The Israelites’ cry for help has reached me
and I have also seen the cruel way in which
the Egyptians are oppressing them.
So now I am sending you to Pharaoh:
Bring my people out of Egypt.
3. It is not easy to make a complete analysis of the reality in which we are living: there are so many circumstances, which at times are discordant. Light and shadows intertwine in them. Despite their multiplicity, the most evident symptoms in our experiences demonstrate an ever-preponderant domination of globalisation.
A) The context of global reality
4. Among the lights we recognise facts such as cross-culturalism, tolerance and pluralism; esteem of other peoples, cultures and religions; unity and solidarity; a new understanding of the person and of inviolability of conscience; solidarity with the poor people of the world, involvement in the problems of justice, peace and the integrity of creation (JPIC) and in the defence of human rights.
5. There are also new technologies, especially in the area of communications, that favour notable progress in the fields of education and the passing on of values. In the so-called global village the distances of time and space have been drastically reduced, thus increasing the possibilities of influencing world public opinion in the short term on the most diverse topics.
6. Many religions and churches make use of this process to spread their doctrines and experiences. This facilitates and improves mutual knowledge among the great religions, fostering ecumenism and inter-religious dialogue.
7. Of course, globalisation presents negative aspects, too.
In the fields of economics and politics, the abyss between North and South widens constantly; poverty, injustice and the violation of human rights increase and become more radical. Other problems become more marked: wars, violence, the uncontrolled traffic in arms and drugs; corruption, the loss of democratic values, the weakness of States in the face of the flow of international capital; the burden of foreign debt and ecological destruction.
The consequent erosion of national boundaries may constitute a threat to the sense of identity and belonging of minorities and marginalised cultural groups.
8. In the social field the crisis and breakdown of family, ethical and moral values, the emergence of a globalised culture dominated by models spread mainly by the mass media; the unstoppable growth of city suburbs, the reality of many young people with no future, as well as the flow of refugees and migrants, discrimination against the new minorities, the AIDS sufferers, street children, drug addicts and the victims of prostitution.
9. At the religious level, secularism and relativism have increased noticeably, along with phenomena linked to the reappearance of religious fanaticism and integralism, the emergence of new movements (sects, independent churches, esoteric and so-called New Age religions) very often sustained by political projects. In this context we also note the expansion and growth of the influence of Islam all over the world.
B) The Church context
10. On the positive side we would point to committed lay groups and movements in the social and ecclesial fields, the growth of new forms of ministry, the involvement of women and youth, and a commitment to ecumenical and inter-religious dialogue.
11. In all continents a serious and pluralistic reflection on contextual theology is developing. In Africa, reflection is mainly on inculturation, dialogue with Traditional Religious and Islam, and a commitment to liberation, human rights and reconciliation; in Asia on inter-religious dialogue; in America on contextual theology, theology of liberation and indio theology; in Europe on commitment to ecumenism, new evangelisation and JPIC issues.
12. A good number of Catholics, pastors, consecrated persons and lay people, are becoming more aware of their prophetic and missionary vocation. They pay attention to the cry of the poor, a special theological locus and the suffering face of Christ; making a clear option for them, they become involved in JPIC activities. Thus the Church becomes a people that is messianic, paschal and missionary.
13. Despite this, the Church has become irrelevant for many, from both the existential and the political points of view.
Accusations and scandals damage the Church's credibility and drive away a considerable number of Catholics.
14. Lastly, we notice a certain tendency to close oneself up in rigid and exclusory attitudes that endanger the openness and dialogue started up by the Second Vatican Council.
C) The Comboni context
15. We celebrated the XVI Chapter in a very special context: the imminence of the canonisation of our Father and Founder, by which the Church ratified the missionary and prophetic vocation of Daniel Comboni. The recent martyrdom of Fr. Mario Mantovani and Bro. Godfrey Kiryowa, taking place on the eve of the Chapter, and the sacrifice of other confreres in dramatic situations (Sudan, Congo, the Central African Republic, Northern Uganda, Eritrea, Ethiopia, and Colombia) reminded us that Comboni wanted his missionaries to be ready to give their lives for the Gospel and their brothers and sisters.
