Agenzia Fides REPORT - "The hope is through faith that enlivens our communities despite the serious problems that they are afflicted by," said His Exc. Mgr. Jesus Tirso Blanco, Bishop of Lwena, in eastern Angola, passing through Rome, and granted the following interview to Fides.
What are the conditions of your diocese 9 years after the end of the Civil War (1975-2002)?
My diocese covers 220.000km2, equal to almost continental Italy. We feel the effects of the serious consequences of the civil war, both for the presence of mines, and because the structures of the Church were destroyed due to the war. This has had serious repercussions on the pastoral level, because we recorded a decrease in the number of Catholics, because of the lack of infrastructure and pastoral operators, especially missionaries. However, we are working to rebuild. We have launched over the past three years, a development plan which will end in January 2012, which envisages the construction of two seminars and two new parishes, the reactivation of another and the creation of seven religious communities. Subsequently a further phase will be implemented, from 2012 to 2014, which provides for the establishment of 7 religious communities and diocesan priests to evangelize this vast territory.
What are the main challenges to evangelization?
The main challenges to evangelization comes from lack of priests and missionaries, as well as the difficulty to form catechists. On a social level, there are strong issues in the health and education field. The local road system should be developed to allow its development. As a Church we feel involved and committed to support the human and social development of the population: firstly by carrying out our work of evangelization, proclaiming the Good News of the Lord, and secondly with our social institutions, especially in the educational field. In our diocese more than 20,000 students attend Catholic schools, from kindergarten to university through a program of study at a distance. This is a fundamental aspect because our region is strongly affected by the lack of qualified and trained people.
We also want to contribute to the profound reconciliation of the population. For this we intend to dedicate one of the new parishes to Our Lady of Reconciliation. It is true that now there is peace, but there are still some open wounds, both physical (many people have lost a leg due to landmines) and social (people who have lost their entire families during the war). The population also continues to live with the mines, in several cases not even aware of being in the presence of a minefield, except when it is too late.
What would you like to ask your government for your diocese?
Angola is rich in resources but these are not well distributed. Eastern Angola is a forgotten corner of the Country, there are no roads or schools. There are areas of 40,000 km2, without a single doctor. I understand the difficulties of rebuilding a country after a war, but I would ask the authorities to give greater attention to the formation of our young people, who are the present and the future of the nation.
So, what is the hope?
The hope is there thanks to our communities, where faith is so alive that we can see a future through their open attitude to life, to God and the Church. (L.M.) (Agenzia Fides 21/10/2011)