Text Size

Walking Together in Faith: Our Journey Towards the year 2000

Walking Together in Faith: Our Journey Towards the year 2000
Pastoral Letter from the Catholic Bishops of Malawi to Their Faithful
14 September 1996

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
May the Grace of God his Love and Peace be with all.

INTRODUCTION

Two Thousand Years of Christianity

Very soon, in four years time, we shall be celebrating the Jubilee of 2000 years of Christianity.[1] The Holy Father, Pope John Paul II, in his apostolic letter, Tertio Millennio Adveniente of November 10, 1994, invites and challenges the universal Church as well as the Church in Malawi, to start preparing for the celebration of this Great Jubilee.

In the year 2001, we shall celebrate the centenary of the permanent presence of the Catholic Church in Malawi. Both of these occasions are causes of great rejoicing and thanksgiving, but they are also invitations to conversion and renewal of our Christian life.

Preparing for the Jubilee

We, your Bishops in Malawi, call upon all of us Christian laity, religious and clergy to start preparing for this twofold celebration. In talking to the Church in Africa about the oncoming Jubilee the Holy Father says:

“For all the peoples of Africa the best preparation for the new Millennium must consist in a firm commitment to implement with great fidelity the decisions and orientations which, with the Apostolic authority of the Successor of Peter, I present in this Exhortation. They are decisions and orientations which can be traced back to the genuine heritage of the Church’s teaching and discipline and in particular to the Second Vatican Council, the main source of inspiration for the special Assembly for Africa.” [2]

Thus, in our Church in Malawi, we have decided to prepare for the coming of the Third Millennium by implementing the decisions and orientations of the Special Assembly of the Synod of Bishops for Africa, in brief called “The African Synod”.

Through this letter we are officially launching the preparations for the two-fold Jubilee as well as the implementation of the African Synod.

What is a Jubilee?

The Great Jubilee

The word Jubilee speaks of joy and jubilation which is manifested by the celebrating an anniversary of a significant event after a certain period of time in the life of an individual, community, place, thing or institution.

For us Christians, a Jubilee is a moment of grace. Hence it is always given a religious significance as it is seen as a particular year of favour in which we look back and thank God for the graces received; we also ask for forgiveness for personal sin and social failure; and finally ask for more graces to lead upright and faithful lives before our God in the future.
The Jubilee in Scripture

The custom of Jubilees is recorded in the Old Testament (Lev. 25:8ff) and continues in the history of the Church. According to the Law of Moses, every fiftieth year was to be a year of Jubilee. In that year slaves were to be set free, and property restored (Lev. 25:41), a reminder of the Exodus experience when Israel was freed from slavery. It was a year of forgiveness and reconciliation. It was indeed a year of “God’s Favour”, when God’s people, the Israelites, were reconciled with God and with one another. Jesus Christ proclaimed the beginning of his ministry as “the year of the Lord’s favour.”[3]

Jubilees in the Life of the Church

Jubilees are celebrated every 25 years. As individuals we celebrate Jubilees commonly referred to as Silver (25), Golden (50) or Diamond (60), commemorating our birth, baptism, marriage, religious profession, ordination etc. In our local cultures we also have Jubilees for commemorating among other things, the coronation of a chief or independence of our country. All these personal and community Jubilees play an important role in the lives of individuals and communities. No less in the life of the Church as institution, jubilees are celebrated and are called Holy Years and occur every 25 years.

A Time for Reflection

The celebration of the Jubilee invites us to look at the history of our Church and our country. Where are we on our journey? What can we be grateful for? Where do we need forgiveness as a Church and as country? What are our plans for the future? Where will our journey led us? These are questions which should preoccupy us these days, in this time of renewal.

The Centenary of the Catholic Church in Malawi

We will also celebrate the Centenary of the Catholic Church in Malawi in the year 2001. This is an occasion of great joy “a joy to be shared by all people” (Lk.2:10) Our church has grown from very humble beginnings with four White Fathers who arrived at Mponda village in mangochi district on 28th December, 1889, and three Monfort Missionaries who reached Port Herald in Nsanje district on 24th June 1901,[4] to what it is today: with about 1,911,566 Catholics; 65,789 Catechumens; 270 Malawian Priests; over 560 Malawian religious and with 8 Malawian Bishops.

