“The Spirit of the Lord has been given to me, for he has anointed me. He has sent me to bring good news to the poor, to proclaim liberty to captives and to the blind new sight, to set the downtrodden free, to proclaim the Lord’s year of favour” (Lk 4:18-19).
1. During his life our Founder put the above words of Jesus into practice, so that they became the common denominator of his whole being and activity. We Comboni Missionaries, in the footsteps of St. Daniel Comboni, recognise ourselves as having been sent to proclaim the Gospel to all peoples, placing the poorest and most abandoned “especially as regards the faith” at the centre of our attention (cf. RL 5) and looking with faith and courage at the new challenges that the mission presents us with today. Understanding and accepting the new face of mission today requires a conversion of heart and mind.
2. Globalization is a complex reality where challenges, provocations and hopes are interwoven. Advanced technologies promote interculturality and facilitate efficient communication which in turn nurtures universal solidarity and other important values of the Kingdom. These rapid changes bring benefits even to the remotest of the places where we work. Nevertheless they also bring some negative results with repercussions on our activities and in the missions where we work.
3. Globalization is another reason for the failure of traditional and cultural values, the exodus to the city, migration from the South to the North, provoking thereby insecurity and racist reactions in host countries. Moreover it has created an ever-widening rift between the North and the South of the world in regard to living conditions, access to justice and respect for human rights. The youth are attracted by multiple cultural identities while traditional models disappear, leaving them bereft of points of reference.
4. Another phenomenon that we cannot ignore is the neo-liberal ideology that allows multinationals, in cahoots with local leaders, not only to exploit the natural resources of less developed countries, but also to create political instability, which often develops into armed conflict, huge migration, uncontrolled urbanization, and the impoverishment of the people and the nation.
5. In the socio-political context we note some encouraging signs in the process of democratization as a result of which civil society is becoming ever more directly involved in everyday politics; women, too, are more active at the higher level of political leadership and the decision-making process. Still, we must also note the worsening of the indices of human development, an increase in poverty, the lack of charismatic leadership, and the exclusion and marginalization of minorities.
6. Some political regimes – out-and-out dictatorships violating the most basic of human rights - oppress Church-goers, movements motivated by Christianity, and groups active in the defence of human rights and the denunciation of systemic abuse and injustice, even to the extent of threatening their lives.
7. At the international level, the presence of Islam is often perceived as aggressive and proselytising. In the globalized North, it has become a crucial question evoking different reactions: we find naive acceptance, fear, xenophobia, but also constructive reflections. In some parts of the world, Islam is gaining ground rapidly, and this calls for a deeper and more objective knowledge of it, leading to responses inspired by wisdom.
8. The Church by her nature is open to the mission ad gentes. We are witnesses of the fact that many local Churches, having evermore faith in their own means, are also involved in evangelization, in inter-religious dialogue, and in the courageous denunciation of violence, even in circumstances of persecution. We note, notwithstanding, a growing attitude of isolation, clericalism, relativism and fundamentalism. Secularization, on the other hand, is ever more visible on the world stage.
9. The Church has difficulty in responding to the needs of the youth, to the deep aspirations of women, and to finding adequate pastoral methods as regards immigrants.
10. Also in the field of JPIC – notwithstanding a certain awareness at the local level – there are difficulties in assuming a global vision and in making prophetic choices. Greed over resources and energy lead to the destruction of nature and put the future life of the planet in danger, resulting in death and misery especially among the poor.
11. The great world religions exhibit rich spiritualities that challenge us in many ways. The invitation to a meeting and constructive inter-religious dialogue, however, has still not been fully accepted.
12. The Institute, which is growing rapidly internationally and interculturally, is undergoing radical change in terms of generation, socially and culturally. This phenomenon inevitably results in tensions and a sense of discomfort that calls for conversion in the hearts of all.
13. The Institute is enriched by the presence of many elderly confreres who represent a living link with the past and who continue to offer good example by their lives and attention to prayer. The same cultural values of the peoples among whom we work challenge us to honour the elderly as figures of unity, continuity and wisdom.
14. In the context of a pluralistic society, it is necessary that, as Comboni Missionaries, we promote a spirit of collaboration, that we network and encourage partnership with the people with whom we live and work, overcoming attitudes of superiority, prejudice and exclusivity.
15. Our Institute was born of and for mission and the Comboni Missionary “makes evangelization the reason of his own life” (RL 56).
15.1 When we look at our history we appreciate the variety of expressions and commitments resulting from mission activity in response to the new signs of the times and the challenges and ever-changing needs of the world (cf. RL 16).
15.2 Redemptoris Missio no. 33 clearly describes a threefold division of missionary activity: mission ad gentes, new evangelization and pastoral care. This paradigm has until now coloured our vision of mission and the subsequent choices for fields of commitment. It must now, however, measure itself against the more complex situation of everyday realty.
15.3 Previous General Chapters have amplified the meaning that mission has had for us and our involvement in it. Mission was recounted and lived above all as the compassion of God towards a divided world, and in concrete terms as first evangelization, MA, the formation of new missionaries and leaders, human promotion, dialogue & inter-religious exchange, commitment to reconciliation and JPIC, inculturation, a presence in and solidarity with difficult human situations ...
