Pastoral Letter: A complete and Literal Translation
I was moved and inspired by the courage of the four Eritrean Catholic Bishops and felt obliged to do something, or at least, shout out the proverbial expression of solidarity, “I am an Eritrean Catholic too.” Compelled by an irresistible urge to help and promote their cause, which is Eritrea’s cause, I took it upon myself to translate their document into English. Little did I know that the Association of Member Episcopal Conference of Easter Africa (AMECEA) was working on the same task? I started my work on Saturday night and by Monday night I was two-thirds done; and it was at this point that a friend informed me of the translation that appeared on Asmarino.com. I did not think there was a need for me to proceed farther, but upon reading the document, I was not thoroughly pleased with it; it was neither a literal nor a complete translation of this historic document. There is always a bit of interpretation in every translation, but I think the Bishops deserve an attempt that, at least, comes closer to their original Tigrinya work. I hope I have done some justice to their work. I am responsible for any mistakes or misrepresentation of their message; and as a final arbiter of meaning I encourage you all to read the Tigrinya version.//Semere T Habtemariam.
Of the Catholic Eparches of Eritrea
Where is your brother?
1.From God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ; to the faithful who are “our children in faith”, to all people with good wills, may His Grace, Mercy and Peace be with you. Through Christ’s Resurrection victory over sin and death was achieved; and on this age of Resurrection, where you live in light by the Lord; and wear the fruit of light which consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth (Eph 5:8-9), we express our good wishes.
“Faith is the substance of things we hoped for and the evidence that we will realize them; one that helps us understand of things not seen as if they are seen,” but also one which explains “that the worlds were framed by the word of God,” and that through the light of faith we understand the meaning and message of all things which happen and come (Heb 11:1-3), and it is on the basis of this faith that we have taken it upon ourselves to present you this Apostolic message.
2.At a time when a lot of people have departed from the faith because of the deception of wrong understanding, we think of, “your work produced by faith, your labor promoted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thess 1:3). We always thank God for all of you and continually mention you in our prayers (1 Thess 1:2).
“The light of faith to illumine our human experience from within, accompanying the men and women of our time on their journey…showed how faith enriches life in all its dimensions…”(Light of Faith by Pope Francis); we should then deliberate on the Year of Faith, guided by the Word of God, and these are our considerations and conclusions.
We have started the Year of Faith with much success of spiritual renewal; assessed for an entire year the overall state of our faith, our journey of faith; we were able to praise and sing to God, pray and confess; and earlier we were blessed to inaugurate the Eparchy of Segeneyti which was a significant step in the history of our church, and hereby extend to God our utmost gratitude in the unshakable faith He bestowed on those who preceded us.
3.In his message “Door of Faith,” Pope Benedict XVI had advised the Church and those of us who shepherd the faithful and his words are pertinent because they duly reflect the realities of our times. “The Church as a whole and all her Pastors, like Christ, must set out to lead people out of the desert, towards the place of life…towards the One who gives us life, and life in abundance.” Furthermore, “It often happens that Christians are more concerned for the social, cultural and political consequences of their commitment, continuing to think of the faith as a self-evident presupposition for life in society. In reality, not only can this presupposition no longer be taken for granted, but it is often openly denied. Whereas in the past it was possible to recognize a unitary cultural matric, broadly accepted in its appeal to the content of the faith and the values inspired by it, today this no longer seems to be the case in large swathes of society, because of a profound crisis of faith that has affected many people” (Door of faith by Pope Benedict XVI)
4.It is in light of these enormous challenges; and to strengthen our faith, that our holy father, Pope Benedict XVI has prepared for us the Year of Faith. Saint Paul advises his disciple Timothy to ‘aim at faith’ (II Tim 2:22) with the same constancy as when he was a boy (II Tim 3:15). And we, the Catholic bishops of Eritrea, hear this invitation directed to each of us, have the duty to awaken people, that none of us, the faithful brothers and sisters, grow lazy in the faith.
Beloved brothers and sisters: We assure you that “we have prayed for you because such an important “faith may not fail” (Lk 22:32). Christ on the eve of his passion told Peter to strengthen his brothers and sisters in the same faith and we need to understand that the same applies to us. God went looking for man, “where are you?” (Gen 3:9); and likewise, our father, Pope Francis, in his last address asks us, “Where is your brother?” (Gen 4:9). In order to look after the well-being of our brother, “which is helping us to sense the great joy of believing and to renew our wonder at the vast horizons which faith opens up, so as then to profess that faith in its unity and integrity, faithful to the memory of the Lord and sustained by his presence and by the working of the Holy spirit” (Light of Faith by Pope Francis). This is what prompted us to write this; or objective.
Part II: Considerations/Conclusions of Year of Faith
What is Faith?
5. Inspired by the Year of faith we just celebrated, desiring to reach newer heights and march on through a renewed life; we conducted these deliberations/considerations. The Year of Faith has been concluded means that it signifies that we will continue our journey aided by the new strength we have acquired; it does not mean that the true year of Faith has ended; but that it has started and that it will continue.
It is therefore important that we realize how much joy faith gives one; the faithful person, the faithful people; and how the unfaithful differs; the advantages of believing in God; and how not believing is the greatest harm one can incur on oneself.
The person who does not believe in God is one who does not have a sense of the origin of the world and one’s place in it; and lacks direction and purpose in life. The unfaithful believes the world came into being through chance and accident, but the faithful believes it was created by God; fruit of his omnipotence, love and goodness; and it is a great gift given to us to live in it responsibly.
6. Without faith, the injustices, affliction and suffering will pass on as such, and the victim will be subject to pity; but with faith God will wipe every tear from their eyes (Lk 22:32) and heal their wounds. And all the people will see God’s salvation (LK3:6).
If it is without faith, then the best of life’s experiences such as goodness, love, comity, friendship, mercy, mutual support, philanthropy…will be meaningless and transient. But with God, whether it is at the beginning or at the end, there will always be goodness and love. In everything we do, we will be encouraged and strengthened by Jesus Christ himself who is the alpha and omega of love.
If it happens to be without love, then death is the end of all, and it will sever all ties of human relationships. With faith, however, death will be our departure from this temporary world; and entrance to a life with God; where we will unite with those who preceded us in heaven that does not have an end.
7. When we think without faith, then, we will succumb into thinking that we are here as a result of chance or accidents; our destiny will be meaningless and untrustworthy, our fate will be determined by the hands of the few powerful and subjected to damnation. When we have faith in God, we will understand that we are here because of the God who created the earth and heavens, we will care about our brother, and eventually we will return to the home prepared for us by our Father, even when our lives are marked by temporary setbacks, strife and hardships; at the end of all, we know that we have God’s grace—His guarantee. Everything “that is not sweetened by Christ remains sour and bitter,” (St. Bernard) by faith, and particularly the belief in Christ, “I am the way and the truth and the life” (Jn 14:6) which will guide and light our lives. Life without faith is falling in the abyss of darkness. “If you do not stand firm in your faith, you will not stand at all” (Is 7:9).
