying for one another. 

We need to realize we are interconnected, even before the label globalization or networking become famous. We are one humanity. What happens in one part of the world affects the others and, if for good or for ill, we affect one another, imagine the power of praying for one another!

When one person connects with God, the rest of humanity and creation also goes to God. 

In the first reading we are asked to pray for everyone, for those in authority, for kings and queens. As we get involved in works of service, let us accompany our work with prayer. 

Most of us had the experience of, having done what is humanly possible, all the negotiations and all the diplomatic skills have been used, we then still say "we pray to the Lord...!" 

The second thing is: Jesus invites us to pray with "faith". Very often we pray with memorized prayers. We get used to repeat them without having anymore that investment of the heart which the centurion had. The centurion, who was an outsider, believed in the power of Jesus: "just say a word"... "I believe in the power of your Word"! May our prayer be a prayer of faith.  As we pray together and for one another, let us do it with faith.

Finally, St Paul invites us to pray for those in authority. The centurion addresses Jesus as Lord. One of the most subversive things Christianity brought into the world is the proclamation that Jesus is Lord. This means telling those in authority "you are not the Lord". It is really surprising that human authorities still tolerate the Church, a Church that says "Jesus is Lord. You are not the one. We do not pray to you, we pray to the real Lord and we pray for you to the real Lord". 

How much we need to pray now for those who are in authority...! For those who think they are the Lord... but for us there is only one intercessor: Jesus. 

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(He then invited us to keep in our prayers the Rohingya people and the visit of Pope Francis both to Myanmar and Bangladesh in November)

The title of this post is taken from Proverbs 22:9

This morning we met at St Joseph's (Mzimpofu) to receive the donation of a stove and food from "Swazi Spa" (https://www.suninternational.com/royal-swazi-spa/). 

The stove was very much needed. The cost of electricity makes it unaffordable to use an electric one when you have to feed 200 boarders.

It was a short familiar gathering as the leading team at St Joseph's, some of the children, Fr Mazibuko  OSM (representing the Servants of Mary) and myself in the name of the Diocese of Manzini, welcomed the representatives from Swazi Spa.

I shared with them the famous saying that a country is judged by the way she cares about the most vulnerable people. It applies to any community and, I believe, to any business too. We are grateful for this. 

As Christians, though, we cannot but remember the familiar passage of Matthew 25... "I was hungry and you gave me food". Sometimes we fulfill it by giving food... sometimes by donating a stove making sure that the food is properly cooked!!! In every case, we see Jesus in these our brothers and sisters that have been entrusted to us.

We then moved to the kitchen to see the stove and take some photos together. 


As we were going there we were joined by a representative from SOS Children's Villages Swaziland (http://sos.org.sz) who was also coming to bring a donation of shoes for Ekululameni.

They have three villages in Swaziland, at Mbabane, Nhlangano and Siteki and they are being helped by different organizations. 

As they shared with us, once they had provided shoes to all their children under they care, they still remained with some which they felt should not just be stored when others are in need. That is why they thought of Ekululameni. 

They hope to be back soon and bring books and other donations.


We cannot but be grateful by the generosity of so many people and organizations "who has a generous eye" and keep all these children in their hearts.

On our side, we entrust them all daily in our prayers.


Children thanked with a song



It all started few weeks' ago. Members of the Sodality of St Anne asked to see me at short notice to present an idea: they wanted to organize a march against human trafficking in Mbabane

The main idea was to have a prayer day and create awareness about human trafficking in our country supporting government efforts in this regard. 

Through Caritas Swaziland, our diocese has always been interested in partnering with government and other forces in the country against the trafficking in persons. Together with the dimensions of awareness and prayer we would like to be of help to those who have been victims of this crime. 

Being so, I immediately indicated that it should be a diocesan event and not just a local one (for Mater Dolorosa Parish, Mbabane) or for members of the sodality. The diocesan commission for Justice and Peace came on board too.

Being July 30 the "World Day against Trafficking in Persons", it was suggested to have our event on August 5. Unfortunately I would not make it as I would be out of the country. 

We were deeply grateful for the agreement and support we received from government. We were just asked to change the date to August 26 (and that made it possible for me to be there). We would leave from Mater Dolorosa Parish and march in town to "Prince of Wales" where the prayer day and speeches would be held.

Though cold and cloudy we had a great attendance from all walks of life: government, army, police, Christian churches... confirming that no one can address this issue alone and how much this affects us all.

We hope and pray to remain committed as a Church in the fight against this crime. We entrust this journey to the intercession of St Bakhita:

St Bakhita, a daughter of Africa,
who, yourself, suffered
as a victim of Human Trafficking
we honor and praise your name.