15.4 We are aware that our vision of mission has recently been enriched and challenged by more recent reflections. In various Church documents as in missiological studies mission is spoken of in global terms (worldwide mission): a mission that touches all continents and Churches. Our missionary service wishes to address these expectations and hopes of our time.
15.5 Our presence in four continents shows us how the Gospel, in different contexts, makes a variety of responses emerge: the option for the poor, dialogue, inculturation, interpersonal relationships. In this way mission becomes a giving and receiving that enriches, deepens and stimulates the understanding and practice of the faith.
15.6 In order to remain faithful to the prophetic spirit of its call, our Institute must renew and make present its charism. It is necessary to undertake radical choices in order to reach marginalised and not yet evangelised peoples, having as a priority the proclamation of the Word of God, which implies commitment to JPIC. It will also be our job to remind local Churches to look at the wider horizons of mission.
15.7 Jesus Christ, missionary of the Father. Mission springs from the Trinitarian God who shares his life with humanity. This is made present in Jesus Christ, fount and inspiration of our missionary action, corner-stone of our being and activity. The Institute with the whole Church, guided by the Spirit, participates in this universal mission.
15.8 Saint Daniel Comboni. The Founder, by his work, continues to inspire our mission activity in particular through his passion, the giving of his life for the poorest, his faith in God, his loyalty to the Church, his ability to bear with trials and his sense of hope which pervades his whole being and action.
15.9 The poor and non-evangelized. The compassion of Jesus towards the sheep without a shepherd and his concern for the least are paradigms of the Institute’s mission. The signs of the times that “speak” to the Comboni Missionary and challenge his behaviour often come from the cry of the poor, from their condition of life and from the frontier situations of non-Christians, often beyond the visible confines of the Church.
15.10 The heritage of the Institute. The history of the Institute continues to be a point of reference and inspiration because it keeps alive the memory of the lives and missionary experiences of those who went before us and who have had a profound effect on us. At the same time, the example of confreres who are living their mission fully today also sustains us.
15.11 Testimonies. The recent history of mission presents us with a large number of people whose testimonies enrich and stimulate our missionary vocation. The commitment demonstrated by many people of good will in regard to the values of the Kingdom, coming from different peoples, states of life and religions, encourages and challenges us to live our missionary service with generosity and dedication.
16. Mission, for us, means a consecrated life that bears witness to and makes known Jesus Christ and his message.
16.1 Witness of Life. In today’s world people attribute more credibility to testimonies rather than teachers, to concrete love rather than theories. Bearing witness involves each individual missionary and community that, in its turn, becomes a living sign of the values of the Kingdom. “Solidarity with the poor becomes more believable if those same Christians live in simplicity, following the example of Jesus” (Ecclesia in Asia, 34).
16.2 The missionary community. Communion, in acceptance and openness to the other, of persons, peoples and religions is one of the aspirations of our time. Our international and intercultural communities, that try to live sincerely in brotherhood, are visible signs of the presence of the Kingdom, becoming promoters of communion and participation. Brotherhood is better expressed through the sharing of life, spirituality, planning and resources.
16.3 Proclamation of the Good News. This is the heralding of the Kingdom of God shown in Jesus Christ. It requires a process of inculturation, understood as a recognition of those cultural values that are not in contradiction to the Gospel, the employment of appropriate language, and a style of life coherent and in harmony with that of the people.
16.4 Social commitment and human promotion. Human promotion, a constituent part of evangelization, translates into an action that regenerates society and brings us to a commitment beyond the confines of the Church.
16.5 MA and the local Church. MA, an integral element of the Comboni charism, aims at re-awakening the call to and responsibility for the mission of the local Church. It promotes communion among those Churches as well as cooperation at the material and spiritual level. MA also addresses youth ministry and presents the ‘missionary vocation’ as a clear option.
17. Our methodology is inspired by the charismatic experience of the Founder and that of many confreres. Notwithstanding the fact that they lived and worked in contexts very different from our own, the principles they left behind as a heritage remain in force and relevant today and are able to influence our own mission positively.
17.1 Mission teaches. It is the mission that shows the way and the means necessary for true renewal. Mission tells us how to be missionaries and invites us to a humble and on-going attitude of listening to the needs of the peoples. At the same time, through appropriate discernment, it leads us to discover the presence of God among the people, a presence that always precedes missionary activity.
17.2 Continuity and the temporary. It is necessary that we work in such a way as to allow the local Church to continue its mission even after we have left them. This requires us to collaborate in the building of a ministerially and materially self-sufficient Church (self-ministering, self-supporting and self-propagating), investing in structures and pastoral projects that are self-sustaining even after our departure (cf. RL 71).
17.3 “To make common cause with the people”. Mission implies being near to the people, involving ourselves affectively and effectively in their lives. Comboni methodology requires us to pay attention to the local language, culture, traditions, spirituality and expressions of faith.
17.4 An evangelizing community. The community discernment process is used as a method of work and style of life and it impels us to evangelize as a “cenacle of apostles”.