These are impressive and encouraging statistics. However the cause of appreciation and rejoicing depends more upon whether Christian values have become part of us and whether our lives influenced and shaped our social and cultural values (Jas. 1:27 or 2:13 or 1 Cor 13:4ff).

The African Synod

Bishops of Africa Facing the Challenge of the Gospel

Now we would like to draw your attention to the African Synod. You may be aware that in April 1994 the bishops of Africa gathered in Rome with the Holy Father in a special assembly of the Synod of Bishops to discuss and “evaluate Evangelization in Africa vis-à-vis the great choices to be made regarding the continent’s future.” [5]

From among us, 3 Bishops assisted as synod fathers and one lay person as an observer. The Pope convoked this Synod first as a follow-up of the Second Vatican Council; secondly, in order to promote pastoral solidarity and thirdly to enable the Church in Africa to plan on how to address the modern day challenges of Evangelization towards the year 2000. Prior to this, for a good three years the whole Church in Africa, including Malawi, was involved in preparing for this Synod. Having celebrated the Synod in Rome the Pope visited three places in Africa (Yaoundé in Cameroon, Johannesburg in South Africa and Nairobi in Kenya) to bring the fruits of the Synod home. The results of the Synod are summarized in a papal exhortation called “The Church in Africa”.

The African Synod was a Special Moment of Grace

“It was intended to be an occasion of hope and resurrection, at the very moment when human events seemed to be tempting Africa to discouragement and despair.”[6]

Discouragement and despair were inspired by the events taking place in Rwanda and the long history of suffering in South Africa. But hope was brought by the fall of the apartheid regime in South Africa. These events ought to encourage all of us in our own situations to believe that with the Lord nothing is so hopeless that it cannot be overcome.

The Themes of the Synod

From all the discussions in the Synod five major themes emerged, namely: Evangelization, Inculturation, Dialogue, Justice and Peace and the Means of Social Communication.

  • The Theme of Evangelization challenges all of us to be transformed into the person of Jesus Christ, to proclaim and spread gospel values and to make Jesus present to all. (Mt. 28:20 or Acts 8:40)

  • The Theme of Inculturation challenges all of us Catholics to be truly Christian and truly Malawian. It asks of us to root our faith in Christ in our local culture, and to express it in ways which are readily recognized as ours. It also asks of us to allow the gospel to challenge our culture.

  • The Theme of Dialogue brings home to us that we are called to be open to people of other Churches and beliefs, to engage in open discussion with them, to try to create the conditions to live together as children of one Father. It also challenges us to create the same openness within our church, to truly become Church as “the Family of God”.

  • The Theme of Justice and Peace and Integral Development asks of us to work for social justice in such a way that lasting peace can be enjoyed by all. It challenges us to transform human society in order that every person may live with human dignity.

  • The Theme of Social Means of Communication challenges us in two ways: we need to realize that the modern media, which form a culture on their own, need to be evangelized. We are also challenged to use modern media as a means of evangelization of peoples transforming their hearts and minds.

We your bishops would like that these themes be reflected upon, discussed, and assimilated by all of us in our Small Christian Communities and in all possible groups at grassroots level as well as parish and diocesan levels. We encourage you to use the texts that have been published like: The Church in Africa, Tertio Millenio Adveniente, The African Synod Comes Home (translated in both Chitumbuka and Chichewa). Read them, study them, meditate on them, and draw conclusions for your lives.