8. When we say the faith revealed by Jesus Christ is the victory that has overcome the world (Jn 5:4), we do not mean to despise our world or to isolate ourselves from its affairs, but to open our hearts and go beyond the known cantors and enter into a covenant with God to achieve a wholesome life full of joy; and know that we can defeat arrogance, ill-intentions, hatred and sin. It is to underscore that with faith, man made in the likeness of God; a child of God; must live loving each-other under one Father; looking after the well-being of their brother and sister. This is because…”man was created not to die; indeed, God created him in his image for everlasting life” (The Wisdom of Solomon 2:23); and God as always has not ceased asking “Where is your brother?”
“…man will continually be under the spirit of God; and cannot ignore the question of faith; all experiences of the past as well as the present attest to this very fact. As always man longs and strives, although not in the right way, to understand the meaning and the secrets of his life, works and death…” (Joy and Hope, 2nd Vatican Council). There is a big difference between knowing Christ and not knowing him; to journey with his company or to travel blind-folded without him; to head his words…to be with Jesus is to have a life enriched with the spirit; and to be able find meaning in everything…”(Joy of the Gospel, Pope Francis)
9. The Church has the responsibility to shed light with the Gospel on the temporal and worldly affairs (18). Because “The joys and the hopes, the griefs and the anxieties of the men of this age, these are the joys and hopes, the griefs and anxieties of the Church…” “The light of faith is not to make us forget the suffering of this world,” but it is faith “that will guide us in the steps we take, and light that is needed in our journey.” Because Christ, who is the alpha and omega of our faith, wants us, in his light, to partake in his vision came looking for us, “Adam, where are you?” (Gen 3:9) Based on the faith, “that nourishes our lives daily and strengthens and encourages us anew;” it is our duty to consider our situation and the situation of our brother.
We embark on this task, not because we are interested in gaining worldly or temporal honor or faith, or to bring others into our fold, but by a genuine desire to serve (22). In embarking on this undertaking our faith has a lot to do with it. “An authentic faith—which is never comfortable or completely personal—always involves a deep desire to change the world, to transmit values, to leave this earth somehow better than we found it” (The Joy of the Gospel by Pope Francis) is what helps us.
10. To see the light of faith means to receive “the great gift brought by Jesus” (Light of Faith by Pope Francis 1). “In God’s gift of faith, a supernatural infused virtue, we realize that a great love has been offered us, a good word has been spoken to us, and that when we welcome that word, Jesus Christ the Word made flesh, the Holy Spirit transforms us, lights up our way to the future and enables us joyfully to advance along that way on wings of hope. Thus wonderfully interwoven, faith, hope and charity are the driving force of the Christian life as it advances towards full communion with God (Light of Faith by Pope Francis 7). It is therefore important to realize that “this road which faith opens before us…is the origin of this powerful light which brightens the journey of a successful and fruitful life” (Light of Faith by Pope Francis 7).
11.“…Men expect from the various religions answers to the unsolved riddles of the human condition, which today, even as in former times, deeply stir the hearts of men: What is man? What is the meaning, the aim of our life? What is moral good, what is sin? Whence suffering and what purpose does it serve? Which is the road to true happiness? What are death, judgment and retribution after death? What, finally, is that ultimate inexpressible mystery which encompasses our existence: whence do we come, and where are we going?…”(2nd Vatican Council) “…By contrast, when a divine instruction and the hope of life eternal are wanting, man’s dignity is most grievously lacerated, as current events often attest; riddles of life and death, of guilt and of grief go unsolved with the frequent result that men succumb to despair” (Hope and Joy, 2nd Vatican Council). This is the biggest tragedy of all.
Part III: Current state of Affairs
12.Seeing from the perspective of where we have been, it is important that we remember that we have benefited from the blessings of our God. Although our country does not have an over-flowing abundance of natural wealth; compared to other countries that suffer from natural calamities, it has been blessed by calm and peaceful weather; and more importantly, by God-fearing and peace-loving people who value harmonious coexistence and who shun any kind of ethnic, religious or partisan confrontations; where the various kinds of differences and diversities are seen as a blessing; where focus is patiently and calmly placed on the bright future on the horizon; and by people who believe in peace; and for that we are greatly grateful to God.
The base or source of all of these is because our people have deeply-rooted and long-standing faith. This faith is what had enabled and enabling our people to live harmoniously with each-other, with God and themselves. From long ago, our people have internalized the moral question of “Where is your brother?” (Gen 4:9) and have unfailingly responded in the affirmative with fraternal care by sharing each-others happiness and sadness, good and bad times; they have never responded in the negative, “I don’t know! Am I my brother’s keeper?” (Gen 4:9). In order not to lose our peoples’ value system of faith, but to strengthen it; we call upon you in our prayers, Lord, to increase our faith.
Although we have tried to put several projects of development in place in order to move forward, because in life it is natural to think of advancing ahead, and to look from a distance at those destinations we have not been able to reach; and because it is impossible to hide wounds that have not healed yet; we should not be deceived by those positive outcomes only and ignore the negative ones. This is a reflection of every aspect of our lives; it affects our psychological and emotional feelings, our collective civil life; our life in its entirety for it encompasses our spiritual and moral dimensions. “It is up to the Christian communities to analyze with objectivity the situation which is proper to their own country” (Joy of the Gospel, 184)
Those who perished in the sea
13.“A voice is heard in Ramah, weeping and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because they are no more” (Mt 2:17-18 & Jer 31:15). In the last months of September and October, the season of harvest and the renewal of life, where the hope of the New Year of our Geez calendar inspires us all; our people with the rest of the world were shocked and shaken by the tragedy that has snatched the lives of many of our youth who drowned in the Mediterranean. This tragedy was the culmination of all the suffering that has been inflicted by human traffickers, smugglers and human oppressors in the past years, in every mountain, valley, desert and sea. It is therefore very important that we take stock of the current and previous tragedies.
The whole people mourned their death together in public and not in their private homes. “…All night long she cries; tears run down her cheeks…the young women who sang there suffer, and the priests can only groan” (Lm 1:2-4). This is because those who went out in search of good have fallen victims to suffering and destruction; and it is in the recognition of what transpired in the times of the prophet Jeremiah that the Old Testament words were quoted. Likewise, Matthew the Evangelist, has put the same thing in the New Testament.
The Old Testament reminds us of the event that took place in Jerusalem and vicinity in 587 B.C., when the invading Babylonians forced the people of Jerusalem to leave their city for Ramah (today’s Ramallah), and then burned it down. They then took the children of Jerusalem as captives, therefore from now on, “they were not.” In that time, we are told that Rachel, the one who represented the people and mothers of Israel, and was the mother of Israel, cried. The prophet did not forget the hope of returning home, but to underscore how much the whole country and people were affected by their loss.
