Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ
In the name of Jesus Christ our Lord and Saviour:Yesterday, Today and Forever,we send you greetings of the Great Jubilee and our paternal blessings.
Four years ago, on 14 September 1996, we, your Bishops, gathered together with some of you, as Family of God in Malawi, at Civo Stadium in Lilongwe, to officially launch the African Synod and also to prepare for the Great Jubilee Year 2000. At that memorable occasion we also put into your hands our Pastoral Letter titled, Walking Together in Faith: Our Journey Towards the Year 2000. In so doing we were faithfully responding to the Holy Father's apostolic letter, Tertio Millennio Adveniente (As the third Millennium Draws Near) which he issued on 10 November 1994 and also to his Post Synodal Exhortation, Ecclesia in Africa (The Church in Africa). 
In that Pastoral Letter of 1996 we also invited you to begin preparing for the Centenary of the Catholic Church in Malawi which will take place in the year 2001.
When, (in our Pastoral Letter: Walking Together in Faith), we echoed the invitation of the Holy Father, Pope John Paul II, to the universal Church to prepare for the celebration of the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000, it seemed as if the Holy Year was many miles away from us. But today as we are writing you this Pastoral Letter we are all conscious of the fact that "The Great Jubilee of the year 2000 is already upon us". It is challenging all of us as we reflect on the birth of Jesus, to give our personal response to the heart searching question as to who this incarnated Son of God is for us in our lives? “But you,” he said “who do you say 1 am?” It was Peter who spoke up. “The Christ of God” he said (Mt.16:15; Mk.8:29: 11. 9:20).
Today we are writing you this Pastoral Letter: DEEPENING OUR CHRISTIAN LIFE IN PRAYER, WITNESS AND SERVICE: AN INVITATION OF THE GREAT JUBILEE in order to thank God for the past century, to ask pardon for sins committed, to ask God to bless us in the new millennium and to intensity in our hearts the burning desire to live good Christian lives that reflect a praying, witnessing and serving church.
The Great Jubilee Year 2000 is a great event in the life of the Church. For us in Malawi, it is also an occasion to prepare for the Centenary celebration of the Catholic Church in Malawi in 2001. We urge you to take seriously both the celebration of the Great Jubilee year 2000 and also the celebration of the forthcoming Centenary. Let the riches and the graces of the Great Jubilee Year 2000 prepare all of us spiritually in order to celebrate well the Centenary of the Catholic Church in Malawi. Both of these celebrations are indeed particular moments of favour “in which we look back and thank God for the graces received; we also ask for forgiveness for personal sins and social failures; and finally we ask for more graces to lead upright and faithful lives before our God in the future.” Let both of these auspicious celebrations of our faith, hope and love be the beginning and the path of our healing as we recover what we could never attain by our own strength: “God's friendship and grace, the supernatural life which alone can bring fulfilment to the deepest aspirations of the human heart.” We cannot let the Great Jubilee Year and the forthcoming Centenary just pass by without taking concrete steps in our families, Small Christian Communities and as individuals. Let both celebrations inspire us to a fuller life in and with Christ.
The Great Jubilee is not only a celebration of the Great Mystery of Incarnation but also a gracious time for deepening our Christian life in prayer, witness and service. It is a period of the Lord's favour in which we are invited to reconciliation and to consider debt cancellation for the disadvantaged. This Jubilee is also an opportunity to evangelise and to be evangelised.
What actually are we invited to celebrate in the Year 2000? The title of the Bull of Indiction of the Great Jubilee of the year 2000 has it all: We are called to set our eyes of faith on the Mystery of the Incarnation. In this mystery, God mixes with humankind in a wonderful exchange of gifts of his divinity and our humanity. Many years ago St. Iranaeus said it well when he referred to the act of incarnation as God's initiative of "humanising himself in order to divinise us!" The prologue of the Gospel according to St. John portrays the mystery of incarnation in a way so moving and so beautifull that makes our mind soar to the heights of the heavenly court when he writes, “The Word was with God and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things came to be, not one thing had its being but through him. No one has ever seen God; it is the only Son, who is nearest to the Fathers heart, who has made him known.” 
