God, AIDS, Africa & HOPE

Reflections / Gedanken

Study of the German Catholic Bishops Conference on HIV/AIDS published in Germany

The German bishops are committed to make sure that HIV-infected priests and religious in Africa can talk openly about their situation. Until now they could “not openly live with HIV while in the church service.”
This is one of the results of a study that the Working Group of the department for the work in the universal church of the German Bishops Conference has released on Tuesday. “Lessons from the responses of the Catholic Church on HIV and AIDS in Africa,” is the theme of the study. It contains the results of an international field study, which was conducted from 2010 to 2013 in Ethiopia, Zambia and Malawi by theologians and health experts which are summarized. Not only medical aspects, but also pastoral and ethical issues are addressed.
Furthermore the study calls that church and medical institutions should work better together. Any efforts in the fields of HIV prevention, care, support and support for AIDS patients should be continued. The results of the study will be disseminated through workshops in Africa, which was the wish of the participating African bishops.
Basically, the situation of the people should be considered and taken into account, according to the study. Economic, social, cultural and political pressure has pushed many people to risky behavior. In the training of priests and pastoral workers ethical and pastoral skills related to the pandemic must be taken into account. (translated from the Vatican News – German section)

For somebody advocating to address the question of HIV positive priest here in South Africa since years this small article feels like a great encouragement. Until now I have experienced only great openness when addressing the issue in the Vatican with the head of the Papal Council for Health Care and the secretary for the Council on Justice and Peace, but met with rather quiet resistance when addressing the issue here in South Africa. It is indeed not a sexy topic, but the question, how we can turn the double stigma priests and religious suffering from the pandemic into a blessing for them and their respective communities is for me an important one. An organization like the church which caters so much for HIV positive people in general and was and is at the forefront in the fight against HIV/AIDS on practical level here in South Africa can at the end only be authentic if it caters with the same compassion and openness for the own people affected and infected.
I have experienced how anxious priests are, who are infected. It seems to be in the current situation impossible to get two priests who are both HIV positive in the same room  to share life. The fear of being known, being betrayed by a colleague and exposed, the fear of rejection from the respective parish or community shows a climate within the church urgently to be addressed. We are a welcoming church and the unconditional love of God we have to proclaim must be felt and extended to our fellow priests and religious brothers and sisters. It is indeed also a question of Justice & Peace within the church to do so and make space available for this. Once again: Stigma must be turned into blessing – and the unconditional love of God will shine palpable upon us all.

Filed under: Africa, Catholic Church, chaplain, General, HIV and AIDS, HIV Prevention, HIV Treatment, Reflection, Religion and Ethics, South Africa, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

04.11.2009 Farewell thoughts

Sitting at Frankfurt airport I can feel the how tired I am and how much I am looking forward to sleep while flying back to Cape Town. I will be happy to be back home again.

For 16 days I toured through Germany with a detour to Rome, I have had meetings, planing workshop, planing meeting, one2one meetings, telephone meetings, talks – I saw round about a 1000 people in those days – statistics can be interesting. Plans are made until 2013 – I feel the manager syndrome arriving on my doorsteps, but I guess many people are telling me that since years. The Ecumenical church day, the world aids conference, the Bundespositivenkonferenz, the world awareness campaign part two, the exhibition at the Charite Museum, a film project, quite some invitations, amongst them to speak also about economy and ethics as well as how to achieve a value system for one’s own life, motivational talks – the visit of bishops to bring the idea of the pastoral care for positive clergy via bishops conferences to Rome – I am this evening indeed sure that there will be no dull moment in my life for the next years to come. And I thought it will take time to find enough work in my new working environment

HOPE Cape Town will be re-structured a bit – new offices, partly changed job descriptions – the Catholic Aids Networks registration as a NPO and PBO and I guess also there is some restructuring necessary – I still have to write a contribution to a book published by the University of Trier – writing down for me all the “still have to do” list is frightening and challenging at the same time. But I am in a good spirit that all can be done, seeing all the marvellous colleagues giving a hand and taking a lead with me.

Next week we will have our management and planing meeting from HOPE Cape Town and then I will report back in detail and we will plan for the new year ahead. Despite my tiredness I can feel the dynamics of networking – the possibilities lying ahead and I once again don’t understand the stand of many NGO’s which are so protective of their work and see most others as competition rather than a completion to their own work. This year I have seen some naughty incidents were other NGO’s were not afraid to try to lure away sponsors on our very own events. There are still so many feathers to earn in South Africa – and there are also so many willing sponsors if you have a good programme – there is no need to fight each other for anything.