The Church as The Family of God

The church was experienced by the Synod Fathers as “family” and led to their understanding of Church as “Family of God”. From among the many images of Church like: “Pilgrim Church”, “People of God”, “Communion”, “Mother”, “Body of Christ”, “Temple of the Holy Spirit” etc., they chose and highlighted this image of “Church as Family of God”. The Synod Fathers want to share this experience of Church with us. Here in Malawi we embrace this same image of Church as Family and expect that it will guide all our reflections and relationships; especially in the qualities of “care for others, solidarity, warmth in human relationships, dialogue and trust.” [7]

This image “Family of God” portrays God the Father not only as the source of all the good things we receive, but also as a loving concerned Father [8] not tolerating the violation of rights of widows and orphans, wives or children. (Amos 5:21-24).

This image of church also challenges our “domestic Church” the Christian family. We encourage you couples to live your married life in such a way as to be a challenge to all of us to live truly as the Church, Family of God.

Small Christian Communities

It is the Small Christian Communities (S.C.C.’s) that the Universal Church is incarnated. It is here that the idea of Church as Family of God can take shape. It is the same Christian communities that true evangelization takes place. Therefore all of us must be committed to establish these communities, and foster their growth.

We especially urge priests to become an integral part of these communities and use them for all their pastoral activities. Religious are equally invited to be part of these communities, and not to remain apart.

We call on the laity to recognize them as the Church, the Family of God in a local area and make them come alive.

Structures and strategy for Jubilee preparations

Implementing the Synod and Preparing the Jubilee

In Malawi we shall prepare for the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000 by implementing the African Synod as the Holy Father recommended. As your Pastors, we have devised a national plan for the implementation of the Synod in preparation for the Jubilee. Following the three-year-schedule of the Pope’s letter “Tertio Millenio Adveniente” and incorporating the themes of both the Jubilee and the African Synod.

Period One: from March 1996 to Pentecost 1998

The Jubilee theme shall be “Jesus Christ, the one Saviour of the world, yesterday, today and forever” while the themes for the implementation of the African Synod shall be “Formation of agents of Evangelization; Inculturation as a process of Evangelization; Building the Church as ‘Family of God’ through Small Christian Communities.”

The term Inculturation refers tot eh process of rooting and expressing our faith in our culture. This process is often compared to the Incarnation: that means the Son of God, Jesus Christ becoming a human being like us. His incarnation is the model and reason for inculturation. Like the Word of God became flesh in Jesus (John 1:14), so now the Word of God, our faith, has to become flesh, to be incarnated in our cultures. This is the deeper meaning of inculturation.

The Holy Father in “The Church in Africa” encourages us to take inculturation seriously. In this first period we have chosen the theme of inculturation because it is dedicated to Jesus Christ, unique Saviour, incarnated in our humanity.

We your bishops have given the lead by participating in a workshop on the Great Jubilee and the Implementation of the African Synod. The priests in all dioceses have been briefed. A group representative of the “Family of God” consisting of laity, religious and priests had a national workshop. And now all the dioceses have started to implement the plans made at national workshop. The work of implementing the African Synod has truly started and preparations for the Great Jubilee are well underway.

In order to assure a proper follow up we will start Mini-Synods in all the dioceses. Through these diocesan mini-Synods we will look at the past and learn its lessons as we plan for the future. This process should help all dioceses to design a renewed pastoral plan. These diocesan pastoral plans will in turn enable the Pastoral Department to foster a national pastoral vision towards the Year 2000.

We especially wish to mention here that the Bible and more in particular the New Testament is a special, privileged source to meet the Lord Jesus to whom this first period is dedicated. We therefore ask priests and all their collaborators to make the Bible available and accessible to all the faithful. We appeal to all of you to have a Holy Bible in your home. Read the Word of God, ponder it and make it a source of renewal.

Period Two: from Pentecost 1998 to Pentecost 1999

The Jubilee theme for this period shall be “The Holy Spirit and Mary, Mother of the Church” while the theme for the implementation of the African Synod shall be “dialogue: within the Church, at all levels; dialogue with other Christian Churches (ecumenism); dialogue with Islam and with African Traditional Religions”.