Throughout the Jubilee Year, we are all invited to re-live that greatest event that took place in Bethlehem 2000 years ago. With the eyes of faith, hope and love we look at the history of our salvation which unfolds in time and culminates in the “fullness of time who is Christ, the beginning and the end, ‘alpha and omega,’ all time belongs to him, and all the ages, to him be glory and power through every age forever.” 
For the Hebrews in the Old Testament, the year of Jubilee was pre-eminently a time of joy and reconciliation. For us Christians the Jubilee year should be a year of intensive spiritual renewal, a year to meet Christ personally and a year filled with abundant love of God and for God and mutual love towards all.
The Great Jubilee year 2000 and the Centenary celebrations in 2001 should lead all Malawian Catholics to thanksgiving, conversion and penance through the intensification of Prayer, Witness and Service as we look forward to being the Church of the third Millennium. Both the jubilee and centenary celebrations are holy moments for us and let us sanctify them with holy lives by praying more, by courageously and fearlessly witnessing to our faith and by being ready to serve God and neighbours in our families, Small Christian Communities and places of work. During this moment of grace, let us be inspired by Gospel values wherever we are.
We, your Bishops, admonish all of you, our sons and daughters in the family of God here in Malawi to use the spiritual tools of prayer, witness and service to nourish your Christian life just as a mother in a typical Malawian home uses three cooking stones (mafuwa) to prepare food to nourish her family members. Let us all look at this image of the three cooking stones and internalise it to symbolize a real cooking of our faith on these “spiritual cooking stones” of prayer, witness and service in readiness to face the challenges of the third millennium with faith, hope and charity. Let these “spiritual cooking stones” be sources of inspiration as we faithfully respond to our call to become agents of evangelization wherever we are.
The Jubilee Year and the forthcoming Centenary celebrations are moments of the Lord's Favour for the Catholic Church in Malawi. The custom of the Jubilees began in the Old Testament and continues in the history of the Church. Every jubilee year was seen as “a year of the Lord's favour.” It was a time dedicated in a special way to God. According to the Law of Moses, every seventh year was a sabbatical year “during which the earth was left fallow and slaves were set free”. Seven Sabbatical years culminated into a jubilee year (Lev. 25.8).
Further to setting free of slaves, all debts were also cancelled in the Jubilee year (Lev. 25:10). “The Jubilee year was meant to restore equality among all the children of Israel, offering new possibilities to families which had lost their property and even their personal freedom.”  Thus the Jubilee year was meant to restore social justice among the Israelites. In this vein then, we your Bishops, during this Holy Year and the forthcoming Centenary celebrations exhort the local Church as Family of God, and individuals to exercise charity and reconciliation in one way or another. Such a move will certainly act as a tangible sign of the Gospel of love and reconciliation which the Great Jubilee Year 2000 eloquently announces. In the same spirit of the Jubilee, we also appeal to rich nations, organisations and individuals, to cancel any debts owed by poorer nations, organisations and individuals, wherever this is possible.
Evangelization means bringing the good News of Jesus everywhere to every man and woman. The Great Jubilee Year and the Centenary celebrations are opportunities to evangelise and be evangelised. The theme the Pope gave the African Synod: The Church in Africa and its Evangelising Mission Towards the Year 2000: “You shall be my witnesses” (Acts 1:8) has been our guiding principle in the various ways of proclamation of the Good News in the past few years as we looked forward to the Great Jubilee Year 2000.
Pope John Paul II favours very much the term "The New Evangelization" which means a renewed effort to proclaim the Gospel in such a way as to transform modem society and culture. In fact all the other four themes of the African Synod (inculturation, dialogue, justice and peace, and the means of social communication) are means and ways to be employed in order to achieve an effective evangelization of all the peoples in Africa. The coming of the third Christian Millennium should then prompt all the Christian communities to renew their enthusiasm in proclaiming the Kingdom of God to all humankind.
Now, four years after the Letter, Walking Together in Faith, with the Jubilee upon us, it seems an opportune moment to examine our consciences to see if the “Call to Conversion” issued in that letter has had any effect on our life as Christians. As we re-read the paragraphs of this “call to conversion,” we must honestly admit that we still have a long way to go to realise those aspirations.
