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New Catholic bishop in Angola highlights four symbols to guide his episcopal ministry

The newly consecrated Catholic Bishop of Angola’s Lwena Diocese has highlighted four symbols that are to guide his Episcopal Ministry in the Southern African nation. In his maiden speech as Bishop during the September 3 Episcopal ordination event, Bishop Martín Lasarte Topolansky said that in starting his ministry as Bishop, he will be offering himself as a “small seed” that matures “into a big tree”, salt, light, and yeast.

“The first thing I want to offer is the seed of the Kingdom of God. This small seed grows into a big tree. Where the birds of heaven are welcomed,” Bishop Lasarte said. He added, “I would like to offer this small seed so that it can grow vigorously in our hearts.”

The Uruguayan-born member of the Salesians of Don Bosco (SDB), whose Episcopal appointment was made public on July 1 said that “salt that gives flavor” would also guide his ministry of shepherding the people of God in Lwena Diocese. Salt, he said, “speaks to us of the authenticity of our life that makes the Gospel attractive. It tells us about keeping our Christian identity alive and clear in the face of the pressures of the world, in the face of the misery of our sin and the mediocrity of our lives.”

He also highlighted the symbol of light, saying, “We offer the light of the Gospel and the radiance of a life of holiness, which bears witness to this message and gives it credibility.” To underscore the significance of the symbol of light, Bishop Lasarte made reference to the Apostolic Exhortation of Pope Paul VI, Evangelii Nuntiandi in a popular expression that highlights the distinction between teachers and witnesses.

“The world needs witnesses more than teachers. And if it accepts teachers, it is because they are witnesses,” he said, and explained, “If we lose our originality, if we lose love and Christian hope incarnate in our lives, our words will be in vain.” In being guided by the symbol of light, Bishop Lasarte further said, “I would also like to offer the lamp that gives light; I would like to offer this transparent and credible witness to our life of faith.”

“Finally, the fourth thing, the yeast, which makes the bread rise, is our humble contribution so that the Kingdom of God can germinate in our society,” the newly Consecrated SDB Bishop said during the September 3 event that was held at the Our Lady of Assumption Cathedral of Lwena Diocese. He added, “In the extraordinary concrete realities of everyday life, I hope that the leaven of Christian life will leaven the Church, making it more beautiful because of its holiness.” As yeast, the Local Ordinary of Lwena Diocese expressed the hope to “leaven our human society, where the values of the Gospel permeate culture and human relationships, fostering justice, solidarity, respect, care for the poorest, truth and peace.”

Following his Episcopal Consecration, Bishop Lasarte succeeds Bishop Jesús Tirso Blanco who died in February 2022. Making reference to his predecessor during his September 3 maiden speech, the SDB member urged the people of God in Lwena Diocese to “walk together in this beautiful mission of proclaiming and living all that he has taught us.” “Let us continue to joyfully bear witness to our faith by serving our brothers and sisters whom the Lord has placed on our path,” he added. Bishop Lasarte is the fifth Local Ordinary of Lwena Diocese that was erected in May 1979. It is part of the Metropolitan Archdiocese of Saurimo and has a population of 130,000 Catholics, according to 2021 statistics.

João Vissesse contributed to the writing of this article.

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