Dear Brothers and Sisters,
“…Remembering the mercies of God ... let the renewing of your minds transform you, so that you may discern for yourselves what is the will of God – what is good and acceptable and mature.” (Romans 12:1-2)
In this spirit, we pray that the upcoming Elections will constitute a further step both in bringing about the kind of society God desires for us and in giving us leaders, men and women of integrity who will build that society.
Twenty-five years after the memorable elections of 1994, we celebrate that we have been able both to defend and to develop our democracy. We are grateful to good and honest people who have worked heroically and selflessly in the service of the nation. We are thankful also that the foundational institutions of our democracy have stood the test of time.
Sadly, we have also come to see a darker side of political life. Recent Commissions of Enquiry have and are exposing individuals in both the political and corporate sectors who have tragically betrayed the public trust and placed their own self-interest ahead of the common good of the country.
The General Election of May 8th presents all South Africans with the opportunity to renew our vision for South Africa. We have the power to choose the direction our country will take. It is imperative that we choose wisely and courageously and not be distracted by false promises.
Tough questions that seek honesty and truth
Our primary concern as your spiritual leaders is that we choose leaders who will promote the good of all by living the values of the Constitution in the light of the Gospel. Pope Francis urges us to look for “politicians who are genuinely disturbed by the state of society, the people, the lives of the poor!” (Evangelii Gaudium, 205).
In this context we ask you: who do you think would –
eradicate corruption more effectively
provide realistic programmes to overcome unemployment and poverty?
appoint selfless public servants as leaders at national and provincial level?
effectively reduce the level of violence tyrannising our people?
transform those attitudes and practices which underlie the violence against women and children?
respond effectively to the aspirations of our youth?
fulfil the promises they make rather than disappoint us?
protect our democracy and its institutions?
In short, who do you think would make us proud to be South Africans?
Each one must answer these questions according to their conscience.
We are challenged not to vote only to advance our own personal interests, be they interests of race, ethnic group or social and economic class. Rather we are called to vote in a way that will promote the common good.
Let us keep in mind the poor, the unemployed and the disadvantaged – it is Our Lord who reminds us that, whatever we do to the least of His brothers and sisters, we do to Him. (Mt 25:40)
A call for peaceful, free and fair elections
We each have a grave responsibility to create the environment of tolerance and acceptance which enables every South African to support and vote for the party that they choose, without fear of violence and intimidation. While this responsibility falls heavily on the political parties and the media, we urge the organs of State to proactively ensure the safety of all.
It is also the responsibility of each one of us to work for peaceful and free and fair elections.
We therefore urge political parties:
to refrain from inflammatory, intimidating and inappropriate statements;
to take visible, decisive action when candidates and their supporters are involved in acts of intolerance, intimidation, harassment and disturbance;
to respect the election results;
to do everything to ensure that the rule of law is respected.
We call on the media:
to refrain from sensationalism,
to report appropriately and responsibly for the benefit of the common good.
We call on you, bear Brothers and Sisters, to assist the Independent Electoral Commission, to monitor these elections by doing the following:
volunteering as observers,
assisting with conflict management.
A call to prayer
Let us pray for peaceful elections that produce leaders who will always act justly, love tenderly, and walk humbly with their God. (Micah 6:8)
We invite you to recite this prayer in your families and parishes as we prepare for the elections and also during the elections.
As we approach the elections, grant us the wisdom and courage we need
in order to make the right choices.
Help us to carry out our duties as responsible citizens with respect for the rights of others.
By voting in a spirit of humility and service, may we bring hope to the poor,
unity to all our people and a more secure and peaceful future for our children.
Father, do not allow us to become discouraged,
Inspire us to contribute to the rebuilding of our country with vigour and generosity.
Recalling our opening words from Scripture:
“... let the renewing of your minds transform you, so that you may discern for yourselves what is the will of God – what is good and acceptable and mature…” (Romans 12:1-2)
we invoke God’s blessing upon you all and upon our nation.
