“An opportunity to live brotherhood among us bishops, to deepen relationships of true friendship: this is the reason for the meeting”. This is how Archbishop Boniface Lele of Mobasa, Kenya introduced the meeting.
Cardinal Emmanuel Wamala, Archbishop Emeritus of Kampala, Uganda, echoed his words saying: “To rediscover our task at the service of society, let us try to understand together God’s design on us. During these days we can feel how much He calls us precisely to unity, which is the charism of Chiara Lubich.”
The first thing the bishops did when they arrived at the Focolare little town “Piero”, was to make the commitment to practise “the art of Christian loving” among themselves in order to have the presence of the Risen One in their midst. “It will be the Risen Jesus who will enlighten and who will give us the gifts of the Spirit,” said Cardinal Miloslav Vlk, convenor of the meeting.
This same lifestyle is shared by more than 1000 bishops throughout the world, which is inspired by the “spirituality of communion”. Bishop Salutaris Libena, auxilliary bishop of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, immediately affirms: “I’ve come to learn to serve, to love concretely. This is a way of life which fills the heart, which gives supernatural joy.”
Bishop Salesius Mugambi, Bishop of Meru, Kenya remarks: “In a serene and joyful atmosphere, we reflected and delved more deeply into the spirituality of communion. We listened to updatings, shared joys and sorrows, but also enjoyed moments of relaxation.” These sentiments were shared by Archbishop Damiao Franklin of Luanda, Angola: “These were days spent in sincerity toward God and toward our brothers.”
There were several moments for the sharing of experiences, both personal and pastoral, with a look at some of the challenges that the African continent must face: conflicts and violence, poverty, corruption; all challenges in which the members of the Movement are immersed, and which they want to respond to by living the spirituality of communion, which leads them to be workers of peace and unity in the environments in which they live.
South African Bishop Patrick Mvemve of Klerksdorp, shared about his first contact with the Focolare during the period of the apartheid, as a young priest: “Having met two priests who truly lived the Gospel with facts, without giving a lot of speeches, I became curious. And so one day they spoke to me of Jesus crucified and abandoned. In that moment I was “healed” of my prejudices and became an apostle of unity.
Another topic that was discussed was “the educational emergency”. The experiences of forming priests in the “spirituality of communion” was recognized by the bishops as “one of the valid contributions being made to the Church of today.
At the conclusion of the meeting, the bishops wanted to formulate a “pact” of mutual love, declaring their desire to continue taking care of each other once they had returned to their diocese.
Bishop Sithembele Sipuka of Umtata, South Africa, summarizes the experience they had: “I leave enthusiastic with a life programme. I pray the Holy Spirit will guide me to put it into practice in the daily reality of every day.”
Meetings for Bishop Friends of the Focolare take place in various geographic locations around the world, which are inspired by the “spirituality of communion” proposed by John Paul II and practiced by the Focolare Movement since its began. Following the gathering in Kenya, similar events will take place in Madagascar and in Cameroon, in the Philippines, the Middle East and Europe.