14.By remembering the tomb of Rachel in Bethlehem the Evangelist Matthew draws a parallel with the death King Herod inflicted on the children. He said “they are all dead” to signify that Rachel, in the name of all mothers, was not comforted when she cried; the crying and wailing will reach God and God is the only comforter; this is not in private words only but with the hope of resurrection when the dead will be risen and comforted. The words, “They are dead; they are no longer there” will be changed; their crying and wailing will cease; and the suffering that had befallen them will be remedied with their resurrection.
Events like this: drowning in the sea, death in the desert, suffering at the hands of human-traffickers, happening in our advanced times, on the door-steps of the so-called developed countries is truly “shameful and unacceptable, and does not go with the developments and advancements man has made” admonished Pope Francis.
In solidarity with Rachel, mother of all, and with all the mothers we send our tears and prayers to God. In faith, we pray for our children, who in search of a good life perished in the tragedy they faced, to gain comfort, which had eluded them in this world, in the bosom of God; and to enjoy the good life that no one can take away from them, in His presence. And to the parents and relatives who miss their departed children, who, by not been able to bury them have not found any closure; we extend our condolences and pray that the God who comforted Job will likewise comfort you.
15. While we let our departed children seek comfort in His bosom, God will come and ask us, “Where is your brother? Where is your sister? Where is/are your child/children? What is the condition in which they find themselves?…”This loss and devastation has been going on for years now, but God will ask, those of us who have made a habit of chit-chatting about these tragedies, questions which will make us worrisome and stressful (Joy of the Gospel, 211). When the question of “Who is responsible for this?” is raised; and everyone gives one’s account and the truth is told, there will be an occasion where the hierarchy of responsibilities and roles will be invoked. But in general and most important terms, the source of these tragedies is long and wide that concerns all of us. This question will naturally force us into asking “How is our country doing? What kind of conditions do we find it in…? We cannot hide behind, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” anymore.
• Parents who, for selfish reasons, wed their children to those who come from abroad without doing their due diligence.
• Parents have developed this blind view that their lot will only get better if their children leave the country regardless they are adults or minor. They believe that once their children are out of the country they will be taken care of and don’t have to do much…
• Instead of working hard to better our living standards inside the country, it has become the norm to think that going into exile is the way to achieve better opportunities.
• For how long are we going to let the search for better life abroad continue? Why it is that all the efforts and counseling have not produced the desired result, and particularly in light of the fact that the illegal journey is much too costly? If what has been tried has failed, why can’t we try other better approaches?
• As a sign of the times, some are fleeing their country; and it can be said like the proverb, “Most calves (btey in Tigrinya is younger than a calf) play around not as a result of being well-fed but because they see other calves playing around;” the majority of our youth are, however, in a situation “where they could not envision a better life; where they could not plan for the future; where they could not start at one point to reach another; where they could bear current hardships to reach a desired and sought after destination; where they could not hope for anything…” This is the source of the problem.
•It is possible to raise the question, “Is the no-war-no-peace” responsible for this predicament? But does it also mean that we don’t have the will or the ability to change the status quo? What can be done to change the situation that is adversely affecting our country and people? The solution lies within us; if the international community fails to shoulder its responsibility, the victim has the imperative of self-interest to work hard and seek solution to one’s problems. The current predicament only benefits those who oppress/exploit people and the traffickers and smugglers, and not the people and the country; and hence, it is obligatory to see ways to get out of the no-war-no-peace situation.
Because we have failed to change the status quo, life has become unbearable; and lured by the wealth beyond our borders and a life one knows nothing about, the change-seeker youth ventures on the journey; and in the beginning it was conducted through legal and proper channels, but now it has completely gone awry, and the youth have become victims of the high seas and wild beasts and the inhumane human and organ trafficking; and this has reached very troubling proportions.
16. In the wilderness it is natural for beasts to be hostile to man. What is troubling is, however, the emergence of a phenomenon where people are kidnapped while seeking refuge and taken hostage for lucrative ransom; man has become man’s worst enemy; man, who has been created in the image of God, has been deprived of his dignity and rights when his organs are harvested to be sold in a black market. We have never heard of anything like this in history; when one sees the time of slavery and rule of the beasts making it in our advanced world; one is bound to ask if the conscience of the perpetrators has been desensitized, why it is that the world that is witnessing this is so tolerant? Why not the rush to condemn and confront it; particularly those places this inhumane and barbaric acts are taking place and those people who are committing the crime; and on those these things are committed under their watch…governments and leaders should not have spared any effort to thwart it!! Is it because our will has waned that this shocking practice is allowed to continue? Or our ability has been emasculated? Or if there is any exerted effort, is it because it has not borne any fruit? Or who is benefiting from this? What can we say? If above all things, this cannot escape the judgment of God, it is still important that history and time render its judgment and make the truth known to all.
Many have noted and given their recommendation that to change the status quo, it will require a massive coordinated effort, a change in our thinking, and a fundamental change in the way we practice work and conduct business. It also compels you to consider and raise fundamental questions and demands through the legal and political process; failing to shoulder this responsibility will make us accountable in front of God and our fellow-man. “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad” (2 Cor 5:10).
“When the order of values is jumbled and bad is mixed with the good, individuals and groups pay heed solely to their own interests, and not to those of others. Thus it happens that the world ceases to be a place of true brotherhood. In our own day, the magnified power of humanity threatens to destroy the race itself” (Joy and Hope, 2nd Vatican Council, 37).
The Affairs of our life
17. It is easy to notice that our people are enduring many wounds. Poverty, hardships associated with diseases such as HIV AIDS, going into exile and its concomitant problems that brings death to some, misery to the living; while we say may the dead inherit the kingdom of God; we pray and ask God to give us strength to address, in the spirit of unity and harmony, the past and prevailing current issues that concern us.
Our land is turning into desert; its productivity and wealth is being eroded. To strengthen all efforts of preservation or renewal, a public campaign must be waged to increase public awareness. This is because, according to Pope Francis, God “has called us to be stewards of the environment and keepers of our brother;” for the environment and brother we take care of, will take care of us in return.
As the saying goes, “console the one who died hit by lightning with fire,” our country is not only being betrayed by the land, the most serious problem confronting her is the refugee exodus.
• The youth are fleeing the country either to pursue their education abroad or after finishing their education; and hence the country is being depleted of its educated and young generation.
• Children accompanied by their mothers are following the parent who has already fled the country, and also in search of better opportunities.
• Even elder parents go abroad, presumably, to see their children and grand-children and while there they are seeking asylum and upon being granted they don’t return home.
It is therefore clear that the country is becoming poor in terms of its human capital, as evident in any social setting; it is not only the youth but also the so-called middle generation who are fleeing the country; it makes you wonder what will be the fate of a nation that loses its youth and its main source of power? It is people who make a country and beautify a country; and without people it simply will not be a country.
18. We are obliged to say this because it is happening right in front of our eyes; and we are duly concerned by the far-reaching ramifications the continual exodus of refugees and the depletion of human capital will incur on the future of the country. It is true wherever a refugee settles s/he will always miss and long for his/her homeland; but truth be told that based on history the number of those who returned home is insignificant to merit counting. We are not only talking about the youth and the middle generation, but also about those infants and children who either join them or are born in their adopted country; we are afraid all these are net loss for our country.