We humbly implore
that through your intercession
we may be able to persevere
in our battle to overcome this
terrible evil of human trafficking,
experienced by so many in Africa
and indeed throughout the world.

We know, St Bakhita,
that victims of human trafficking
are close to your heart.
We pray that they may feel
the warmth of your loving care
and the presence of our Lord
in their time of suffering and despair.

We pray especially for their rescue
so that they may once again
live in the freedom of the children of God
Amen.

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Click on the photo below
for photos of the event

2017SZ_TIP

Saturday 26 August saw government, members of the police and the army, the US Embassy and the Catholic Church among others, coming together against Human Trafficking.

Below, my speech

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Your Excellency, the Honorable Prime Minister of Swaziland
Honourable Ministers 
The Ambassador of the United States of America 
Members of Both Houses of Parliament
Principal Secretaries
Regional Administrator 
National Commission of Police
Chief Executive Officer – Municipal Council of Mbabane
Head of the Department of Human Trafficking 
Distinguish Guests
Reverends Fathers and Sisters 
Matter Dolorosa Parish Pastoral Council 
Women of St. Ann’s Sodality
Programme Director
Royal Swaziland Police Choir and Catholic Heavenly Choir
Media Representatives
Brothers and Sisters in Christ

You might be all familiar with the parable of the Good Samaritan. A man on his way down from Jerusalem to Jericho falls into the hands of bandits who strip him, beat him and make off leaving him half dead. Three people pass and they all see him: a priest, a Levite, a Samaritan. Only one – though – has compassion.
The trafficking in persons that gathers us today is a crime like the one in the parable. The difference is that no one seems to see it. The crime seems to be “invisible”. The victims seem to be “invisible” too. We all talk about it. We all read and hear about it in our media, but no one sees it and therefore the victims risk not having any good Samaritan; and our youth and children remain deeply at risk.

Pope Francis says, “Human trafficking is an open wound on the body of contemporary society, a scourge upon the body of Christ. It is a crime against humanity”.1 The dignity of our people, the dignity of the children of God is being destroyed.
Pope Francis adds: “Human persons created in the image and likeness of God are deprived of their freedom, sold and reduced to being the property of others.” 2
We are here because we are the Body of Christ and that body is today being attacked and trafficked. Our dignity, destroyed.
But it is not just the dignity of those being trafficked that is destroyed. Cardinal Tagle who is Caritas International president once asked: “Do the traffickers see human beings in those they are exploiting?” ... “Where is the humanity of those who exploit other persons?”
We, the Church, cannot remain indifferent. Like the Good Samaritan we need to stop and address this crime which is hurting us all.


I believe our approach has at least four “P”:

Prevention
Prevention can only happen by tackling both supply and demand. It is common knowledge that “several factors increase the vulnerability of the child victims, namely endemic poverty, inadequate child protection, ignorance and cultural constraints”3 in the places trafficking victims originate.
We need to talk about it. We need to help our children and young people to believe it is real, it is ugly and cruel.

Protection
Protection of children requires the protection of families. Therefore, policies and programs must provide families with the essential tools to protect and nurture their children in situations of vulnerability. Decent housing, health-care and education are essential. We therefore renew our commitment at these levels through Caritas Swaziland, through our health facilities and schools

Partnership
I believe no one can address this crime alone. That is why we approached His Majesty's government to show our wish to join hands with government and with many others. Together with the elements of awareness, housing, health and education, we wished we could partner in the care of those who have been victims of trafficking so that they are not also victims again not being able to insert themselves back in their families and society.
All of us are needed because we all have different abilities and skills: governments, churches, social workers, police, doctors... A crime against humanity demands humanity to come together to stop it.

Prayer
February 8th is particularly significant for the Catholic Church. We celebrate the feast of Saint Josephine Bakhita, a Sister who was kidnapped and sold into slavery at a young age in Sudan. When she was freed, she chose to enter a religious order and spent the rest of her life helping the poor and the suffering. On this day Catholics all over the world join in prayer.
We believe in the power of prayer!
Let us all pray – not just on that day – for the many people who are denied their dignity, people with no voice, people who are enslaved; and let us also pray for those who raise awareness about this crime, for our families and particularly for our youth and children.

In December 2014, thirteen leaders signed a common declaration and encouraged other religious leaders to add their names. 
They said: 
“In the eyes of God each human being is a free person, whether girl, boy, woman or man, and is destined to exist for the good of all in equality and fraternity. Modern slavery in terms of human trafficking, forced labour and prostitution, organ trafficking and any relationship that fails to respect the fundamental conviction that all people are equal and have the same freedom and dignity, is a crime against humanity.”4 
May we all unite in this conviction that comes from our faith. May we all work together for the dignity of every person in the Kingdom of Swaziland and the world.