One way of examining ourselves is to realise that the Church in Malawi, as a local Church, is not merely a section, an administrative district, as it were, of the Universal Church; but, rather it is the Church of God represented and realised fully in Malawi. In other words, the essence of the whole Church is realised in the local Church. This implies that all that the “Church as a Family of God” means is what the Church in Malawi reflects or ought to reflect or manifest. Now, the image, “family of God” “... emphasises care for others, solidarity, warmth in human relationships, acceptance, dialogue and trust.”  These are essential aspects in our cultures.
A family implies unity in diversity. This fact demands that there be concern and respect for the other. It demands communion which can only be realised through understanding and acceptance of the other. In order for the family to hold together, we need to foster reconciliation. A family implies sharing. This manifests love among the members of a family. If the Church in Malawi is to be a true family of God, it needs to show that it is characterised by these elements. It is only when it is a true family of God that it will be able to transform the whole society with these values.
The warmth, solidarity, mutual acceptance and trust, all of which are part of being family of God, must be experienced in our families and homes as well as at the level of the various Church community structures. The image of family should also inspire us to promote openness, consultation and dialogue in our relationships and interactions in the Church and society at large.
In the field of inter-religious dialogue, we gratefully acknowledge various ecumenical cooperation efforts being made among many Christian churches. This includes joint Church services such as the Good Friday commemoration service and more particularly the inter-religious associations namely the Christian Service Committee (CSC), the Christian Health Association of Malawi (CHAM), the Association of Christian Education in Malawi (ACEM) and the Public Affairs Committee (PAC). We encourage such inter-faith activities which promote social services guided by Christian principles based on sound theology.
As we insist on and underscore the significance of dialogue at various levels of family and Church life, we also encourage our political and civic leaders to engage in serious dialogue and consultations among themselves, with civil society and with Churches where applicable.
Prayer is the most important and essential expression of faith in God. It is responsive faith. In all Christian states of life, one thing is decisive: the radical fulfilment of the great commandment to love God above all and to love one's neighbour as oneself (Mk 12:30-31; Jn. 13:24; 15:12; Cor. 1:3). Our response to the Word of God in which He reveals the innermost mystery of His love to us is not first of all one of "thinking"; but one of "thanking". It is prayer. It is a personal turning towards God, the ultimate ground and goal, the support and substance of our lives.
Jesus Christ himself exhorts us urgently and often to persevere in prayer (Mk. 11:24; Mt. 7:7-11, Lk.11:9-13). Most importantly Holy Scripture tells us Jesus himself prayed. At each turning point in his work he withdrew into solitude to pray to God (Lk. 3:21; 5:16; 6:12; 9:28; 10:21). His prayer was both thanks and praise (Mt.11:25-27; Lk.10:21-22) as well as lamentation, petition, and surrender to the will of the Father (Mk. 14:33¬36; Heb. 5:7-8).
Therefore, no one can live a Christian life without prayer. This is why prayer must continue to be the core of our Christian communities. We thank the Lord and you for taking, this seriously for there is ample evidence that members of the Small Christian Communities are praying together most of the time. Prayer does not only deepen our communion and friendship with God, but also helps us come to terms with ourselves, with others and with the world. True prayer is never without effect. Prayer also gives us courage and strength for involvement in the world thereby becoming really a witnessing Church not only in extraordinary times but in our day to day lives.
Holiness does not require extraordinary or even conspicuous deeds, but rather extraordinary faithfulness, love and patience in everyday life, in the glorification of God and in the service of one's neighbour, especially in bearing suffering, persecution and adversities of every kind. The Church in Malawi has to be characterised by this essential mark if she has to be effective in her evangelization. Prayer is intrinsically linked to holiness and evangelization.
We are aware of your constant participation in the celebration of the Eucharist, the source and summit of our Christian life, but we would like to urge you, the laity and clergy to prepare yourselves adequately for the celebration of the Holy Mass, penance/reconciliation, the other sacraments and the liturgy of the Word. In a special way we would like to remind you of the different forms and types of prayer. Communal prayer shapes us as a people and as a community. Family prayer has the power to bind a family together and to give its members spiritual support whereas individual prayer keeps the person close to and at one with his/her God. Only if we grow as a praying people can we grow to be a witnessing people. We urge you to continue gathering in prayer on Sundays, for that is the opportunity for us to grow in our witnessing to, and in our proclamation of the Risen Lord.