The Holy Spirit is the main agent of Evangelization. Jesus promised us the Holy Spirit. We need the Holy Spirit to help us to proclaim Jesus Christ, his Kingdom and its Justice. The Spirit works where He wants, even in places and persons we least expected. The Spirit enlightens us and leads us into dialogue and opens our minds and hearts to each other, in spite of our differences. The Spirit strengthens us when we experience our own weakness and want to go our own way (Acts 4:8).

The Holy Father also reminds us to reflect during this period, that Mary is indeed the Mother of all believers. [9] She is the one who keeps the Church directed towards her Son Jesus and through Him, all of God’s children towards a true dialogue with each other (Eph 2:13-18).

Our great hope is that during this period, the various commissions and committees which will have been revitalized by the diocesan mini-synods shall continue to put into action the plans they have formed while reflecting on the themes of the Jubilee and the African Synod.

Period Three: from Pentecost 1999 into the Year 2000

In this final year of preparation the Jubilee theme shall be “God the Father” and the theme for the Implementation of the African Synod shall be “Justice and Peace and Integral Development.”

Since God the Father is the source of all life and since we are called to live that life to the fullest,[10] we hope that by giving attention to Justice we will be helped to reflect the Justice of God the Father and His concern for all, especially the little ones, the poor and the oppressed. (Lk. 4:18) [11] We encourage you to keep your eyes directed towards the Father who beckons and calls us to go beyond our limited possibilities and by our witness of life enable all to be transformed into God’s “own image and likeness.” [12] In this way all of us will be part of the great human pilgrimage to the house of the Father.

Just before the Great Jubilee, some activities of a more spiritual nature are planned, such as retreat days, pilgrimages and the intensification of various kinds of catechesis. In all this we will be concerned to link faith with life, and life with faith.

Diocesan Plans

Each diocese will adapt the national plan to its own local situation. The diocesan Commission for the Implementation of The African Synod under the leadership of the bishop shall have the duty to co-ordinate and direct the Jubilee preparations and the implementation of the Synod.

The National Commission for the implementation of the African Synod and the departments of the Catholic Secretariat shall assist the dioceses in this work in whatever way they can.

Thanksgiving to the Good Lord

Praise be to the Missionaries

As a Church, we have every reason to give thanks to the Lord. The efforts of the missionaries, our ancestors in the faith, have born much fruit. They preached the Good News to our people under difficult circumstances of language, culture, health, diet, inter-Church competition/rivalry. They have transmitted Jesus Christ, his message and values to us; and today many of us Malawians are Christians. The Catholic Church is well established in our country.

The Catholic Contribution to the Nation

As Catholics, we can modestly be proud and grateful for the contribution we have made and are making in the fields of education, health and human development in our beloved country, Malawi. We have supported each other in proclaiming the Word of God: we have taught and “opened the eyes of the blind”. Like Christ we have gone out, touched the sick and healed them through our hospitals and clinics where doctors, medical officers, nurses as well as relatives and guardians of the sick share in the healing ministry of Christ. The Lord was with us, he worked in us, without him we would have “laboured in vain.”

Like Jesus we shall not rest. We will continue to do whatever is within our power to minister to the sick and the needy, especially those sick with AIDS which threatens all and takes so many of our dear ones, which leaves so many widowed and orphaned, and open to every kind of injustice. Jesus not only challenges us to take care of these most needy among the sick, but also to do everything we can to stop the spread of this dreadful disease. We want to remind all that the only real and lasting solution to the spread of AIDS is true moral behaviour: i.e. discipline in all our relationships and marital fidelity. This demands the continued and common effort of the whole Church, all its members, and all people of good will.

Our 1992 Pastoral Letter

The 1992 Pastoral letter, Living our Faith, which we addressed to Catholic faithful has made a particular contribution to our country. We give thanks to the Lord that by his grace we were able, through that letter, to be the “voice of the voiceless” at that critical moment of the history of our young nation.

Since then, with the various contributions of Malawians, our sister Churches, here at home and abroad as well as individuals and organizations overseas, Malawi has peacefully achieved a democratic society in a multi-party system. A new social atmosphere has been created. We are grateful for this. Now all of us have to face maturely and responsibly the new challenges which this new dispensation poses.

