São Tomé (Agenzia Fides) – “ While not overlooking the role of governments and various institutions active in the social field, with freedom and courage the Church must assume her prophetic role to proclaim the Gospel and denounce injustice. The Church must never be afraid to evangelise, a mission which entails: proclamation, witness of life and communion, dialogue, collaboration with others and selfless service to all people, while giving priority to the most needy”. This is written in the closing statement at the end 9th Meeting of Portuguese speaking Bishops' Conferences held in São Tomé from 2 to 9 July (see Fides 3/7/2010).
“We participants all agreed that the week had been most enriching, and expressed the hope that other similar gatherings in the future may offer the same opportunity to build relationships and share life and faith”: Bishop Manuel António Santos, CMF, Bishop of São Tomé e Príncipe, told Fides, while sharing his impression of the meeting hosted in Sao Tome. “ São Tomé and Príncipe, a small island situated in the Gulf of Guinea, hosted the 9th Meeting of Portuguese speaking Bishops– Bishop Santos recalled-. meetings which are held every two years in a different member country of the Community of Portuguese speaking countries - CPLP. This meeting brought together the Bishops of Angola, Brazil, Cape Verde, Guinea-Bissau, Mozambique, Portugal, São Tomé and Principe”.
The theme of the meeting was "The Church and the fight against poverty and social exclusion". “A most appropriate theme for the situation in São Tomé and Príncipe – the Bishop said -. For a whole week the participants experienced the social reality on the island: visiting significant places, meeting people of different ethnic origin, sharing ideas with the local Catholic community, taking part in special liturgical celebrations planned for the occasion”.
Referring to the closing statement, a copy of which was sent to Fides, Bishop Manuel António Santos mentioned one paragraph which might summarise the weeks' activity and offer indications for work in the future: "In order to have less poverty and more development, among other things, it is indispensable to adopt measures regarding the distribution of land and resources, not to mention the fight against corruption and the need to promote dignified working conditions. Priority tasks include guaranteeing school education, investments to promote justice and professional training and for better healthcare services. In her educative and social activity the Church has the right to the same resources as civil institutions engaged in the same fields ".
The closing statement underlines the warm welcome offered by religious communities and parishes in São Tomé and Príncipe, especially during the joyful and participated eucharistic celebrations. During a meeting with the President and the Prime Minister the civil authorities expressed appreciation for the work of the Catholic Church on the island, in the religious field and also in the area of social assistance and as a peace promoting element.
The theme of the meeting, in keeping with the European Year for Combating Poverty and Social Exclusion, was extensively debated taking into account the different situations in Portuguese speaking countries. The final statement observed that the Millennium Goals are far from achieved, while the gap between rich and poor people is ever wider. The Bishops call on European Union member countries to honour their commitment to assign 0.7% of national income in aid of development.
On the occasion of celebrations for 35th anniversaries of Independence in some Portuguese countries, the statement urges Catholics in the respective countries to play a more active and responsible part “in the building of a society of more justice and brotherhood”. The Church possesses in fact the rich heritage of Catholic Social Teaching which should be studied and proposed at home and abroad. (SL) (Agenzia Fides 20/7/2010)