As the saying goes, “Getting used to has more impact than giving birth to;” and the children and grand-children of the ones who have mentioned above will have the culture and identity of the places they were brought up in; and unless an effective campaign of instilling in them the love of their culture, country and people is waged; it will prove to be another problematic loss. But a country can only be built by those who stay inside to build it. Our country is hearing a cry of its depletion and bareness. Her cry is to everybody: to individual families, village elders, religious leaders, and political leaders…; it is an appeal. For the sake of those remaining not to leave, for the sake of those who have left to return, we need to undertake tasks that will reflect courage and creativity.
19. Are we to say that our father’s saying, “one can never get tired of one’s eyes and country” is forgotten? The disposition and thinking of today seems to say to the contrary, “a country is where one is comfortable,” meaning that wherever comfort and the good life is, that should be one’s country. If this is the case then, it is necessary to exert all efforts and explore all creative means to make this country give its people or try to give them comfort, the joy of work, the good life, peace, and security. The prevailing conditions compel us to repeat what the Church has said in 2001, “There is no point in saying why our youth are focusing on going abroad. When we have a country full of peace, justice, work, freedom of expression, a country one could make a living in; there is no one who has honey who goes looking for one; we will have our youth who do not long to go abroad, but we will have those who have left return home. The country was made for the people; and it is evident that people were not made for the country.
20. In light of what has been aforementioned and the prevailing conditions that have proven to be anathema to the dignity of human life; people have become skeptical of the prospects of the future and are asking, “What guarantee do I have?” Because we have not been able to find answer to this question, ignoring the dignity of human life has become the norm. Regardless of the means, our preoccupation has become of how to take advantage of any situation and profiteering; but we have to be aware that this cannot bring solution to our problems. People have not been able to reach what they hope for, gain what they wish for, realize what they dream for, and achieve what they worked for; and the resultant frustration and stress have become the normal.
Everything rewarding endeavor and system is beyond our borders; there is nothing useful in our country…etc. have become so widespread. These prevailing conditions have clouded our blue sky. Instead of working hard to make a good and decent living inside the country, the majority are consumed by the thought of getting out.
In conjunction with all of these, many factors such as family members being confined in the army under national service, reconstruction projects and prisons; lack of care-takers of aging parents have caused great emotional stress upon all. It is obvious the kind of harm it will cause a family when its most productive members are taken away from it. We should not just look at the economic harm this causes; it is not hard to understand the psychological, emotional and moral crisis that come to all those who stay home behind and those who live isolated from their families. It is not without a reason that the number of stress-related diseases such as blood pressure, cholesterol, heart attack and psychological problems have risen dramatically.
21. Our customary and normal way of social life is slowly becoming a thing of the past; the pillar that holds our social life is been uprooted and we can say that we are heading toward utter collapse where there is no return or a remedy for it (Jer 4:11-21).
The Family Condition
Whether it is due to the impact of modern mass media or the prevailing situation the times have incurred on the youth, the respect for parents and village elders; and the influence and responsibility they have on their children and younger generation has not only waned but seems to disappear all-together. We say to them, even if you feel your place and respect in society has been undermined, you should not give in; don’t surrender. Now more than ever, we urge you to lead by example; to walk the path of reconciliation and mediation; not to be misled by temporary comforts and luxuries; to look beyond the horizons for things to come; and to save the families. The salvation of the families is the salvation of the nation. The question of “Where is your brother?” specifically applies to the family and what goes on in the family; for it is the family that give rise to brotherhood, and the place where it is allowed to grow and blossom. The family is the cornerstone of the church.
We have neither quietly listened to our brother nor reached an agreement; we have not paid attention to the well-being of our brother by asking, “Where are you? Where is s/he?”; we have not taken the initiative to understand what others are saying and doing; and in consequence our differences and problems are growing by the day.
Moral Upbringing And Edification
22. In the area of public and communitarian administration; it has been forgotten that power is from the people and to the people, and that those in authority are there to serve the public; and hence favoritism and nepotism and feathering one’s own nest in both legal and illegal means have become the norm; to reverse and restore this situation to its rightful place will require creativity, responsibility and commitment to doing the right thing. It cannot be denied that the word “corruption” itself will imprint scars and incur damage in our social life.
What is meant by corruption in not only the monetary greasing of the palms in order to obtain things one deserves or not; but to go beyond societal, legal and moral norms and customs, and engage in activities that are not acceptable by community standards. It can be seen that the root-cause of this is the poor oversight, and the failure to introduce transparency and accountability; not speaking up and exposing corruption and focusing on only what is in one’s selfish interest; as a result corruption has become a lake where many have drowned. Extreme corruption is when one utterly disregards the truth and embraces falsehood in life’s journey. One who does not have a fear of God and respect for His laws will certainly find himself in situations where injustice and transgressions are present. “With one accord they too had broken the yoke and torn off the bonds” (Jer 5:1-11).
How do we get out of this mess? The disease of corruption has taken root because it was not nipped in its bud. In terms of spiritual leadership, the moral edification of a person is a long journey that starts with a proper upbringing; and one that will require a comprehensive moral and spiritual campaign of revitalization; and where the political and civic systems built on transparency and good policy-making, and the strong institutionalization of legal administration cannot be delayed.
Rule of Law
23. One of the essential characteristics of our people is their awareness of the supremacy of the rule of law. One who invokes “In the name of the law” is feared more than the one who carries a rod or a weapon of war because the rod of the law is as strong and as straight as a man standing erect. Is it because we have forsaken this beautiful tradition that we have been overwhelmed by rampant corruption? Or is it corruption that is causing its death? People have to be aware of this because it has an enormous impact on their development and the development of the country. All those who are imprisoned or taken into custody must be treated, first and foremost, in humane and compassionate way, and then to charged and have their day in court in a reasonably quick manner so justice can be served; but most important of all, we need to demand a constitutional rule of the county and all justice and fairness-minded people must give it their utmost attention because it is the foundation of our true unity.
Not being able to engage in public discourse or dialogue about the important issues and challenges facing the country in writing or verbally; lack of information and transparency; ignorance about issues that concern the nation; and lack of clear understanding; has led to succumbing to hearsay, falsehood and rumors; and the spread and dominance of a mentality that says, “Why should I care?”
It can be seen that our problems and differences are growing by the day because we have failed to listen to the voice of our brother and reach an understanding; we did not look after the well-being of our brother by asking where is he and where are you; and we did not take the initiative to understand the situation and points of view of others.
24. Education is the foundation of work and development; and if it is to be the springboard for societal change; if we desire the new generation to transform the country; then we need to fundamentally reform our educational system through creative approaches. If the young generation are to learn with an open and free mind, then there must be a future of opportunity they can compete for and visualize from afar. It is education that has enabled the developed countries to enjoy many blessings; and if we want to achieve similar accomplishments, then it is clear that we need to adopt and embrace their time-tested and well-proven innovative and creative systems.