Your Bishops, gathered at Mariannhill Retreat Centre, in Plenary Assembly, 12 February 2019.
Archbishop Jabulani Nxumalo OMI - Bloemfontein
Archbishop Stephen Brislin - Cape Town
Bishop Adam Musialek SCJ- De Aar
Bishop Graham Rose- Dundee
Archbishop Coadjutor Abel Gabuza – Durban
Father Sifiso Ntshangase for Bishop Xolelo Kumalo – Eshowe
Bishop Sigfried Jwara CMM – Ingwavuma
Archbishop Buti Tlhagale OMI – Johannesburg
Bishop Edward Risi OMI – Keimoes-Upington
Bishop Victor Phalana – Klerksdorp
Bishop Zolile Mpambani SCJ – Kokstad
Bishop peter Holiday – Kroonstad
Bishop Mlungisi Dlungwane – Mariannhill
Bishop Sithembele Sipuka – Mthatha
Father John Atkinson – Administrator of Oudsthoorn
Bishop Jeremiah Masela- Polokwane
Bishop Vincent Zungu OFM – Port Elizabeth
Archbishop William Slattery OFM – Pretoria
Bishop Dabula Mpako – Queenstown
Bishop Kevin Dowling CSsR – Rustenburg
Bishop Joao Rodrigues – Tzaneen
Father Molewe Machingoane for Bishop Joe Sandri MCCJ - Witbank
I am sure many of us have had an experience of going to the bus stop or the airport to wait for the arrival of a friend, a loved one, a guest or someone special. After what seems to be an interminable delay, we are overcome with joy when we see our loved one emerging from the Arrival terminal.
We begin to forget our long wait, our restlessness and all our inconveniences. Our emotions begin to tell a different story, that our long wait was important, meaningful and worthwhile, after all. Likewise, during Advent the coming of the Lord into our lives fills us with high expectations of abounding joy, love, hope and a sense of destiny with its crowning moment at Christmas.
St Luke who accompanies our reflection during Sundays of Ordinary Time of Year C, invites us kindly to “watch and pray” (Lk 21: 36). Prayer can be defined as an act of raising our minds and hearts to God. It opens our eyes to the presence of God, helping us to see everything in proper perspective, and nurture in our heart’s peace, even in the midst of problems and pains. Keeping watch invites us to be vigilant and exercise spiritual oversight in our life of faith. Vigilance necessitates discernment through which we are able to sense the abiding presence of God in our lives, distinguish between what is right and wrong, what is good and evil and have moral courage to live according to the teaching of the Gospel.
“Discernment”, Pope Francis insists: “We need it at all times, to help us recognize God’s timetable, lest we fail to heed the promptings of his grace and disregard his invitation to grow.” The Holy Father, makes an appropriate invitation that can help us celebrate the Advent Season fittingly, “I ask all Christians not to omit, in dialogue with the Lord, a sincere daily ‘examination of conscience’” (Gaudate et Exsultate, 109).
In the final analysis, advent prepares us for the celebration of the Nativity of our Lord Jesus Christ, which recalls in the history of salvation God’s faithfulness and stupendous love. God so loved the world that he sent us his only Beloved Son, so that we may experience life in its fullness. So, we have every reason to live in joyful hope for the final coming of our Lord Jesus Christ to establish once and for all the Kingdom of God.
“Hope is a vital part of life. We spend a great deal of our lives longing, waiting, hoping for one thing or another. It is impossible to live when one is completely without hope. Hope is as important for our spirit as bread is for our body. Our strength, our commitment, depends to a great extent on the degree and quality of our hope” (Fr. Flor McCarthy, SDB).
Mary is honoured as the Chief Patron of our Diocese of Port Elizabeth. In accordance with the official liturgical Pastoral Guide it is therefore elevated to a solemnity (big feast) for the local church and celebrated on the Sunday that occurs on 4th February or between the 4th and 10th February each year.