Dear brothers and sisters, as people of God who are reborn in Christ, it is in prayer that we find strength to witness, both in word and deed and in all spheres of our life. We shall be known to be His disciples, who are the light of the world and the salt of the earth (Mt. 5:13-16), by our works and the fruits we bear. Our very lives, our relationships in the families, in Small Christian Communities, in places of work and in the business world ought to be our testimony to the Lord and a manifestation and proclamation of who we are in the Lord.
Aware of our call and mission to be his witnesses (Acts 1:8), we acknowledge that we fall short in our Christian responsibility as is evidenced by certain unacceptable trends and activities in our personal and social behaviour. A wrong understanding of freedom and democracy has influenced irresponsibility, immorality and even crime in many areas like sexuality, marriage breakdown etc in our society. You will agree with us that corruption, mob justice, the killing of the unborn (abortion), addictions and abuses of various types in a Christian community cannot be signs of a redeemed people who are witnessing to Christ, and who celebrate the Eucharist and the Word of God.
We, your Pastors, have already spoken to you on a number of justice issues through our pastoral letters, sermons, situational statements, exhortations and prayer services. In all these we have reminded you of the teaching of Christ our Saviour and of the social teaching of the Church. We all need to examine ourselves, individually and in our Church communities, and check how we have implemented the gospel, Church teachings and Bishops' pastoral letters. Church teaching is meant to assist all of us in our witnessing to the living Lord, and it iv for our own salvation. We appeal to all of you to reflect upon and consider your Christian challenge to be the Lord's faithful witnesses. Remember, we are all challenged not only to speak justly but also to act justly.
Our dear people, a witnessing Church witnesses in its service. Like the deacons in the early Church (Acts 6:1-7) Christians and communities today are called to serve the-poor, the needy, the marginalised, the sick (HIV-AIDS victims), the unemployed etc. In extending a helping hand to such members of the community, we not only reach out to Christ who said "I was in prison and you visited me, hungry and you gave me to eat" (Mt. 25:31-46), but we also extend the mission of Christ, the servant of Yahweh.
Christ, who washed the feet of his disciples (Jn. 13:1-20), invites all of us to serve one another. He calls each one of us to service in our families: husband and wife, parents and children must serve one another with joy and love. The same committed service is asked of us in our Church communities as each Christian gives himself/herself to the building of viable, self-reliant Church communities and structures in which each and all can find spiritual nourishment and support.
We, your Bishops, would like to remind you that the service to which we are all called should be rendered not only in the family and Small Christian Communities but also in the civil society. We appeal to you to be committed Christian persons as you partake in your social and civil responsibilities and obligations in our beloved country.
The service to which we are called means that we have to work in the family, Church and country. Human work is not a punishment. Both the Old and New Testaments teach us that work is an integral part of human life.  St. Paul urged Christians of his time to work and he instructed that those who do not work should not eat. (Cfr. 2 Thes. 3:6-12)
We call upon you, dear Christian faithful, to develop a healthy attitude towards work. To work is human and through work we recreate ourselves, the society and our world. While we do appreciate the efforts and dedication of many of you both in the Church and society, we should confess and admit that, here in Malawi, our work ethic needs to be improved and reinforced. We cannot expect our Church and country to develop if we nurse lazy attitudes, tolerate absenteeism and inefficient practices at work. When one visits some offices and some places of work today, one gets the impression that work is equated to the presence of workers. In other quarters there is regrettable absenteeism and some of those who hold offices have no merits or qualities for the service they are expected to render, having acquired the positions and jobs on other grounds than competence. As a result there is inefficiency, work is left undone and the quality of work itself is below standards.
We must all improve our work ethics. This includes even those who are self-employed in the villages and towns, such as farmers, craftsmen and women etc. Everybody must work hard at his or her job.
We appeal to all of you, especially those in leadership roles, priests, religious and laity to consider it your “duty to speak out on work from the viewpoint of its human values and moral order to which it belongs”. You must be active members of a “serving Church,” and resolve to be faithful workers yourselves in imitating our Lord Jesus Christ and St. Paul, the apostle who worked untiringly (Mk 6:2-3; 1Thes 3:12).