Peaceful Coexistence

Christianity has helped us to live in peace with one another, especially with people of different tribes and cultures. We have learnt to respect, to tolerate and thus to live in harmony with the Ngoni’s, the Yao’s, the Tumbuka’s, the Chewa’s, the Lomwe’s, and the Tonga’s. Our Lord’s teaching:

“You have heard that it was said: you shall love your neighbour, and you shall hate your enemies. I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you…”[13] must continue to guide our actions.

We give thanks to the Lord for giving people of this land tolerant hearts and minds that are open to other views and to peaceful coexistence.

This has spared us the lamentably bloody, inter-racial and inter-tribal conflicts experienced in other countries of Africa and beyond.

It pleases us to note that our Church marriage statistics show that the number of intertribal marriages have increased. There are many contributing factors but we are sure that Christianity has played a significant role.

We express our hope that all of us will continue to follow this direction. We deplore conflicts between parties which seem to be based on mere political gains. Therefore we exhort our political leaders to consider the real issues of this day and age in their deliberations and not to be guided by mere Regional or other selfish interests.

The “Bonum Commune”, the Common Good of all citizens, this is what must be the guiding principle. May our new democratic dispensation be a source of unity in diversity, and not of division.

Commitment of Laity, Priests and Religious

We thank the laity for their faithful support, be it financial, material or spiritual which you have given. We also thank the Catechists, Religious and Clergy, our immediate co-workers. We urge you to remain open to the Spirit, what you are doing is invaluable for our church and country. We need full involvement and loving commitment to both. In this context we encourage continued initiatives towards making our Church more self-supporting. This is an urgent task and moral obligation.

Call to Conversion

The African Synod repeatedly calls all of us to conversion. This call concerns us as persons and our institutions.

From Ecclesial Rivalry to Ecumenism and Peaceful Coexistence

We are also grateful to God for the achievements in this area. However, we know quite well that we have failed in a number of ways and so we need to ask for pardon for the mistakes we made and to learn from them. We realize that there still is a lack of dialogue both within the church and with other Christian churches; a lack of Ecumenism and Dialogue with Islam and African Traditional Religion. Acknowledging this and responding to Christ’s prayer “…that they may all be one…” (Jn. 17:21) we admit our failures in this regard and commit ourselves to search for avenues of dialogue and unity with other Christian Churches and Religious Communities.

Towards an Affirmative Appreciation of our Cultures

Our Christianity was taught and we received it through the European and American missionaries, many of whom found little to be admired in our Malawian, African cultures. They could not see our cultures as a medium for Christianity. And so, often, their preaching could not avoid wholesale condemnations of local customs and institutions. This led many of us Christians not to feel at home in our own culture. With the benefit of hindsight we see where things went wrong. Surely, we do not have to be circumcised or Jew or European, in order to become a Christian. [14] We do not wish to blame anyone. Missionaries were people of their times and cultures. They did what they could, but they were conditioned by a particular theological and philosophical outlook and as such they were limited.

These days the Second Vatican Council as well as the Pope through the African Synod are exhorting us to root and express our faith in our cultures. The Church in Africa is faced with the challenge of Inculturation. In the context of Evangelization this is the process of incarnating and inserting the Gospel message into a certain culture so that like yeast in flour, the culture is transformed and takes on Gospel values.[15] This process touches the whole of life; customs, values, liturgy, theology, Church structures etc. Rather than just talking about Inculturation we should begin to be more active in actually living, praying and worshipping following our cultures, while allowing the same cultures to be purified and inspired by gospel values.

Evidently, there is need for research and study, for direction and guidance in inculturating the faith and the Gospel. We, as a conference and as individuals will encourage and oversee this work at national and diocesan levels according to our competence. We urge experts in liturgy, theology and other disciplines to be resourceful, daring and respectful of authentic Christian and cultural values. We must heed the exhortation of the Holy Father who reminds us that Inculturation is essential for Evangelization.