Considering humanity as a whole and what has been developed and accepted by all as human values such as truth, brotherhood, freedom, equality, democracy, justice and fairness, rights and legitimacy, accountability and so forth, the Church can play an important role in education by promoting these fundamental principles. In order to achieve these objectives, it is necessary that we follow what has been tested and proven by history; it is good to learn from the experience of others.
“The social order requires constant improvement. It must be founded on truth, built on justice and animated by love; in freedom it should grow every day toward a more humane balance. An improvement in attitudes and abundant changes in society will have to take place if these objectives are to be gained” (Joy and Hope, 2nd Vatican Council, 26).
The Economy and Living Conditions
25. If we look at every household or family from an economic perspective, certain questions come to mind: What would have happened if there were no near and distant relatives living abroad? How could families manage without the Diaspora support? We are here reminded by the wisdom of our fathers who say, “God creates a precipice with mountain climbing stairs on it.” But this cannot be a lasting solution. If we cannot create jobs; if the fresh-blood youth are not allowed to pursue rewarding occupations of their choice; if we cannot reignite reconstruction works and commerce; then we should know that the many wounds and diseases will be exacerbated by the grinding poverty and inevitably lead to paralysis. We need to liberate ourselves from foreign dependency; if this holds true for the nation; it is also equally pertinent to individuals and individual families (except those with disabilities and unable to take care of themselves). But this can only be realized through the promotion of work, and not by words, however beautiful they might be.
In addition to the rising cost of living, inadequate earnings, home rents that increase daily; lack of employment in an occupation of choice; for example, the construction sector, which used to employ many and diverse sectors, has come to a standstill; and all have consequently incurred an adverse impact on our society. If we cannot move and work freely; if we cannot earn a living through our own sweats, if individual and peoples’ freedom are not strengthened; how it is that we can understand the freedom of a nation? And where we can find it? In brief, integral human development and work presupposes free choice and creativity of the individual and of peoples if it is to be meaningful and dignifying for no structure can guarantee their development over and above human responsibility (Caritas in Veritate 17).
This is not about luxuries and comforts; but about what determines our survival and non-survival, like our daily bread, water, light and other basic necessities. Since these are the fundamental basic needs, they deserve utmost attention by those responsible authorities. In brief, the economic system has to be planned with the sole objective of serving the people.
The Moral/Ethical and Spiritual Life
26. When we come to the moral and spiritual dimension of our lives; it makes us wonder if our delicate and deep wounds will ever heal again. When we look at our moral and spiritual life with focus, we find a situation that makes us ask, “Are we the same people? Have we changed? And have we become different? Our moral principles and ethical practices have changed; what were once a part of us have completely vanished; and new ones are thriving in their place instead; but our morality is the true reflection of our identity; and our situation bear testimony to that. It looks like what Saint Paul had said is coming to pass, “people will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving to their parents, irreconcilable…and without self-control” (2 Tim 3:2). In this manner, Satan-worship makes its way; and it is important to remind people that it comes in the name of advancement. We cannot hesitate to say that there are Satan-worshipers among us.
“Unlike former days, the denial of God or of religion, or the abandoning of them, are no longer unusual and individual occurrences. For today it is not rare for such things to be presented as requirements of scientific progress or of a certain new humanism” (Joy and Hope, 2nd Vatican Council 7).
There are a few who regard religious faith as an appendage; and not guidance for life, and a standard by which morality is judged; and even worse use faith to feather their own nests; preach while ignoring the Cross and crucifixion. This is the wrong path. Religious faith cultivates peoples’ spirit and morals; and leads them to better and higher growth, reconciliation and harmony, and peace and satisfaction in life.
27. The portrayal of religious faith as a source of division, without any positive contribution, and with harmful and negative consequences can be understood as an integral part of the ongoing spirit of treason and betrayal that is causing great harm to our country and our people. To the contrary, because the question of faith greatly contributes to identity, harmonious coexistence and nationalism; a society that does not take a clear stand on the issue of faith or straighten her relationship with God can never achieve worthy accomplishments.
On the other hand, faith empowers people to engage in dialogues, and good relationships; and encourages them to foster harmonious coexistence with those who are different from them. When one expects others to respect his/her faith; it is incumbent upon him/her not to attack or criticize the faith of others; for this concerns justice. The fruit of good and true faith is dialogue, engagement, rapprochement, and mutual understanding. The person who does not want to be part of this kind of mutual understanding, of quietly listening to and sharing ideas with others, or of receiving feedback and constructive criticism in transparency can only be one who suffers from lack of self-confidence.
28. In conjunction with all these, we also have many instances that show that our understanding of money and how it should be earned has completely changed. We have made money the measurement of everything; and we are pursuing its acquisition by all means (Machiavellian rule). Whether in commerce and trading activities; in (business and governmental) offices; those landlords who rent homes…we see that they have all become slaves to money and worshippers of money; amassing money in illegal and immoral, ways without any qualms, as if it is the norm. It is now clear to everyone, that this kind of cupidity and selfishness, is what has led to the organ and human trafficking that has shaken and shocked the entire world.
Since the worship of money is a form of idolatry; it will lead to where humans and their organs will be trafficked; and females will sell their bodies in degrading markets. The only thing that will save us from the sin of idolatry is the true spirit of faith. “But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it” (1 Tim 6:6-7). And Jesus said, “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money” (Mt 6:24).
The Root-cause of Our Wounds and Problems
29. Our wounds that don’t seem to heal; their deep and delicate source, and what makes them revisit us, is the sin that dwells in man. If we asked how this is explained? It is the life that is lacking in love, care and sympathy; which is manifesting in many ways in the form of selfishness and the widespread feeling of I shouldn’t care as long as I am doing well. The cupidity, selfishness, moral corruption and irresponsibility that is circulating in all aspects of life has incurred on the people and country un-healing wound; and this will inevitably lead to a life devoid of unity and to a dangerous situation. If we ask, “Who is responsible for all of these?”, there will certainly be varying levels, but there is no one who can claim innocence; “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us” (1Jn 1:8).
A child was asked to put together the mixed pieces of a puzzle that make the map of the world. The child noticed that there was a picture of a man on the back of the board. He started separating noses and ears…and shortly was able to make the image of the person; while simultaneously solving the map puzzle on the front side; he achieved double victory. The moral of the story is that in order to reform the world man must reform himself first.
If human endeavors are to succeed, whether at the national or individual level; if it is to be balanced, honorable and dignified; if it is to be, in brief, a wholesome experience; then there has to be a strong foundation that will support a systemic structure where God is at the top and man right below him. “Unless the Lord builds the house, the builders labor in vain” (Ps 127:1) A country is not just a piece of real estate; but people with shared experience of making a living, and history of life’s journey; people who have received in unison the good and the bad; hot and cold; and the good and the evil; people who made advances together with one goal and who solidified their bond through interconnectedness. We can therefore call a national journey good and right if it primarily considered man and his problems, and his prevailing and past historical conditions.