We, your bishops, realise that as human beings we are always in need of transformation, a transformation that requires a profound formation.
In all areas of Church life, formation is of primary importance... the whole community needs to be trained, motivated and empowered for evangelization, each according to his or her specific role within the Church. 
In all areas of Church life, formation is of primary importance... the whole community needs to be trained, motivated and empowered for evangelization, each according to his or her specific role within the Church. 
This formation must aim at instilling al profound personal conviction about one's faith. It is when we have reached this level that we are able to bear effective witness to the Gospel message in our daily life. One cannot give what lie or she does not have.
We are all called to deepen our faith since faith is the "soul" and the basis of our Christian life. We acknowledge the effort that is being made to equip the faithful with good knowledge of the Catholic faith.
We certainly need, though, to make greater and more effective follow-ups in our faith-education so that our faith as adults does not remain at the same stage and level as we acquired it. Continued religious education must be reinforced in our schools, Churches and Small Christian Communities so that we deepen and understand our faith more. If at all we are to face the challenges to our faith in Malawi, we need to equip ourselves with effective means, that is, a profound personal conviction about our faith.
This requires formation of the faithful at all levels in our Christian Community.
Malawi still remains one of the few countries in Africa where there has been no war. Malawians themselves are known as a peace-loving nation and the country is advertised as the “Warm Heart of Africa.”
While they may not have been economically capable of hosting so many refugees, Malawians opened their doors to more than one million refugees fleeing the war in Mozambique in the early 90's. And even today we are welcoming a number of refugees from other countries. Amidst economic hardships Malawians are still a warm, friendly people, and Malawi is still a “land of peace.”
As Malawi moves forward into the future with the rest of the world, we see negative forces challenging the peace we have been enjoying all along. We, your bishops, want to remind you of the duty we all have to build a nation we can be proud to belong to.
We, in Malawi, are quite aware of what ethnocentrism has done to the people of Rwanda, Burundi and further afield in the former Yugoslavia. The election pattern in the past two general elections shows that Malawians voted on regional grounds. This is a development which we need to address properly so that it does not work against nation building. The multi-party dispensation in Malawi presents all Malawians with a challenge to accommodate and respect one another even when they differ on political grounds.
Indeed the ties that have bound us all together as a nation date further back compared to the young multi-party democracy which we voted for as recently as in 1993.
The year 2000 is a jubilee. Among the Hebrews where the idea and practice of jubilee originate, jubilee involves the action of re-establishing things to their former state of integrity. The Hebrew word for peace, “shalom,” is derived from a root which designates the fact of being intact, complete or whole. Peace makes things whole again and restores them to their former state. This helps us to understand that peace and jubilee are mutually related. We cannot speak about celebrating the jubilee while we are not at peace with God, our fellow human beings, nature and ourselves.
Peace is a divine gift from God. It can be obtained through a confident prayer as the psalmist urges: "pray for the peace of Jerusalem" (Ps. 112:6). In order for peace to be realised it is required that there be cooperation of humankind with God through the active practice of justice. In the sermon on the mount Jesus announces, “Happy are the peace-makers: they shall be called sons of God” (Mt. 5:9). Peace is a good that must be worked for, “sikadza kokha, kaopa kulaula.”
Human beings desire peace from the very depths of their being. Peace is not merely absence of war. It is the state of the human being living in harmony with his/her God, with fellow man and woman, with nature and with himself/herself. Peace is the fullness of happiness. 
Brothers and sisters and all people of good will, we see among us negative forces which threaten peace. We see a weakening of the commitment to "love one another" (Jn. 15:12) as the divine Master commands us.
We see a wide disparity of economic distribution among our people. We have witnessed an upsurge of armed robbery and robbery in general in the last few years. In our eyes this serves only to make peace a far-away reality. Together we must combat these negative forces.
“How good, how delightful it is for all to live together like brothers and sisters” (Ps. 133:1).