Filed under: General, HOPE Cape Town Association & Trust, Networking, Reflection, , , , , , , , , , , , ,

04.10.2009 Farewell Sunday..

It is Sunday morning and in a couple of hours the farewell will take place. A 12,5 year long chapter of my life will come to a formal end. The move of my office on Friday already signaled the radical change in my life. And my thoughts wander a bit around, first to those, who wanted me out of office and will today look satisfied and content, because they removed what was in their eyes a constant tread to the church and the German Bishops Conference. I am sure Mr. P. will be satisfied of his victory. His strategy of coercion and harassment hs worked in that sense.

But I feel in the moment rather far distanced from those people who changed surely my path of life. But I strongly believe that it will all come to a good end. And I am delighted to read all the mementos from sympathetic  people reaching me via email, amongst them one from Hans Kueng, whom I admire a lot. That is indeed balsam for my soul.

Filed under: General, Reflection, Uncategorized, , , , ,

19.08.2009 Meeting…

After several postponements I will meet today the local Archbishop of Cape Town to discuss my future. From outside it might look easy, but CIC, canon law, can be very tricky.
The German Bishops Conference has ended my contract. But at the end, only the local bishop determines the end of my assignment in conjunction with my local bishop. My successor was presented to the Archbishop in Cape Town. He must formally appoint him, without it, no visa and no work here. He has not done it as I write this.
To make things more complicated: Bishops must put in their resignation with 75. If accepted, life stands somehow still in a diocese until a new bishop is installed. Archbishop Henry has reached the 75 and put consequently in his resignation. If it is accepted – there is a further problem, because my successor cannot start work until the installation of a new bishop. So everything would be stalled for a while or longer.

I hope to get some clarity about the way forward during the meeting and to know first hand, what will happen with me. There is still some weeks to go…
And after the meeting back home and continue recovering from H1N1…  Life is never boring… 🙂

Filed under: Reflection, Uncategorized, , , , ,

24.07.2009 one week to go…

When holidays start, then it seems like quite some time – but suddenly, after having done two/third, time seems to run faster and faster…  And one suddenly must make a plan to do all the things still open on ones agenda. Well, this time it isn’t different – and suddenly the realisation, that next week this time, I will already be back in Cape Town, most probably struggling with jet leg and an office full of requests and notes and mails and so on…

What makes this coming home so special is the fact, that with the day I start working again, my last 8 weeks as the chaplain to the German speaking Catholic Community will commence  (if all is going according to plan).  Without knowing exactly until now what will be my next “stage” in life, I have to move from one place to another within Cape Town, I have to wind down all the technicalities which such a hand over requires – and South Africa can be a nightmare in this concern. 12,5 years of service going towards an end.

I feel a bit like Abraham going towards the unknown;  with the difference, that he was much older, and he was called out, not kicked or pushed out – so to speak.  🙂 I am sure I will reflect quite a bit what it meant to me being a chaplain to that very special community in Cape Town – not to forget the folks in Durban. All so special and come what may come, I am aware that it was indeed a privilege to serve those communities the last years.

I always said when we had visitors: “What can be more nice than to be a chaplain in Cape Town?”

Having reflected on it a bit during my holidays I am aware that Cape Town changed me a lot. Living in Africa, living next to Table Mountain, living in vivid history happening in the country in the moment – having such a diverse crowd of faithful from all corners of German speaking parts of the world and quite a lot already distant from the institution “church”, it made me realise that whatever we think we know exactly can quick fade away as I had to learn every day that life is more colourful, more diverse, more exciting, more different than I ever thought.

This diversity, the colourful mixture of God’s brothers and sisters has sometimes an intensity, which definitely you hardly will find back home in parishes in Germany, Austria, Switzerland or all the other places. And adding all the experience through our social project “Hope Cape Town”, the mixture of guests at our Mediterranean Villa – sometimes it could get even for me a bit too much and too hectic…

And then still remains the question: How do you bring this “all” home to Germany? How do explain those on the purely administrative level that such diversity requires sometimes solutions beside “the norm”? How do you open up their hearts and minds that indeed church has to be diverse too – and has been and will always be.  Not that easy….

Filed under: Reflection, , , , , , , , , , ,

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