The Journey for Peace
30. In the previous section, No. 12, we remembered that we have “peaceful people who live in peace;” and it was right to see it as a blessing and good; but “…when we say peace, it does not only mean the absence of war; it is not a peace as a result of a balance of power among competing sides; it is not also a peace that comes due to a hegemonic or an all-powerful tyrannical system. When we say peace, we mean the “enterprise of justice and fairness” (Isaiah 32) that is conducted through proper and right means. For this purpose, it is rooted in the internal peace and calmness structured into a human being by its Maker. Peace ensures that everyone enjoys due rights; and rights and privileges are conferred through legal means; if this peace is to come, it has to be rooted in the internal peace given by God, who structured the society; and by those people who thirst for justice and always on the move to make it a reality. (Peace and Joy, 2nd Vatican Council 78).
Peace falls in jeopardy when transgressions and injustices are let to blossom; and when jealousy, arrogance and mistrust reign supreme. The foundations of peace disappear when any man’s rights and dignity are undermined, and is deprived of what is rightfully his. We don’t say, “justice delayed is justice denied” for nothing; but because it makes a strong foundation for peace, and it is for this why we need to expedite the dispensation of justice for those who are waiting for it, for those who are been sought by the law, and for those who are already in custody. The projects of peace and justice go hand in hand in harmony like strings of music, and cannot be separated. The situation has become where we truly see and hear the one who raised the troubling question, “Where is your brother?”; his echo, cries and tears, “appealing to God from the ground” (Gen 4:10).
In this period of Resurrection when we commemorate and honor the risen Christ; when our country celebrates its 23 year independence-day anniversary, we pray to God to bless our country; so it can be reborn and rise again, a country of love and hope; to make it a country of justice and fairness; we all have an obligation to pray and work hard: religious leaders, people and individuals. We believe that all believers and people of good will in this country will pray for peace, dialogue and understanding. On the basis of what Christ told us, “I will do whatever you ask in my name” (Jn 14:13) we believe our prayers will not be in vain. It is clear therefore that our country is thirsty for the peace that will come from God. “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid” (Jn 14: 27).
Pat III: Witness
“You will be my witnesses” (Acts 1:8)
31. “If once the flame of faith dies out, all other lights begin to dim, and the light of faith has to be lit again” (Light of Faith, 4). To ensure that the flames of faith are always waving, the light of faith is always lit means and nothing else but only that the prophesized words will be fulfilled and witnessing will be highly valued for, “you will be my witness in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8).
These strong and powerful words of Jesus are being said to us today. In the beginning these were said to his followers; the community of faith started to grow. The Church is still growing. We recognize that we have a role to play in this ongoing growth; and know that we are an integral piece and parcel of it. Those who carried the weight of these mentioned words such as Abune Selama (Saint Frumentius) and those who preceded and followed the Nine Saints planted the seed of Christianity in our country and made it grow. This was followed later on by Abune Yacob Guistino who preached to strengthen the foundation of Christianity and to give her a renewed awareness; it is clear that we live today enjoying the fruit of their labor and what was built by them and their followers and successors. By observing the sign of the times and by responding to the demands of each time, the Church, over the course of time, has devised projects according to its regulations and today in our county the Catholic segment of our population have four eparchies as they continue their journey.
32. To all those who led and worked in the field of faith; who journeyed back and forth in faith, and all the bishops, priests, monks, nuns and faithful parents who bequeathed us the faith, we remember them in gratitude. The Catholic faith has taken root; it is a Church that continues the works performed by Christ and the words preached Him through its broad based education projects, health services for the sick, orphanages, human development projects that specially cater to women and are easily available and the preaching of the Gospel. Today the Church honors and continues its witnessing by combining philanthropy and evangelism, for it gives great weight to the question, “Where is my brother?” Today, it is true that the segment of the faithful who should inherit the faith, especially the young generation who has spread and gone in all countries; and live in situations which are hostile to their faith; and this is greatly troubling.
We should not be misled by the spirit of saying we are okay; like weak creatures we should believe that we carry the burden of our limitations, human inadequacies and sins; but without any despair and hopelessness we should seek refuge in the grace of God. In this journey, the first step is to wear the spirit of confession. We should believe in our limitations and deficiencies; we should not shy away from forgiving those who trespass against us; and not retaliate against those who do us harm.
33. The Christian journey in general; and the demand for reform the journey of the Year of Faith makes; we should confront it with many approaches; first and foremost what kind of direct relation we have with God, the Father, with His son, Jesus Christ, our Savior, and with the Holy Spirit, giver of life? How is the life of the faithful and the faithful life? This is the time where we need to look into the state of our faith and the society we live in from the perspective of the brother we care and love. “There are ecclesial structures which hamper efforts at evangelization, yet even good structures are only helpful when there is a life constantly driving, sustaining and assessing them. Without new life and an authentic evangelical spirit, without the Church’s fidelity to her own calling, any new structure will soon prove ineffective” ( Joy of the Gospel).
34. If we look at what Jesus has given us in the Bible in parables and his own and his disciples’ life examples, it is that the small seed of the divine kingdom will grow to bear fruits, but will have to die first; this is Christianity’s rule and steps of development; and because of this we should never, as individuals and community despair by what we encounter but find encouragement in it. We should say like Saint Paul, “When I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Cor 12:10). “Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom” (Lk 12:32).
We need to look into the future journey and stage; we should remember the guiding words spoken at the opening session of the 2nd Vatican Council by the recently canonized, by the Vatican Council and the whole Church, His holiness Pope John XXIII. “Our duty is to earnestly and fearlessly dedicate ourselves to the work that needs to be done in this modern age of ours, pursuing the path which the Church has followed for almost twenty centuries (Pope John XXIII, opening remarks). The main mission of the Church is to faithfully and with enthusiastic creativity continue spreading and deepening the work of evangelism. In order to do our evangelical work, we believe that the Holy Spirit which worked through the apostles and awakened their listeners will arm (cloth) us with ability, desire, will and courage (Pope John XXIII, opening remarks).
How can we be able to honor our witnessing? By being reconcilers, forgivers and followers of the path of peace ; do not conform to this world (Rm 12:2), live with the spirit of Christ, and fulfill your obligations from the perspective of your fellow-man. “In loyalty to their country and in faithful fulfillment of their civic obligations Catholics should feel themselves obliged to promote the true common good. Thus they should make the weight of their opinion felt in order that the civil authority may act with justice and that legislation may conform to moral precepts and the common good” (Apostle Message and Faith, 2nd Vatican Council).
The fact that the Church herself, meaning her leaders and members must follow confessions is attested by the words of the prophet Jeremiah, “If you repent, I will restore you that you may serve me…you will be my spokesman. Let the people turn to you” (Jer 15:19).