+ José Luis Ponce de León IMC
Bishop of Manzini



1. Address of Pope Francis to participants in the international conference on combating human trafficking - "Casina Pio IV ", Lecture Hall of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences - 10 April 2014

2. Message of His Holiness Pope Francis for the celebration of the World Day of Peace – 1 January 2015 - “No longer slaves but brothers and sisters”

3. Michael Czerny S.J. - Under-Secretary of the Migrants and Refugees Section: Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development – Speech at the 17th Alliance against Trafficking in Persons Conference “Trafficking in Children and the Best Interests of the Child” - Vienna, 3 April 2017

4. Casina Pio IV, 2 December 2014

Click on the photo below
for photos of the event (from Flickr)

2017SZ_TIP

Like every year, our diocese "pilgrims" to "Santissima Anunziata" (Florence) every year around the feast of Our Lady of Assumption, patroness of the diocese. 

In what has now become a "tradition", the official pilgrimage starts at 3 pm at Luve from where we walk 10 km to Florence. We did it for the first time in 2016 and we all felt it should become part of the yearly gathering.

The team led by Fr Dumisani Mazibuko OSM is to be praised for listening to the suggestions made after each pilgrimage in order to make improvements to the next one. We see the difference!

The march from Luve included this year the fifteen stations of the "Way of Light". The readers were excellent and together with the good quality of the sound system, we were able to pray each one of the stations during the way.

Initially a CD of Catholic Hymns was played for the journey but people signaled their intentions to lead the hymns themselves as we walked. It was so for the following three hours when we finally reached Florence.


As it has been done every year, our vigil at "Santissima Anunziata" started with the procession of the priests and bishop for the blessing of the water. Fr Mazibuko then helped us prepare to celebrate the sacrament of reconciliation. 

During the next three hours, many went for confession and queued to pray in front of the Blessed Sacrament. While praying, they would write down their special needs and place them in a box.

Being the prayer for the diocese one of the services of a bishop, we announced that I would be taking the prayers with me, read them all and keep them in the chapel at the bishop's house. It always makes a difference in my prayer when I am able to make my own the different prayers of our families.


During confessions Fr Sandile Mswane (Cathedral Administrator) spoke about "Mary and the Assumption" and Fr Pius Magagula (Christ the King Parish) on "Mary Mother of the family" presenting also the history of the "family desk" in our diocese.

Mass was celebrated at midnight and was followed - led by the youth - by the prayer of the rosary of the seven sorrows of Mary (walking outside though very cold!).

After remembering our departed brothers and sisters we concluded with a healing service with the anointing of everyone present.


We've been having plans to improve our pilgrimage site at Florence. We hope and pray to start implementing them soon: a grotto, a shade, a "way of mercy" and much more... We want "Santissima Anunziata" to be the "spiritual heart" of our diocese and not just a place where we go once a year. 

Click on the photo below 
for photos of the event

2017SZ_PilgrimageToFlorence

On Monday morning (21 August) the "Good Shepherd Nursing College" celebrated an opening Mass for the opening of the academic year. It was followed by a "lectio brevis" by Ms. Xolisile Dlamini on cancer burden in Swaziland. I was very happy to be there, much more when someone mentioned it might be the first time in history it is done. 

Below, my homily during Mass.

* * * * *

Transformed and sent by the Spirit

Let me tell you a personal story.

I was bishop in South Africa before being transferred as bishop of Manzini. Like I do here, I used to go around the area visiting our communities. During my visits I would meet young people finishing their high school. I would then ask them: what are you planning to do when you finish? Some would say: I would like to become a social worker. 

My answer was always the same: I do not like social workers. They would open their eyes big and I would then explain: I came across some who do not care about our people; they just seem to care about getting a salary at the end of the month. Social workers in South Africa have the power to transform the lives of the people by helping them access government grants but... they don't. I know painful stories.

Their answer would always be the same: I would be different. 

I somehow understand the problem. Degrees they get might make them think they become “professionals” and never consider that as God's call in their lives. It seems to be easier to see a priest, a pastor, a bishop as someone following God's call than to see your own as a call from God.

Sometimes people reach a point of checking a career according to the salary she would be getting.

God is never part of the picture. Or nearly. He is always present at the moment of writing exams or getting the money to pay the college! These are moments when everyone wants to make sure God is on board.

When you are a Christian you believe God is part of your life 24/7 and not just whenever you want him to be part of it. For some people – a friend of mine used to say – God looks like a supermarket where we go when we need something. The rest of the time we can do well without Him. Not for us Christians. Our lives comes from him and our baptism makes us in a special way his children.