Deficiency in Manner and Methods of Evangelization

As we look forward to the year 2000, we realize that we must improve the manger and methods of Evangelization. Often in the past our orientation has been towards mass conversions rather than individual conversion. We have tended to peace a gospel of fear with emphasis on evil and fires of hell instead of on the God of love. We have at times preoccupied ourselves with formation of structures rather than with the formation of hearts. As we look to the future, we resolve to plan better formation programmes for all agents of Evangelization and especially to devise training programmes geared to empowering the laity in their tasks of Evangelization,[16] and of building the Church and a truly human society.

Failures of Being the Voice of the Voiceless

The Church is called to be the voice of the voiceless, to stand resolutely on the side of the oppressed, to work tirelessly, for justice, and to keep promoting a peace built on justice, and to be the conscience of the nation in exercising her prophetic role in society.

For too long – up until 1992 – we had been quiet, as if we took recourse to “quiet diplomacy”. For example, when the Jehovah witnesses were being persecuted, when people were deported, when people were put in detention without trial, we did not openly denounce it. We confess such sins of omission. But is it not just us the bishops who can fail in this. It is the prophetic duty of every baptized person or even groupings of Christians to stand up and speak for justice, provided it is done in an orderly, legitimate and responsible manner. And perhaps, at times, you will have to remind us to stand up for justice. We take to mind the words of the Prophet Micah: “This is what Yahweh asks of you, only this, to act justly, to love tenderly, and to walk humbly with your God.” [17]

Turn Away from Misconceptions of Freedom and Democracy

We bless the Lord for a new political dispensation which has ushered in a new democracy and freedom with multiple parties through a very smooth and peaceful transition, nevertheless, we cannot rest satisfied. We cannot say that because there are several parties and because there is no war in our country justice prevails and everything is all right.[18]

In our young democracy it is not surprising that some of us have an incorrect understanding of freedom. Democracy is not freedom and democracy requires great discipline, if our situations and lives are not to be chaotic and anarchic. Responsibility and discipline is best learned at home from the parents and at school from the teachers. Therefore, we encourage parents and teachers to instill in their children and pupils respectively a true understanding of freedom and responsibility.

We address a special word to you our young people. In all his travels and writings Our Holy Father has expressed a special concern for the young. Although the Holy Father knows that there is much which may make you lost heart, he admonishes you not to give in to a spirit of despondency. Do not subscribe to a wrong understanding of freedom. Freedom does not only mean to be “free from,” but it also means to be “free to”; free to love selflessly and to contribute constructively. It is a sense of responsibility and self-discipline that can help us all build a better tomorrow. Remember that Jesus had a special place in his heart for the young. He has for you too. [19]

Promotion of Peace and Security

There has been an increase in theft and robbery. Therefore, much money is spent on building walls around our homes, at least for those few who can afford it. Thus, the majority of our people, even those whose homes are fenced up feel quite insecure. There is no war but there is no peace, and peace is required for the development and progress of our nation.

We must join hands with every legitimate effort to assure that security returns to our land. It is, especially, by creating conditions of justice that security may be restored. Underlying this we must continue to instill human and Christian values in our children, in our homes and schools. It is imperative that we immediately provide a good range of job-opportunities; and create various institutes for developing skills. We support the government in its bid to improve the performance of our police force in enforcing law and order, by providing them with the necessary means and bringing them in line with the new democratic dispensation. Let us not take the law into our own hands. Let us remember that in co-operating with these legitimate forces of law and order we, too, contribute to a greater security.

Towards Honest and Fair Administration of Public Funds

What Pope John Paul II says about Africa in general can be particularly applied to Malawi:

“…the greatest challenge to justice and peace in Africa consists in a good administration of public affairs in the two interrelated areas of politics and economy. Certain problems have their root outside the continent…but many of the continent’s problems are the result of a manner of governing often stained by corruption.” [20]

We need to continue looking at ourselves as a Church and as a society and judge if we practice justice in our everyday life and structures. We would like to support the government in its efforts to reduce poverty through its poverty alleviation programme. For many people, this programme has become synonymous with “helping oneself whichever way”. This must be corrected by good and effective administration of public funds.