Preaching the Gospel
35. When we look into our future journey, we immediately notice the priorities of our Church’s mission. We have learned necessary lessons and made important observations from our past experience; all based on the Gospel we inherited; and made catechism and liturgy the center of our lives. All these have been duly integrated into our daily lives. All that needs to be done have been listed in the following document: 1. The Council’s document titled, “To the People”; 2. “Preaching the Gospel Today” by Paul VI, 1975; 3. “Christ’s Mission” declaring the canonization of his holiness John-Paul II; 4. The Synod of Bishops of 7-28 October, 2012, on new evangelization; and 5. “Joy of the Gospel” by Pope Francis.
We have to remind all faithful that if our country is going to be a true witness to Christ, then, it is a journey we should all take. When people say evangelism, what is meant is to preach in His name, since Christ is the Savior of the world. We, Christians, should preach the encouraging and empowering message of mercy and salvation “in season or out of season” (2 Tim 4:2) because that is the greatest contribution we can offer the country. The message is to inspire hope and love, as the Word of God tells in the Holy Book; for its fruits dwells in the mysteries of life; as it is always honored and remembered in liturgy, and life bears testimony to it. This kind of evangelism requires the spiritual participation (campaign) of all people of God.
Christian in name only
36. One of the issues the 2nd Vatican Council addressed with great concern is the phenomenon that has been called, “The Nominal Christian.” In its Council declaration titled, “Joy and Hope,” section 43, “Many people have not been able to reconcile the faith they profess with their daily lives; and this split between the two deserves to be counted among the more serious errors of our age.” Who are the nominal Christians? Those who are not concerned with their faith; who do not see their faith as guidance for their life; who do not worship God, their Savior, with their fellow Christians; those who selectively embrace parts of their faith and ignore others; in general, we recognize the nominal Christian by these attributes: He is one who has been baptized but has not active participation in his Christian community; a Christian who is hibernating in cold weather and his life lacks warmth and energy. “Although baptized, their life does not reflect the obligations of baptism” (Joy of the Gospel, 15). “Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth” (1 Jn 3:18)
37. For all of these and generally for everything else, we need new evangelism. In his 1973 Latin American address, Paul VI, defined “New Evangelism” as evangelism that is pursued with a “new enthusiastic spirit, creativity, interpretation and approach.” In consideration of the new changes in a society, the Church needs to adopt new language, new way of teaching, new way of evangelizing and new way of life; and a new king of witnessing.
We need to reach out to the ones who have left the Church; and those who have stopped coming to church and bring them into the fold of faith. We need to go in the direction of those who are spiritually poor, those who are thirsty and hungry for God; and those who are Christian but who live as un-Christians and refuse to come to church. Every person in his heart of hearts and intrinsic conscience has feelings for God; meaning that each person has “a heart within the heart” that is God; and it is for this reason that one cannot be fully satisfied without God (Saint Augustine).
38. In this type of evangelism, there is a call to all children of the Church to actively participate as disciples; there is a need to make the necessary arrangements, projects and a solid ground where they can serve; in brief, the faithful lay must be aware of the roles they can play in the fellowship and unity of the Church; in this way it is necessary to empower and energize their participation, and we should all be preached to and preach. The Church can succeed in teaching and passing on the contents of the faith if it connects its Gospel teaching with daily lives of the faithful. What makes the Gospel spread is not an intellectual enquiry, but the witness the faithful bear in works and living. “The faithful should guide their life journey with love; give life to faith; and express it in charity and in their works as best they can. They should all bear in mind that they can reach all men and contribute to the salvation of the whole world through public worship and prayer as well as by penance and voluntary acceptance of the labors and hardships of life whereby they become like the suffering Christ” (Apostolic Message, 16). In carrying out their apostolic works, the faithful will be joined by their leaders, the bishops and monks at the frontlines, who have committed their life to Christ.
What is weakening/undermining our Faith?
a) The spirit of the world and secularism
39. Saint Paul strongly reprimanded those who went astray from the spirit of Christianity and fell for various inclination, “I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel,” (Gal 1:6). The words of Saint Paul speak to us today because our life and culture does not reflect the spirit of Christ but the spirit of the world; we have made virtue of vices such as fortune-telling (spiritism, mediums, the occult and psychics), fornication, falsehood, theft, bribery, adultery and are no longer shocked by it or ashamed of it. The excessive love of money and selfishness that we have mentioned earlier; being consumed by frequent pursuit of temporary carnal pleasures; and the abdication of morality and the Christian way of life in the pursuit of money and wealth…; the source of all of these ills is, “religious ignorance or indifference; the preoccupation with the cares and riches of this world; the bad example believers set and the problems it creates as a result; and the modern ideas that are very hostile to faith” (Catechism of CC, 29).
In brief, the one who believes in temporary luxury, wealth and comforts (materialism), does not think of the future and his thinking and disposition is devoid of spirit. He does not consider God, and according to the author, George Elliot, he is someone who is not deeply aware, but one who is fully downed in his egoism; and thinks and acts only in terms of “I can take care of me”; putting himself in God’s place; making himself the source of life instead of God; promoting the mentality of if I have money, I have everything else; and this is what is distancing many from God. There is a cause for fear that this might make it in the Church. When the trusted egoism, money and the world leave, the person who knowingly closed his heart to God will be left in limbo; and to the contrary, the one who believes in the meaninglessness of these and approaches God in need and empty handed, his heart will be filled. Because God’s mercy is limitless.
“Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Cor 6:9)
b) Not enough Christian cultivation
40. “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect” (1 Pt. 3:15). In order to respond in either words or action, one must first have the maturity and understanding that is necessary; the knowledge of the teachings of the faith, partaking in sacraments—mysteries of faith; but above all the witness one bears through Christian dedication. In the grand scheme of things and understanding, it is clear that we should struggle to eliminate the ignorance of faith. The age of innocence and good times, when one was able to live with what was learned in one’s childhood, is long gone. “In the present historical conditions in which man finds himself, he faces great difficulty in trying to know God by the light of reason alone” (Catechism of CC, 37-38). In order to confront the challenges of these trying times, it is necessary to have a strong spiritual revivalism.
What Strengthens Faith?
a) Unshakable Faith in God’s Providence
41. According to 2 Pete 3:18 which says “Grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ”; we need to lead our lives in his grace and knowledge. What is meant by unshakable faith is that God provides for and supports those who are with him; and for this reason we should only rely on the One God and not on those we think they have the power or ability of fortune-telling; because it is not permitted by our faith. When we seek God with our concerns and aspirations, it should not be “my needs have to be met,” but to live reassured by faith and God’s providence.
