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Called to Be the Family of God

 

Called to Be the Family of God
 
A Pastoral Letter from the Catholic Bishops of Zambia to Launch the Five Year African Synod Programme
 
May 1996
 
 

Following the 1994 Africa Synod, which had come up with the new mode of the Church in Africa, namely, the Church-asfamily, the Bishops of Africa recommended that on the count down to the great Jubilee Year 2000, this theme would be looked at from various angles. This pastoral letter was issued to mark the launch of this five-year African Synod programme. The Bishops reflect on what it means to be called to be the Church as family of God. The pastoral letter is a call on all Catholics to journey together in the work of evangelisation so that the Word of God can permeate all levels of our existence, in our families, in our Christian Communities, in our Parishes, and in deed in the whole Nation.

Greetings in the Lord to our Sisters and Brothers in the Catholic Community of Zambia!

    We begin today throughout our Country an important moment in the historic process of the African Synod. The Synod was an assembly of bishops from all over Africa and the wider Church that gathered in Rome two years ago to work on the great theme of "Evangelisation toward the year 2000 you shall be witness".
  1. We Catholics in Zambia rejoice as we are now asked to continue our journey together in bringing the message and hope of the African Synod home to our families, small Christian communities, parishes, neighbourhoods and Nation. As the servant of Jesus Christ and as your servants, we bishops write this letter now to you to encourage you all to join with us in making the Synod decisions and directions come fully alive in our midst over the next few years.
  2. We write with hearts filled with confidence, because we recall the generosity and enthusiasm of Catholics during our 1991 celebration of the Centenary of the Church in Zambia and during the subsequent period of preparation for the African Synod. During that preparation period we reflected together on the theme of evangelisation and examined the topics of proclamation, inculturation, dialogue, justice and peace, and communication.
  3. We also write with hearts filled with anticipation, because we know that the task ahead will be challenging and demanding, calling upon the commitment by all of us, if the spirit of the African Synod is to come fully alive in the Zambian Church.

    God’s Family

  4. The central message of the African Synod and the Guiding idea for the task of evangelisation is the "Church as God's family" This was strongly expressed by the bishops gathered in Rome in April 1994 and clearly repeated by John Paul 11 in his Apostolic Exhortation, The Church in Africa, delivered during his September 1995 visit to Africa.
  5. The Church as the "family of God" is a beautiful image that is very appropriate to Africa, for it emphasises:
    1. care for others
    2. solidarity
    3. warmth in human relationships
    4. acceptance
    5. dialogue and trust
  6. We know that the first Christian communities thought of themselves as God's Household, God's family; for we read in the new Testament "you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are citizens with saints and also members of the household of God" (Ephesians 2:19) "you will know how to behave in the household of God, which is the Church of the living God" (1 Timothy 3:15)
  7. But to be a member of God's family is much more than being a member of a club or a political party. It is a way of life, a following of Jesus. It involves profound conversion, a turning of one's life over to the Lord and the Lord's ways. Because it is worthwhile, it will require some work.

    Five-Year Programme

  8. That is why we bishops have decided to launch today a co-ordinated five year programme to involve all Zambian Catholics in a spiritual renewal that will help us to respond effectively and creatively to the call to be God's Family. During this time we look at the major themes of the Synod with programmes of reflection, education, animation, action, and prayer.

    1996: Introducing the Church as Family
    With this Pastoral Letter and our special liturgies today, we are launching the period of the Synod implementation and beginning programmes to inform the people about the synod and to prepare training and education materials.
    1997: The Caring Family
    This year will look especially at the issues of the care of the sick, aged and orphans, the promotion of women and girls, youth training and promotion of justice and peace, and development.
    1998: The African Family
    Marriage and family will be our special focus during this year, with a look at the sacraments, initiation, and the challenge of witchcraft and spirit possession.
    1999: The Missionary Family
    As the Church of Jesus Christ, we have his Good News to share with others so we will this year look at the task of evangelisation and proclamation, the work of inter-religious dialogue and ecumenism, and the use of the means of social communication.
    2000: The Celebrating Family
    As the "new millennium" opens up we will rejoice in the presence of Christ our Saviour in celebrations held especially at the level of our families, small Christian communities and parishes.

    Political Responsibilities

  9. As we move into this grace-filled period of the implementation of the African Synod here in Zambia, we know that this is also a period of serious social difficulties, economic suffering and political challenges. We cannot ignore these realities, hiding from them in Church affairs and distracting ourselves from our public responsibilities. Indeed in the face of many problems, we need to cry out with full confidence in God's great love: "The lord is our help and our shield. In him do our hearts find joy. We trust in his holy name". (Psalm 28:7)
  10. We take this occasion to remind you especially of our responsibilities during this election year of 1996. As our major Church leaders emphasised in their joint pastoral statement of 15 October 1995, this is a "Year of Political Responsibility" when the participation of Christians in political life is to be "guided by the Gospel values of respect for human dignity, human rights, common good, social justice, solidarity, integral development, special concern for the poor, and non-violence in resolving conflicts," We appeal particularly to our leaders to reject any forms of violence and manipulation of people, especially of youth.
  11. We must pray for the light and strength of the Holy Spirit in the forthcoming elections and work diligently to maintain the spirit of peace, respect and love towards one another that is a sign we are truly members of God's family.

    Conclusion

  12. The centre of our evangelisation efforts over the next few years is Jesus Christ, our elder brother in God's family. As we proclaim Jesus, we do so with strong prayers for authentic faith and generous commitment. Today the whole Catholic Church in Zambia asks God's blessing on our efforts to remain "one in mind and hearts" (Acts 4:32) in our implementations of the African Synod. May God bless you all!

The Catholic Bishops of Zambia

 

Rt. Rev. Telesphore-George Mpundu,
 
(Chairman) Bishop of Mbala/Mpika
 
Most Rev. Adrian Mung'andu,
 
Archbishop of Lusaka
 
Most Rev. James Spaita,
 
Archbishop of Kasama
 
Most. Rev Adam Kozlowiecki, SJ,
 
Retired Archbishop of Lusaka
 
Rt. Rev. Dennis de Jong,
 
Bishop of Ndola
 
Rt. Rev. James Corboy, SJ,
 
Retired Bishop of Monze
 
Rt. Rev. Medardo Mazombwe,
 
Bishop of Chipata
 
Rt. Rev. Raymond Mpezele,
 
Bishop of Livingstone
 
Rt. Rev. Paul Lungu, SJ,
 
Bishop of Monze
 
Rt. Rev. Noel O'Regan, S.M.A.,
 
Bishop of Solwezi
 
Rt. Rev. Aaron Chisha,
 
Bishop of Mansa