By Odiwuor Opiyo
WINDHOEK, SEPTEMBER 30, 2022 (CISA) – Rt Rev Sithembele Sipuka, president of the Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference (SACBC) and bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Umtata, South Africa, has urged the clergy to avail themselves to the youth, to offer guidance and pastoral care.
In his homily at the Mass celebrated on Sunday, September 25, at the plenary of the Inter-Regional Meeting of Bishops of Southern Africa (IMBISA), the prelate said that old people have no right to challenge the younger generation if they lack a personal touch and have no time for them.
“I bless those priests and religious who give time to young people to know and listen to them. I appeal to those priests and religious of our region who spend their time entertaining themselves and do very little if at all, to be present to young people. If I were to propose one resolution for this plenary, it would be to make sure that priests and religious are available to young people,” he urged in his homily.
Using a biblical analogy of the parable of the Rich man and Lazarus, Bishop Sipuka advanced that the rich man was not condemned because he was rich but because “His sin is that he did nothing about the plight of Lazarus.”
“While we may not be rich in terms of having excessive material things, there is always something in which we are better than the other, and in that thing in which we are richer than the other, there will always be a Lazarus at our gate in need of it. Each of us has our own Lazarus to whom we are called to respond, and we neglect that call at our own peril,” counselled Bishop Sipuka.
“This 13th IMBISA plenary meeting has identified its Lazarus as the youth… The priests are the best-placed people to respond to young people personally because they interact with them daily in their parishes. But from what I have learnt, many priests are not available to young people; they do not know their names, and they do not spend time being with them and listening to them,” observed the prelate.
The president of SACBC urged the clergy to understand the youth in that they are not saints and they do have many flaws, “Given our share of responsibility as adults about the state of our youth today, our call to respond to Lazarus of our youth is even more forceful because the present state of our youth is our own making. There is, therefore, no room for self-righteousness and blaming. Let us begin in our response to the Lazarus of our young people by being available to them and listening to them.”
Bishop Sipuka, however, appealed to the youth to turn away from their inequities and seek a righteous life.
“While as adults, we have identified you, young people, as our Lazarus and taken some responsibility for the state in which you are, on your side, you must also take responsibility for what you have become. Much as we adults and your parents have messed you up; you still can make a choice and do the right thing because you are created with freedom. Accept 5your responsibility and go to confession if you need to, and get with life in doing the right things, but do not wallow in guilt; move on,” he counselled.
The 13th IMBISA Plenary Session in Windhoek, Namibia, took place from September 22 to 27, 2022.