On 27th November – 1 December 2023, IMBISA, the Inter-regional Meeting of Bishops of Southern Africa hosted a meeting with theologians, the contact persons of the Episcopal Conferences and synod delegates Archbishop Robert Ndlovu of Harare, Zimbabwe and Bishop John Tlhomola of Mohale’s Hoek, Lesotho, at Padre Pio Retreat Center, in Pretoria, South Africa, with the theme: DEEPENING SYNODAL ENGAGEMENTS, to shed light on the ecclesiastical region’s synodal activities and invite engagement to live and deepen what was discussed at the Synod.
Participants reflected on various aspects of the synod, with synod delegates sharing their experience at the synod and contact persons their conferences’ perceptions and lessons of the synodal process. Theologians presented papers on the involvement of young people in the Church, the family and synodal conversion and illness and healing in a synodal church.
We are conscious that the synod on synodality had its achievements and challenges. The synodal journey is trying to build a Church that embraces a synodal style and we are called to work out the most suitable ways to make this a reality. It is an achievement that the faithful are gathered and are searching for a way of journeying together. At the same time it is not easy to listen to different ideas without immediately countering the views expressed and impose a better idea.
The main challenges in our region include paying attention to the place of traditional initiation and healing, of traditional marriage especially polygamy, and the pastoral care of those who are intimately involved with these. We call on theologians in our region to engage in a dialogue with those who are on the same road with us in this regard.
We further recommend that all local churches in our region engage the youth so that they are empowered and encouraged to participate in church life and so be protagonists of evangelisation in their circle. This includes working with them to remove the stigma of seeking help in the psycho-spiritual sphere.
We encourage all members of the church in our region to engage in open dialogue and deep listening and invite clergy and their communities to open the doors so that we can live out synodality.
Only in this way will we be walking together as those on the road to Emmaus, fragile yet faithful as we are in this family of God, our Church.