God, AIDS, Africa & HOPE

pensées of a Catholic priest

Prayers with hands and feet?

I am not sure I see the whole picture or maybe most is hidden in broad daylight, but entertaining Facebook, Twitter and other social media I simply fail to see much activity of local churches here in South Africa in the times of need.
Yes, I see streamed services and appeals to pray the rosary, links to the Holy Father and his impressive messages of hope – all good, but I somehow miss in the times of CAN and neighbourhood initiatives here in South Africa the strong practical voices of the church.
I miss a stronger voice of churches being an essential service in practical ways, organizing and streamlining their response to the hunger of the people, to the empty stomachs and the despair in being often confined in questionable human conditions.

Maybe I don’t look at the right places, maybe social media is not a mirror of reality, maybe churches are too humble to advertise their concerted efforts of a structured approach to the life crisis, COVID-19 is bringing to the people.
Praying with your hands and feet is part of a theology, I have favoured throughout life and especially in times like these we should see strong leadership and courage trumping those at times no-sense making rules imposed on us. And as digital media and internet in the times of distancing is an important way of communication, I would wish for more traces of a Catholic or Christian response which sees itself as an essential service in so many ways.
We can’t expect higher powers to do so – in times of crisis necessary actions are not made by proclamation but by giving belief and conviction a pair of practical hands.

As said, maybe I look at the wrong places to witness all the action done under the radar – if so, then this post should encourage everybody to come into the open – to give witness of compassion and empathy not only with holy words but also with holy – whole making in the real sense of the word –  deeds here and now.  This unprecedented crisis is a ‘kairos” – a defining moment yearning for well organized action with and between churches and faith based organisations.

As said, maybe I don’t see the whole picture, and then forgive me for shouting out,
maybe I ask too much when looking at own fears and limitations, also that would be human,
but the nagging question remains:
Where are the churches visible in this crisis as a place of structured and systematic response?

 

Filed under: Africa, Catholic Church, chaplain, Reflection, Religion and Ethics, Society and living environment, South Africa, Uncategorized, , , , , , , , ,

A blessed time of Christmas

A blessed time of Christmas,

A blessed time of Peace,

A blessed time of Humanity

A blessed time to you and your family

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Filed under: Africa, Catholic Church, chaplain, General, HOPE Cape Town Trust, HOPE Cape Town USA, HOPE Gala Dresden, Uncategorized,

Exciting times for the Roman-Catholic Church

We are meanwhile used since the advent of the pontificate of Pope Francis that conservative and circles of the Roman-Catholic Church are falling into opposition to the man on top of the church’s hierarchy.

First very decent the choir of discontent and the wish to embalm tradition and keep the church from moving through the times even closer to the divine mysteries; now you hear screams and public discontent which in the times of John-Paul II would have had severe consequences if you would have been a priest or an employee of the church.
Times have changed and even the slightest acknowledgement of human development from the Vatican seems for some to constitute heresy on Peter’s throne. Footnotes in papal writings trigger storms of indignation in certain circles of the church.

And now the Synod Way of the German Bishops Conference and the implementation of a local Synod in the Diocese of Trier give way to another onslaught of staunch self-described Catholics who know the truth, who know the ways of God and who know exactly how salvation is achieved for human mankind. Prescribed since the old ages and seemingly never able to develop – let alone to change.
It seems that those fighting against any new insight forget how slavery was once normal for the church, how religious freedom or even democracy originated from the devil – let alone that the earth was the center of the universe….
Theology, once the crown jewel of academia is for those people sentenced to withstand research and new knowledge contradicting or expanding the bases for religious notions.

Indeed exciting times – and maybe the word ‘diversity’ would help us to understand that there is nothing wrong in feeling at home in different religious settings within the broader church.  Maybe the word ‘tolerance’ would prescribe a way to understand that my way of believing is in many instances unique and that there is a framework in which we are all allowed to prosper and indulge in coming closer to the divine and the mystery of God.

And maybe listening to each other instead of judging each other, allowing for questions of variance and doubt, not using sacraments as weapons or punishment and seeing the good, the divine in every brother and sister would help us to move forward – allowing for those who want to remain a bit behind and those who want to stray forward to still feel being part of the same church, the same group of faithful.

Filed under: Catholic Church, Reflection, Uncategorized, , , , , , , , , ,

Greta and the voice of the church

Listening to the debates about the now famous Greta – all the questions asked and criticism voiced, praises sung – I certainly have formed my own opinion but what really get me thoughtful is a complete other question I am asking myself: The hype around a topic which the Roman Catholic Church has on her agenda since ages – 1.2 billion faithful of this denomination were not able to make it a headline worldwide over decades. Why? Since ages the church is looking into the question of environment and protection of the creation.

