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The Church as a Caring Family

 

The Church as a Caring Family
 
A Pastoral Letter to all Catholics by the Catholic Bishops of Zambia on the 1997 Theme for Synod Implementation
 
March 1997
 
 

Coming back to the African Synod's theme of the "Church as God's family", which was launched in May 1996, it was then that 1997 was declared as the "Year of the Caring Family".

Particular themes for the 1997 theme included "Care for the sick, aged and orphans, the promotion of women and girls, youth training, promotion of justice and peace and development".

It is in keeping with this theme that this letter was written. It was meant to bring to the attention of all Catholic Christians the challenge for 1997 in much more detail. The challenge is to look at the context of the Church in Zambia today and search for the occasions on which each and everyone can also accompany Jesus, as the people of Nain did, in being compassionate to other people.

In the text from the Gospel according to St. Luke, which the Bishops quote there is a story of a widow who loses her only Child and Jesus brings him back to life. This is a story, they say in which Jesus reminds us of ‘the vision of a Church that is obedient, loving, full of solidarity, and above all compassionate’. This is a Church that is built on the model of a "caring family".

Introduction

"Jesus went to a town called Nain, together with his disciples and a large number of people. When he was near the gate of the town, there was a dead man being carried out, the only son of his mother and she was a widow. A considerable number of the town people were with her, `don't cry'". (Luke, 7:11-14)

Dear brothers and sisters in the Catholic faith. We greet you in the name of our lord Jesus Christ, the true model of the Church.

    The text above challenges us to look at our Church here in Zambia with the eyes of faith. Jesus looked at the woman, felt compassion for her and said, "don't cry" Aren’t we, as a Church, also called upon to look at the situation we are living in, and repeat the compassionate words of Jesus, "don't cry", and thus instil a sense of hope in the thousands of people who are suffering in our society? Jesus reminds us of the vision of a Church that is obedient, loving, full of solidarity, and above all compassionate. This is a Church that is built on the model of a "caring family".
  1. Keeping in line with the African Synod's theme of the "Church as God's family", in May 1996 we launched a challenging five year programme of implementing this vision. We declared 1997 as the "Year of the Caring Family". We suggest that the particular themes for 1997 should include "Care for the sick, aged and orphans, the promotion of women and girls, youth training, promotion of justice and peace and development".
  2. We are therefore writing this letter to bring to your attention in much more detail our challenge for this year as Catholic Christians. The challenge is to look at the context of the Church in Zambia today and see the occasions on which we can also accompany Jesus, as the people of Nain did, in being compassionate to other people.

    Zambia Today

  3. The Zambian family is today confronted with numerous and complex traditional, social, political and economic problems.
  4. On the social front, Government statistics indicate that out of an estimated population of 9 million, 76% of our people are living in abject poverty. These are people who each day cannot meet the basic need to lead a decent human life. The Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP) continues to inflict untold suffering on the majority of Zambians. Many people are put out of employment with little or no retrenchment packages at all. The situation is aggravated by the lack of a comprehensive social security scheme. Consequently, in the face of rising costs of basic goods and services, many families are finding it increasingly difficult to make ends meet.
  5. Health reforms have meant an increasing cost of medical care. With the emphasis on cost sharing between Government and the users of health facilities, more and more people are becoming alienated from health services. They are unable to care for members of the family who are sick! We see on our streets mentally disturbed people and many other handicapped people. Many in our society do not accept these people as full members of our families and do not bother about their situation.
  6. In our school system, lack of appropriate education and training facilities and adequate guidance about career opportunities has aggravated the situation of the youth in Zambia today. Hence each day we see a growing number of street children and school dropouts just roaming about without any hope for their future.
  7. As regards women, it is common knowledge that in times of great poverty women suffer much more than men. They have increased working hours in order to feed their families with scarce resources. They care for the children, the sick and aged. They face the prospect of widowhood aggravated by the cruel injustice of property grabbing.
  8. In the area of family life, there has been an erosion of family values of stability and respect for the transmission of life that characterise our Zam