Unpacking the Pope’s exhortation Amoris Laetitia recently in Harare, Fr Lawrence Daka SJ urged everyone around to make peace with God and accept those who are in “irregular” unions and help them grow.
The pontiff’s exhortation which was inspired by deliberations of two synods on the family conducted in 2014 and 2015 in Rome address, chief among others, issues of love in the family and the family in the church.
Quoting the opening lines of the Pope Francis’ exhortation, Fr Daka SJ stressed that, ‘the joy of love experienced by families is also the joy of the church’ and that when families are happy that same joy over pours into the church as well.
He urged the audience that individual members of the family need to observe the importance of dialogue in families and avoid treating partners as disposable materials.
“We treat affective relationships the way we treat material objects and the environment: everything is disposable; everyone uses and throws away, takes and breaks, exploits and squeezes to the last drop. Then, goodbye,” he said.
For contemporary challenges in the church that include same homosexuals, the divorced, the remarried and the single parents, the Pope exhorted that the members involved should be admitted to full participation in the church.
“The Church must accompany with attention and care the weakest of her children, who show signs of a wounded and troubled love, by restoring in them hope and confidence, like the beacon of a lighthouse in a port or a torch carried among the people to enlighten those who have lost their way or who are in the midst of a storm. Let us not forget that the Church’s task is often like that of a field hospital.”(Chapter 8.291).
In his presentation, Fr Daka SJ also emphasized on what the Pope termed empowering the local church. The Pope challenged the church to put in place structures of pastoral care that help solve family problems and hammered on the pontiff’s call that the local authorities must find solutions that best suit their societies’ needs.
Responding to the presentation, Dr Alice Zinyemba, who conducted a survey for the IMBISA Bishops of Africa prior to the first Synod on the family in 2014, embraced the Pope’s exhortation it addresses practical issues and a lot of concerns that were raised by women in Zimbabwe and in the Southern Africa region.
“I can happily say as women we have been liberated and we can participate freely in the life of church”, said Dr Zinyemba.
She also challenged parents to create space for dialogue with their children on issues of sexuality in response to the Pope’s call for a ‘need for sex education’ for the young and also for them to consider the good opportunities of social media.
Professor Ranganai Zinyemba said while the exhortation elevates marriage and encourages families. It also directly challenges the African men to value love and respect for their partners in marriage and to admit their wrongs and pave way for dialogue.