As is often the case, we will be faced where our faith in God’s providence will be tested. When the help you prayed for is delayed or when you feel that your prayers are not heard by God, be aware that faith is not transactional but one that will require patience and steadfastness. “All forms of divination…conjuring up the dead…consulting horoscopes and astrology, palm reading, interpretation of omens and lots…and recourse to mediums and other practices from God’s perspective contradict the honour, respect, and loving fear that we owe Him” (Catechism of CC, 2116).
b) To Be Faithfull to Christ’s Church
42. The true follower of Christ accepts “All of Christ”; meaning he accepts the head and the rest of the body; and because of this, it is wrong to say “Yes, to Christ” and “No, to the Church.” We need to follow the Church and accept its teachings on faith and make her a part of our life—individual and communitarian. When we heed and follow the teaching and commandments of the Church, it means we have arranged a guarantee for our righteous and balanced life of faith.
c) Carrying the Cross of Christ
43. “… The Cross of Christ represents God’s love for the world; the evidence that He is the source of all grace; and that the Church has the duty and responsibility to preach it…” (NA, 4). Following Christ means the readiness for the obligation to carry his cross. “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up theirs cross and follow me” (Mt. 16:24). There is a direct correlation between our faith and dedication to the Church of Christ and our willingness and readiness to carry his cross. To accept the cross of Christ is to accept God’s plan without any despair and hopelessness in life; and it empowers us to wait with patience and steadfastness. For this reason, our life of faith must be one of a covenant characterized by priestly service, dedication; and readiness to carry and preach the cross of Christ. Because Christianity is the seed that grew to fruition on the cross; to be on the side of the cross to bear testimony that a Christian is firmly rooted in his faith, and one that assures and sustains the power of his faith.
d) Developing the habit of reading the word of God—the Bible
44. “Man shall not live on bead alone” (Lk 4:4). “The days are coming when I will send a famine through the land, not a famine of good or a thirst for water, but a famine of hearing the words of the Lord” (Amos 8:11). One of the wishes and aspirations of the Year-of-the-Faith is the fulfillment of the words of the Prophet Amos; for the people of God to have the burning desire and eagerness for the word of God and for this to be imprinted in their hearts; for their lives to be revitalized with by the word of God that they eagerly embrace and read.
In its “Word of God” declaration, the 2nd Vatican Council has said and it is our hope that, “the life of the Church is invigorated and strengthened by partaking in the sacramental celebration of the Eucharistic mystery, and similarly we hope for the spiritual revitalization of life on the basis of the special reverence and spirituality we have for the word of God, which “lasts forever” (Is. 40:8; see 1 P. 1:23-25)” (Dei Verbum, 26). The word of God has come to us through him and because “not knowing the Holy Book is to not know Christ” (St. Hieronymus/St. Jerome), the priests and pastors of the people of God must work hard to continue the structured reading and knowledge of the Sacred Scripture.
Those who give the reading of the Sacred Scripture its utmost attention are the faithful and those, who in full awareness, study it. We urge that the constant and structured reading and understanding of the Bible be based on the teachings and interpretations of the Church. What assists in this endeavour is the presence of many published holy books that are translated in various languages, and this is great blessing. It is important that these are done in the right and proper way, if the reading of the word of God is to have a fruitful and revitalizing effect.
e) Partaking in Sacraments (the mysteries of life)
45. “Just as she venerates the body (flesh and blood) of Christ, the Church has always venerated the sacred Scriptures …unceasingly receiving and offering to the faithful the bread of life from the table—both of God’s word and of Christ’s body” (Word of God, 2nd Vatican Council, 21). Since the Eucharist is “… the fount and apex of the whole Christian life” (Lumen Gentium, 11). “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Mt 11:28). “No Christian community, however, is built up unless it has its basis and centre in the celebration of the most Holy Eucharist” (Decree on the Ministry and Life of Priests, 6). In our tradition, this spiritual honour and respect has been held at the highest regard. This must receive special consideration on the mysteries of Christian life; a Christian life that experienced fatigue must be renewed to gain its main courage and strength; to know that this is available in the mysteries of life and that we should be rooted in it and nourished by it; this is what the Year of Faith asks of us.
If the readiness and commitment of the faithful to participate in the Holy Eucharist is to be a huge step forward, then we have to ensure that they do so in the right and proper way, and believe that our situations and lives will be renewed by the grace of Christ’s sacrifice. The fruit and outcome of this will be evident when we experience it in our daily lives; by frequently engaging ourselves in conciliatory and forgiveness activities; purifying ourselves through the Sacrament of Penance; and nourishing our lives by receiving the Holy Communion. We are called upon to protect, preserve and cherish the Sacrament of the Holy Matrimony for it is the foundation of the family and the reflection of a true union. In times of sickness and death, we need to conduct ourselves in the right way, according to the Sacrament of Anointing of the Sick, for we wear a Christian life that is necessary and right.
f) With Mary at the Cross: Children of Hope and Resurrection
46. O members of God’s people whom we love with all our hearts; we urge you to follow, with courage and steadfastness, the footsteps of the Virgin Mary, who has been named “the Star of Hope,” in faith, hope and love; and to be like “…those who persevered the present time and made the most of the opportunity with faith and hope” (EP 5:16; Col4:5) “and who patiently wait for the honor that has yet to come” (Rom 8:25). It means you have demonstrated you are the children of hope.
We urge not to conceal this hope inside your hearts, but to continually make it shine in your daily lives in this world and live it with faith and courage. You have to continually come to God and confess; and fight with courage (Light of People, 2nd Vatican Council) “against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil” (Eph 6:12).
As faithful Christians and your belief in the Gospel, you should take solace from glad tidings of the Good News; and follow the Church-like mother of Jesus, Mary, who, in hurry went to visit her relative, Elizabeth, in the highlands of Judea; to give this world hope; by steadfastly bearing the burden; because you should know that you have been called to travel the roads of history (Saved by Hope, Pope Benedict, 50). For faith to remain solid like a rock; for hope to be vigorous and vibrant; for love not to get cold, we urge you to live in Christian courage, bear witness, and enjoy the grace of God. “In all our prayers for all of you, we pray with joy” (Phil 1:4).
To rise with Christ means to change oneself through an internal journey of confession and penance; because it transforms one from darkness into light; if we are not able to be the children of light, we will not be able to see the truth; and we do not have the truth, it means we are not free (Jn 8:32). May you be lit by the light of the resurrection; may you be filled by the light of resurrection; to be qualified and credible witnesses; may the God of Peace, who made us rejoice with the resurrection of his Son, grant you his peace and serenity.
O our mother, Mary “… Thus you remain in the midst of the disciples as their Mother, as the Mother of hope…teaches us to believe, to hope, to love with you. Show us the way to his Kingdom! Star of the Sea, shine upon us and guide us on our way…” (Saved by Hope, Pope Benedict, 50)
“O Star of the new evangelization, that the joy of the Gospel may reach to the ends of the earth, so the fringes of our world will be illuminated, help us to bear radiant witness to communion, service, ardent and generous faith, justice and love of the poor. O mother of the Living Gospel! Wellspring of happiness for God’s little ones, pray for us. Amen. Alleluia! (Joy of the Gospel, 288).
Catholic Bishops of Eritrea
Abune Mengishteab Tesfamariam, Eparchy of Asmera
Abune Thomas Osman, Eparchy of Barentu
Abune Kidane Yebio, Eparchy of Keren
Abune Fqremariam Hagos, Eparchy of Segeneyti.