Poverty can not be eliminated by the availability of seemingly free donations. It needs education and training of people in developing skills which enable them to be productive and to comfortably sustain themselves, their families and dependants. It also requires prudent control over the disproportionate rising prices of commodities with salaries.

Learn to Say No to Corruption

Corruption is an enemy of justice and peace. Our new Malawi is becoming more and more stained by corruption “katangale” which takes many new forms today. No level of society is immune. Corruption is never for the betterment of all and it undermines the common good.

We condemn it in very strong terms and we join all those conscientious sons and daughters of Malawi who courageously speak out against this malpractice. As your pastors we implore you to actively support all anti-corruption endeavours. We should not degenerate into a society in which nothing can be done without some form of “katangale” or bribery. This evil must be removed from our society. We urge you to say NO to this sin, which has become a way of life for some.

Conclusion

With this letter, we launch the preparations for the celebration of the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000 as well as the centenary of the Catholic Church in Malawi. We have said that we will accomplish this preparation by implementing the decisions and orientations of the African Synod which Pope John Paul II has presented to us in his Apostolic Exhortation “Ecclesia in Africa”, “The Church in Africa”. This is our initial letter on this subject. Other shorter publications will follow on specific themes of the Synod and we have mandated the National African Synod Commission to make some paraphrased leaflets available for use in the small Christian communities, and for individual use.

Today, we officially launch the preparations for the Great Jubilee at national level. We urge all of you: laity, religious and priests to seriously undertake the implementation of the African Synod according to the plans adopted by your diocese.

May the Grace of Our Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with us all in our journey towards the year 2000.

Felix Mkhori (Chairman) Bishop of Chikwawa
James Chiona Archbishop of Blantyre
Alessandro Assolari Bishop of Mangochi
Allan Chamgwera Bishop of Zimba
Gervazio Chisendera Bishop of Dedza
Tarsizio Ziyaye Bishop of Lilongwe
Joseph Zuza Bishop of Mzuzu

Notes

[1] The year 2000 will be just like any other year. It is being specifically commemorated and celebrated because it is 2000 years since Jesus Christ was born and it introduces a new millennium. We must not believe rumours about disasters and the like.
[2] Pope John Paul II, The Church in Africa, n.141
[3] See also: Lev.25v.8ff; 25:39-42; Is.61:v.1; Lk. 4:v.18 ff.
[4] Difficulties beyond their control forced them to withdraw after two years. 10 years later the Montfort Missionaries arrived in Nzama and established a Mission there which lasts until today.
[5] Pope John Paul II. The Church in Africa, no.5.
[6]Pope John Paul II, The Church in Africa, no.1
[7] The African Synod Comes Home, A Simplified Text, p.21
[8] In adopting this image we need to purify so as to correct some of the negative aspects found in the human families. We take God the Father as model.
[9] Pope John Paul II: Tertio Millennio Adveniente: nos. 43, 48, 54
[10] John 10:v 10
[11] Exodus 23: 11; Ps. 9:7; Ps. 35:10; Is.3:15; Lk. 6:20; James 2:2-6.
[12] Genesis 1:27
[13] Matthew 5:v.43-44
[14] Acts 15. During the Council of Jerusalem the early Christian community decided not to oblige new members, who were not Jewish, to be circumcised. They did not have to become Jewish in order to become Christian.
[15] Pope John Paul II: The Church in Africa, no 59
[16] Pope John Paul II: The Church in Africa, no. 54, 90, 105.
[17] Micah 6:v8
[18] The biblical notion of peace covers much more than the absence of war and conflict. It means good relationship with God and neighbour, it includes respect for the environment and nature, enough for all, with no one going hungry or being destitute. Jesus himself expresses this in his many teachings about the Kingdom of God or God’s reign. It is to this peace that we refer.
[19] Matthew 19:14-21
[20] Pope John Paul II: The Church in Africa, no.110