Today more than ever before we live in a world where the life of one person in one part of the world can easily affect the lives of so many people in another part of the world. Distances which seemed so big earlier on can be covered in a short period of time, and exchange of information is so much easier. The world has become a global village and humankind a global family. These factors urge us to bring to your atten¬tion what we must do to create a world where all will feel at home.
We cannot but agree with, and repeat, the principles of the social teaching of the Church that love is the soul of society. Take out love and we have a society without a soul. Here we are talking about practical love, not a theoretical love. Christ proposed a new way of loving: “I give you a new commandment: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who treat you badly” (Lk. 6:27-28). The social expression of love is solidarity which is the realisation and constant awareness that we are one human family.
Our oneness expresses itself in all the richness and diversity of the human family: in the different races, cultures, languages, histories etc. God has endowed the human family with all these for our enjoyment, enrichment and complementarity. It is a human tendency to become acutely conscious of those people who are different from us. A lot of precious time can be lost brooding over these differences, how we can make others to be like us. Each one of us, with our similarities and differences, has a vital role to play in the task of nation-building.
We are all here for a reason. We want to encourage you to look at our differences as one area of our strength not a weakness, our differences can make us strong as a nation. We must as a nation capitalise on what unites us together rather than on what divides us. Dialogue, social harmony, tolerance, reconciliation and amicable human relationships are the responsibilities of each individual towards the Malawi nation. These promote the spirit of family and are key to peace. 
As we celebrate two thousand years of the birth of the Son of God on earth, it is indeed a good moment to reflect on how the message of salvation has affected the whole world and us here in particular.
We firmly believe that our response to a hundred years of Catholic faith should be a deepening of our Christian life in prayer, witness and service. We want you and us to achieve this by together promoting the values of family and life. As we acknowledge with gratitude the achievements of the old missionaries, many of whom have gone before us, we want us to imitate their spirit of sacrifice and selflessness.
We knock at the door of every home to open up to God and to characterise your homes with prayer and your lives with sanctity. We ask you to commit yourselves to building a self-reliant Church, one that serves itself and even looks beyond its local needs to those of the universal Church. We look forward to the moment when we will be sending missionaries to other countries in greater numbers than we are doing now.
We believe that we can achieve all this in the shrine of the Small Christian Communities. Therefore, we continue to remind you that the building and strengthening of Small Christian Communities remains our pastoral priority.
Let the Great Jubilee year and the Centenary see many lapsed Christians being reconciled with the Church and all of us being renewed through conversion and penance. May these holy moments help us to establish the kingdom of God here on earth.
Let us remember the words of the Lord:
“I will give them a single heartand I will put a new spirit in them;I will remove the heart of stone from their bodiesand give them a heart of flesh instead, but those whose hearts are set on their idolsand their filthy practices I will call to account for their conduct – it is the Lord Yahweh who speaks”(Ez. 11:18-21).
We want to recognise the importance of peace in the development of nation and the work of evangelization.
We call upon all peace-loving Malawians to make peace a national priori Let us call upon Mary the Queen of Peace to be the mediator for peace in country.
May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, Yesterday, Today and Forever, the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you always.
 Pope John Paul II, Incarnationis Mysterium, n. 2 Unless otherwise stated the biblical texts are taken from the Jerusalem Bible, Eyre & Spottiswoode, London,1968 ECM, Walking Together in Faith: Our Journey Towards the Year 2000, n. 2.1  Pope John Paul II, Incarnationis Mysterium, n. 3 Jn. 1:1-3, 18 Pope John Paul II, Incarnationis Mysterium, n. 10 Tertio Millenio Adveniente n. 12 Cf ibid n. 13 Incarnationis Mysterium n. 2 AMECEA, The African Synod Comes Home, A Simplified text, Montfort Missionaries of Africa, Balaka, 1995, p.21 See for example how Jesus himself worked (Mk 6:33; Mt 13:35) and the mandate which was to man and woman to work (Ex 20:9f) John Paul 11, Laborem Excercens, n. 24 Pope John Paul II, Ecclesia in Africa, art. 75 The Malawi National Anthem, v.1 Dictionary of Biblical Theology pp 411-414, 2nd ed. by Xavier Leon-Dufour Tarcisio Agostini "Every Citizen's Handbook: Building a Peaceful Society" p 60-66