Is it because of the social media possibilities alone? The means in our days to put your energy and dreams in tweets, Instagram, Facebook and other means of internet communication – triggering so the worldwide hype? Even if the real consequences of such a hype is still questionable – in Germany the amount of people flying is increasing despite protesting on a Friday for the future – the question remains: Why were 1.2 billion Catholics not able to bring a topic to the forefront?

Or is it that most Catholics did not care – that all the information, booklets, declaration of bishops and popes have no real voice anymore – maybe heard, but immediately put aside as impractical or far away from reality?

Or was it too prophetic – too early to really catch the eye of the public and those in charge of society and politics?

Whatever it is – I find it amazing how little impact a billion strong community has on essential questions of human mankind in our lifetime – and it seems to me so different from the old times where church was minting questions and values in a way, which lingers even today almost genetically in people. I sense changes we still not have realized with all the consequences for our institutions, for our life and that of our societies.

There is more to reflect …  signs of the times…

Filed under: Catholic Church, Reflection, Society and living environment, Uncategorized, , , , ,

Catholic Church: mysticism and reality in the times of the abuse scandal

abuseA lot is written about the meeting of bishops in Rome on the topic of child abuse – and the reactions were as diverse as people seeing the problem with different eyes:
for some the conference was a milestone as for the first time the Catholic Church took on the monster of child abuse head on admitting the cancer spreading since a long time within its ranks. For others it was more of a talk shop and they would have expected clear-cut rules and regulations how to deal with the past, the presence and the future. Obviously the topic was and is also used by those wanting either to preserve or yearning for change in the church: for the latter, child abuse is only a consequence of clericalism and a hierarchy which seems to have a meaning in itself while for those wanting to preserve the might and power of the Catholic Church homosexuality within the clergy is the core element of triggering abuse.

For me there is no question that the exaggeration of heavenly powers for those up the hierarchy, the wish of protection of the good name of the church, the failing to acknowledge that mysticism of faith has to be based in the realities of the people, the choosing of bishops and cardinals who would just go blindly along with everything said and done from the top without hesitation, the neglect of the synodality of the church in favor of a medieval rigid papal and curial system as promoted by John-Paul II has fostered a climate where child abuse was condoned, covered up and for some even encouraged as the most what could happen was to be moved to another place with ample opportunities to continue the horrible deeds. Child abuse is the consequence of a church system which gave rise to clericalism in all forms and shapes.

It seems that not all got the message – looking at statements from Cardinal Burke and Brandmueller and judging by other statements of right-wing and so-called conservative people within the church child abuse is taken as the scenario to fight modern ideas. And obviously the all-present fight against homosexuality which seems to be the pinnacle of all woes the church is in according to this fraction of the church. Being in an almost all-out war for the direction of the Catholic Church for the years to come, the abuse of the abuse is a convenient tool to fight for the return of the “Holy Mother” to the good old times where hierarchy was clear and the laity obeyed without doubts. And that would leave us with some misguided priests – rotten apples – to be forced to leave so that  church business can continue as it has been since ages.

As much as I can understand the yearning for an environment clearly defined in a world which is so confusing; as much as I can understand the insecurity of so many brothers and sisters in this mad world of so many choices and fast developments – we as church have to be at the cross-road of mysticism and reality.

The reality is that life is developing as is our understanding of the world and of the meaning of life – church can only be relevant if it keeps up with this development by at the same time preserve the mystical and inner core of its message:
This world has a meaning, we are part of a divine plan which is so much bigger than we can think of. It means to keep the fire burning in our hearts and minds towards a future we only can believe in without knowing all the facts – love, hope and faith are the components of this mystical inner yearning which promises to make at the end sense of our journey on earth.

At all times the church has tried to spell out this hope, which for us Christians become human and manifest in Jesus, with the tools and the knowledge available at that time. Looking back in history the church was often at the forefront of academia and developments but it is human nature that success can make one getting more slow and luscious and often also unwilling to accept new insights which would contradict its chosen path. So we have to catch up on reality and insight – living and preaching within the realities of life today without losing this mystical component of our human inner being –  in our days often is seen in the spirituality of people lived outside of official churches.

Keeping the divine fire burning in every human being while traveling in the modern world with all the new knowledge and the constant changes in possibilities is an art  – but the only art possible to survive as a church. And it means to acknowledge, expose and correct the wrongs of the past and to work openly and transparent on the new way forward.

For the question of child abuse it means to look honestly and without any reservation at the crimes committed or allowed to be committed, to hold those having failed responsible without regard to position or standing in the church and to make sure that this never happens again. There is, besides the deeds of single people a systematic failure we also have to acknowledge which means that we have to re-work aspects of the “system”church without betraying the core message of unconditional love of God which allows for life to flourish and develop. The questions of how we deal with sexuality in all forms and equality of man and woman are only some of the questions we have to tackle here and now to make sure the evil of child abuse has been brought to an end.

 

Filed under: Catholic Church, Reflection, Religion and Ethics, Society and living environment, Uncategorized, , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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