16. The greatest wealth of the Institute lies in her missionary personnel (cfr. RL 162.1). Many live their consecration and missionary commitment like the hidden stone, in serenity and ordinariness. They take on the service assigned to them with enthusiasm and generosity. Others remain faithful to their people in times of war or danger.
17. We find ourselves in a new ‘geography of vocations’, but along with this we feel that we are receiving the gift of cross-culturalism.
18. We thank the Lord for our young confreres: with their creativity they are contributing to the renewal and contextualisation of the charism of the Founder in new realities.
19. For our family, the elderly and sick confreres are an incalculable treasure and give a spiritual charge with their lives of prayer and of love for the mission.
20. Confreres in special situations and those who leave the Institute need particular attention and qualified guidance during the period of discernment.
21. Ageing and the reduction of personnel, the growing internal needs of the Institute (the sick and elderly, formation) stressful situations (wars, insecurity), the problems of programming and re-training, contribute to the imbalance between commitments taken on and available personnel.
22. We cannot deny that in our communities there are also identity problems, superficial spirituality and worldliness; here the tendency to shut oneself away in one's personal projects is accentuated.
At times we simply repeat out of habit patterns that are now quite old.
23. We notice a number of feelings among us: a kind of nostalgia, an unease, a desire for change, for a more radical and authentic way of being.
We note a sense of instability due, for example, to a certain kind of rotation or of fear of a life-long commitment. It can lead us to see and to live mission more as a series of experiences than as a total gift of self.
24. Globalisation, in its positive and negative connotations, stimulates the Church to reconsider its life. At the same time, it questions us about how we live and what our mission is today, causing us to identify challenges for the present and new courses for the future.
The cry of pain of many peoples of Africa, of the Americas and of Asia continues to place a prophetic question mark over our presence and the quality of our service in these continents.
25. The missionary activity of the People of God aims to reveal the meaning of life in a globalised world, and to encourage commitment and solidarity, putting Christ back at the centre of humanity today.
Some challenges stand out for their urgency and importance. They demand attitudes that are prophecy in action for humanity (VC 85), a sign of communion and reconciliation in a humanity that is lacerated by conflicts and divisions (VC 51).
26. For the Church
26.1 intensify ecumenical and inter-religious dialogue;
26.2 foster the globalisation of solidarity, favouring disadvantaged peoples;
26.3 highlight the following elements of mission: the proclamation of Christ, witness to the paternity/maternity of God and of universal brotherhood;
26.4 review the content of proclamation, and discover new and more adequate methods in response to the decline in Christianity and the growth of indifference in society;
26.5 keep an eye open for a style of collaboration that involves all the forces that are available;
26.6 work out a code of conduct in the face of scandals that have recently come to light.
27. For Consecrated Life
27.1 a culture of communion, the fruit of openness to cross-culturalism and diversity;
27.2 an education towards sobriety, voluntary simplicity of life, the ethics of self-limitation – visible signs of an option for a radical way of life and austerity;
27.3 a renewed option for solidarity, sharing and hospitality;
27.4 an education in the wise use of new information technologies, means and structures.
28. For the Comboni Institute
28.1 The present social and ecclesial context requires of us the exercise of deep discernment, to understand how to invest our limited resources in the near future. In particular it is a matter of thinking globally, acting locally. The time has come to make courageous choices that are coherent both with our original charism and with the requirements of the present concrete historical situation, and translated into new projects of evangelisation for the situations of today (VC 73).
29. Today, more than ever, we feel called to solidarity with the excluded, promoting fundamental human rights and putting the person, and not profit, at the centre of the social project. The witness of our life, therefore, goes together with lobbying, networking and a presence and action in the activities of justice and peace, both through the mass media and in supporting and taking on in our communities projects that tend towards an alternative economy (e.g. ethical consumerism and investment, boycotts, fair trade)
30. In the light of the context of global, ecclesial and our Comboni reality, we perceive the following challenges for our Institute:
30.1 review our vision of mission;
30.2 identify priorities with an aim to reduce and qualify our commitments, keeping in mind our personnel situation as well;
30.3 re-focus the aims of OGF of individuals and communities;
30.4 renew missionary methodology so as to respond better to the urgent needs of our mission today;
30.5 deepen our knowledge of Islam and of its history, its doctrine and its missionary, political and expansionist strategies, creating constructive relationships that can lead to dialogue.