Couples for Christ: ‘Clergy Lay Congress’


by Bishop Jose

I spent some days in Manila (Philippines) invited by “Couples for Christ” to join the celebration of their 37th anniversary. One of the events on the week before the anniversary was the “Clergy Lay congress” which brought together 11 bishops, over 200 priests and more than 600 lay people. 

Coming from the “Kingdom of eSwatini” I was asked to share a few words on the theme of the day: “The Church rejuvenates“.  

“I would like to share with you something of the context where I serve as a bishop. 

In 2012 I was appointed administrator of the diocese of Manzini (Kingdom of Swaziland) after the death of Bp Louis Ncamiso Ndlovu OSM. 

In 2013, one day, after a meeting at our Catholic Centre, a woman came to me and said: “Bishop, I believe Pope Francis will appoint you bishop of this diocese“. I had been bishop in South Africa for just 4 years and was not expecting any change. I therefore replied: “That will never ever happen. Bishops ‘marry’ a diocese and ‘my wife’ is the Vicariate of Ingwavuma in South Africa“. She looked me and immediately said: “Bishop, here we are polygamous. You can have as many wives as you want“.  

True. That is one element of our context: we are polygamous. 

Another one is the fact that we are a Christian country divided in thousands of Christian churches which many times do not share our Christian (Catholic) vision of marriage and family. Pastors might get divorced and marry again with great freedom. We are therefore a minority in our understanding marriage as a sacrament, for example.

Our country has been badly affected by HIV/Aids which left us with thousands of orphans. Sad as it is, it also revealed the great heart of our people as families took home all these children.

The relationship between “Couples for Christ” and the “Diocese of Manzini” is what I call: “work in progress“. My request is that we work together to set up a “family desk” at diocesan level involving all the different forces in our diocese dealing with family: sodalities, youth, catechists… and address together particular challenges such as

  • couples coming to us to help them prepare not for a lifetime together in marriage but just for the celebration of their wedding;
  • they soon discover that marriage is not what they thought and need to be helped and strengthened;
  • girls many times want to have a child but not to get married as they do not trust men;
  • having so many orphans we need to help them look forward to a better future than they had in the past.

As you see, ours is a very particular context but the same applies to many other situations where you are present. I heard the testimonies of couples and priests serving in Mongolia, Kuwait, Solomon Islands, Saudi Arabia, Papua New Guinea, China and Kenya among others.

By asking ourselves how to proclaim “the joy of love” (using Pope Francis’ expression) in that particular context, the Church constantly rejuvenates.

You are present in 118 countries and if you are able to share the local reflection with the whole movement you would remain young and be a blessing to the whole Church all over the world. 

We need to reflect together: laity, priests and bishops. We are all “missionary disciples” called to listen to each other and to discern together how to help our families have the fullness of life Jesus offers us. It is clear to me because I was asked to serve as a bishop in a country where I had never lived before. Swaziland is not South Africa and therefore I constantly need to listen to all in order to be able to lead others.

Thank you for being presence in our diocese. Thank you for the invitation to join you during this week. May you continue to be a blessing to all.

Happy 37th anniversary!”