Estanislau Marques Chindecasse SVD, Bishop of Dundo, Angola
Dear Leaders of Catholic women in our IMBISA Region.
Receive a fraternal greeting in the Risen Lord whose spirit animates our meeting.
Notwithstanding being physically absent due to certain challenges beyond my control, I am pleased to express my gratitude to God for having given us the opportunity to reflect on the activities and themes to be discussed in the coming days. I appreciate the understanding of Father Dumisani Vilakati and the commitment of Father Rafael in the work of IMBISA. I do not want to forget the commitment of Brenda and Nyasha, our competent collaborators and because they are women and mothers, they participate more intensely in this meeting. I don’t want to forget our tireless translator, Odete.
Talking about women, minors and the most vulnerable people is, in a way, addressing those issues and realities that essentially affect the life of the Church itself. The promotion and safeguarding of the dignity of all men and women, the care and protection of minors and vulnerable people, constitute an integral part of the mission that the Church is called to carry out with a view to building the Kingdom of God. The Pastoral Constitution Gaudium et Spes states: “The joys and hopes, the sorrows and anxieties of the men and women of today, of the poor and above all of all those who suffer, are equally the joys and hopes, the sorrows and anxieties of the disciples of Christ, and therefore there is nothing that is genuinely human that does not find its echo in the hearts of the disciples” (GS, n. 1), that is, in the Heart of the Church. It is worth saying that this attention expresses the solicitude of the Church and her maternal trust towards all her sons and daughters.
It is absolutely necessary to emphasize that the great presence and involvement of women in the life of the Church and of society must be seen as one of the signs of the times, that is: it is moving towards a new society, where women tend to pass from dependence to autonomy, from restriction to freedom, from passivity to initiative, from resignation to interdependence, from subordination to responsible participation. Therefore, women have their own share of responsibility and participation in the community life of society and the church, and today, more than ever, the church is open to the aspirations of women and seeks to help with all its strength for the full realization of conditions totally in keeping with the fundamental dignity of every human being, obscured throughout history by various conditions. Therefore, such dignity must not be limited only to the concept of “equality of rights”, but must also be identified within the principle of reciprocal complementarity, a “reciprocal complementarity” rooted in God’s creational project (Gn, 1, 26-28).
Thus, the proper woman is called to enrich the church and society with the ineffable gifts of which she has. She must, at the same time, herself be, in primis, the protagonist of her own promotion, her own dignity and liberation. Such is only possible through adequate instruction, education and information. Certainly, these are the great sectors where discrimination is also felt. We see, especially within our continent, the great difference in access to elementary education because of the cultural mentality according to which a woman’s job is to be at home. Consequently, the rate of illiteracy among women is still very high.
A Church that claims to be synodal is a church that walks with everyone, that embraces and embraces everyone, a community church in which men and women are called to respond to the missionary imperative to which we are all challenged, with diligent attention to the most vulnerable in society, the marginalized, children, young people and the elderly who suffer and the sick: “As often as you did this to one of the least of these, you did it to me” (Mt 25:40). When we take care of and protect one of the smallest and most vulnerable, it is the Lord himself, it is the Church herself to whom we do such good.
Therefore, the church in its synodality is at the same time called to solidarity. It is not and should not be indifferent to the little ones and the vulnerable. On the contrary, “it is a necessity for the church that must be renewed with all its strength” through sincere dialogue, listening and monitoring.
Let us therefore invoke the Holy Spirit so that this workshop can produce the necessary fruits for the well-being of the Church and that each and every one of us may feel more committed to achieving everything that the Lord will inspire in us at the end of our activities.