By Deogratias Mmana:
Catholic bishops in the country have agreed to divert from the traditional issuance of pastoral letters and meet the country’s political leadership in person to discuss political and socio-economic challenges.
The bishops made the resolution during their second annual Episcopal Conference of Malawi (ECM) plenary held from June 21 to 25 2021. The ECM is headed by Archbishop Thomas Msusa of Blantyre Archdiocese.
During the plenary, the bishops made 38 resolutions, according to a statement dated July 23 2021 but released Sunday.
“In response to the current socio-economic and political challenges, the bishops resolved that, apart from regularly issuing pastoral statements/letters which people get used to, the conference should consider directly engaging the political leadership on governance and development issues in a straight-forward manner,” the statement, signed by ECM Secretary General Father Henry Saindi, reads.
The Catholic bishops are known for issuance of pastoral letters on topical issues and produced the landmark pastoral letter called ‘Living Our Faith’ in 1992 which, helped the country to shift from the one party state to multiparty democracy.
Some of the pastoral statements they have issued include ‘A Call for a New Era in Malawi’ issued on April 29 2018; ‘A further Call for a New Era in Malawi’ issued in May 2020 and ‘Renewing Our Lives and Society with the Power of the Holy Spirit’ issued in 2006.
Economic expert Milwad Tobias Sunday welcomed the bishops’ approach, describing it as gentle, but still saw the need for pastoral letters.
“It is a more gentle approach but I suppose that, if the economic situation does not change after a reasonable period, the Church will issue a pastoral letter. The political leadership is out of touch with reality,” he said.
During the plenary, the bishops also resolved that there should be sensitisation meetings on the wearing of hijab by Muslim learners in [government]-assisted Christian schools.
“Regarding the Memorandum of Understanding signed between Christian and Muslims on the wearing of the hijab in Assisted Christian Schools, the bishops resolved that, with financial support from Public Affairs Committee, there should be sensitisation meetings on the same to members of the presbyterium and selected head teachers in all arch / dioceses,” the statement reads.
The bishops have also resolved that each diocese should contribute $400 towards the current political situation in the Tigray region, where there is civil war.
The contribution, the statement indicates, is in solidarity with the church in the region.
ECM comprises Msusa, bishops Peter Musikuwa of Chikwawa, Martin Mtumbuka of Karonga, John Ryan of Mzuzu, George Tambala of Zomba, Montfort Stima of Mangochi. Dioceses of Lilongwe and Dedza are yet to have bishops.
Father Peter Chifukwa is yet to be consecrated next month as Dedza Diocese bishop and will then join ECM.