Therefore your journey towards nursing is – hopefully – God's call. I hope and pray that if it is not, God will help you see that sooner than later because in your hands will be the life of the people in a very delicate moment of their lives. 

That is why I found it excellet that we celebrate this Mass praying for the gift of the Holy Spirit upon you because – as Jesus says – without him we can do nothing.

Fr M. Makama
who organized the whole event
All three readings and the Psalm talk about the work of the Spirit in the life of the faithful. I would like to underline just two of them.

The Spirit transforms us. It is easy to see. In the Gospel which I believe might be a familiar passage we see the apostles gathered in one place with the doors locked. They are afraid. They are terrified. They are paralised. They are sad. They probably think: They killed our master, they will be coming for us. 

Jesus comes among them. He breathes on them and they are transformed from fear to courage, from being paralised to going out, from silence to witnessing, from sadness to joy. It is a powerful change in a short space of time. 

Pray for the gift of the Holy Spirit upon you daily so that the Spirit transforms you. Do not think it is enough to pass the exams to be a good nurse. You need much more than that. You might know many things but lack the most important one which is the compassion that comes from the heart and from our faith. Without it you could be professionals with a cold heart. 

Our “Catholic Nurses' Guild” say: “See Christ in every person”. Your studies won't give you that. The Spirit will. You might be able to tell me that this motto certainly comes from Matthew 25 but unless you are led by the Spirit, you won't be able to see Christ in every person coming to you.

We need to be transformed and it normally does not happen instantly like in the Gospel. It is not a one off thing either. It is a process that normally takes the whole of our lives.

Pray for the gift of the HS. Pray to the Father in Jesus' name that he sends you the HS to make you nurses according to his heart.

The Spirit sends you in Jesus' name. The second image is that the Risen Jesus sends the apostles in his name. Therefore the Spirit sends us. In other words, your call to be nurses is God's call for you to go to the world in His name. 

You might come across nice patients but many times you won't. They need you to understand them. They need you to help them experience God's loving touch and care. They need to move from the Jesus they read in the Gospels to the one that becomes flesh in your lives. It is to them that God sends you. 

You won't be able to cope without the gift of the Holy Spirit. You might do it one day or two but sooner or later the challenge will be too much. 

Pray for the gift of the Holy Spirit to transform you during your studies and to be with you as you serve the people. The quality of the care and service in our country depends on that. 

Group photo with the Principal and the Staff at Good Shepherd Nursing College

Saturday morning. No appointments for the day. Good opportunity to catch up with things after some days' away attending an IMBISA meeting (bishops of Southern Africa).

Suddenly a call: "Bishop, we are having a meeting of delegates of the female religious communities in the diocese. We would like to see you... now."

I could not refuse the request. First because it was me who some time last year I called delegates of both female and male religious communities and ask them to organize themselves as religious like the diocesan priests do.

Second, because they were aware I will be away for three weeks from Monday and they did not want to wait. Neither did I.

Not sure if they chose to meet on this day because of any particular reason but it was indeed very appropriate. It is the feast of St Mary Magdalene, called the "Apostle of the Apostles" as being a witness to the resurrection she was sent to announce it to them. 

After the meeting we had last year, it somehow became clear that they will be journeying at different levels: as female religious (four communities), together with the male religious (four communities) but also with the diocesan priests and the whole diocese.

As I said last year, I asked them to help us all understand better what religious life is beyond the specific service they offer in our diocese. We normally link them to education and health but their call is certainly much deeper than that.

It was good to see them and I could not avoid acknowledging that women move faster than men in our diocese and this seems to happen among the religious too. 

As usual, we finished praying together ... and a group photo for the social media!

On the second day of the “extraordinary meeting” of the IMBISA standing committee and presidents of Bishops’ Conferences, Mass was presided by Archbishop Gerard Tlali Lerotholi OMI (archbishop of Maseru, Lesotho).

Taking from the calling of Moses to lead his people, he spoke about the word “leader” being used as an acronym of what it means to be one.

  • L – Being a leader means being able to listen (not answering questions … no one is asking!);
  • E – A leader is someone who leads by example aware that people follow what they see;
  • A – A leader has the “correct” attitude like the one David had facing Goliath (“All those gathered here will know that it is not by sword or spear that the Lord saves; for the battle is the Lord’s, and he will give all of you into our hands.” 1 Sam 17: 47);
  • D – A leader is able to dream and we do not lack familiar examples. Enough to think of Martin Luther King Jr or Nelson Mandela;
  • E – A leader makes sure he is able to empower other people;
  • R – A leader takes responsibility. While a leader delegates many things, taking responsibility cannot be delegated.

Each one of these elements guided the bishops as they continued to give shape to the journey IMBISA will be taking in the next coming years.