17.5 Collaboration. Mission is a service to the Gospel to be accomplished in communion and collaboration, and not in an individualistic way. As Comboni Missionaries we cooperate with the Comboni Family, the local Church and its pastoral agents, and civil society: this is the way to build a truly apostolic Church.
17.6 “To save Africa with Africa”. Following the Plan of Comboni, we reaffirm our commitment to the formation of leaders so that they may be able to prepare their own peoples to be authors of their own destiny at the socio-political and religious level.
17.7 Called to a renewed prophecy. We believe that at this moment in time more than any other, the Comboni Missionaries may be called to be more courageous, to dare more, to cross every frontier in order to create new ‘spaces’ of mission. It is time to put aside individualistic projects and take on those countersigned by faithfulness to the Gospel, to the Church and to the Institute. It is right to repeat that these projects must always be the fruit of common discernment.
17.8 Inter-religious and Ecumenical Dialogue. The ability to dialogue is one of the most urgent needs in our ever more complex and pluralistic world. This is the way to arrive at authentic discernment and is an essential component of evangelization. It comprises the will to accept the other and the effort to reach a knowledge and a meeting of minds characterised by an attitude of mutual respect.
18. To strengthen our communities
18.1 PSs and their Councils should ensure that within the next three years all communities be made up of at least three members.
18.2 Eventual initiatives or already existing individual projects should be subjected to the evaluation and discernment of the community and Circumscription for a suitable period of time (a year for example) in order to see if they might be either shelved or taken over on the community or Circumscription level.
18.3 In the context of the requalification of commitments, communities are requested in the annual updating of their charters, to identify their pastoral priorities and to ensure a balance between commitments accepted and confreres available.
19. OGF and specializations
19.1 In OGF planning, particular attention should be given to challenges on community life and intercultural relationships.
19.2 Every circumscription should propose a six-year plan for the formation of confreres from the South of the world in view of their assumption of responsibilities in formation, finance and leadership.
20. To build more brotherly communities
20.1 In a spirit of sharing, encouraged by the TCF, local communities are to be asked to give an account at Circumscription level of their administration, pastoral plans and projects of human promotion.
20.2 Local communities should facilitate the insertion of confreres into mission. Thus each confrere should feel part of a vocational journey and a participant in the activities of the other members of the community.
20.3 In assigning personnel, the GC should not forget the principle of the progressive internationalization of all Circumscriptions.
21. Evaluation and requalification of our presence according to stipulated conventions.
21.1 Africa: presence among non-evangelised peoples, nomads, pigmies, inter-religious dialogue, ecumenism, JPIC, immigrants, slums, the formation of leaders, the marginalized youth and MA.
21.2 America: afro-descendents, indigenous peoples, slums, JPIC and MA.
21.3 Asia: first evangelization, inter-religious dialogue and MA.
21.4 Europe: frontier situations in the Church and society, MA, JPIC, immigrants, collaboration with the CLM and revision of material structures.
22. Communities open to changes in mission
22.1 The Comboni Works of Human Promotion (CWHP - CA 2003, 50) are an expression of the different ministries of the members of the Institute. These, in the ecclesial and social context in which they find themselves, develop a mission characterised by human promotion in places not always reached by the Church. The assignment and rotation of confreres keeps the demands of such works present be they new or already existing.
22.2 In order to guarantee the commitments of CWHP on the African 66.2 continent, a network of collaboration between them should be set up with the objective of sharing experiences, bettering the quality of service, facilitating the rotation of personnel and identifying areas of specialization. For this reason at least one CWHP-inspired community should be opened in French-speaking Africa.
22.3 Daily realities and the needs of the mission make challenges emerge that the present structure of religious life is not always able to respond to adequately. Therefore, where possible or necessary, new forms of life in common that include religious (male/female) and pastoral agents are to be promoted.
23. To strengthen our presence in Asia
23.1 Sufficient personnel should be assigned to the Delegation of Asia in order to maintain the commitments already taken and to work in particular in the Chinese world.
24. To promote theological reflection and openness to other religions
24.1 The GC assumes responsibility for identifying and preparing confreres in the fields of missiology and inter-religious dialogue.
24.2 We reaffirm the importance of continuing to assign personnel to the study of Arabic and islamology. At the same time it is also necessary to study the possibility of giving some scholastics the opportunity to become acquainted with the Arab world while still in formation.
24.3 Regarding inter-religious dialogue, even with traditional religions, an essential aspect of our missionary methodology is to encourage all the candidates in formation to follow theological courses on this theme.
24.4 The GSEV, in collaboration with the PS responsible at continental level and in dialogue with Dar-Comboni and PISAI, should consider other academic centres of Islamic Studies in order to organise OGF programmes on Islam. This is to benefit all continental groups in cooperation particularly with the local Church, called to be the first agent of dialogue with Islam.
24.5 The continental group of reflection on Islam should continue to help Circumscriptions to understand better their situations and offer pastoral guidelines suitable for their contexts. In order to make the work of the group of reflection more fruitful:
a. Circumscriptions might better organise the coordination of these activities internally;
b. The study of Islam in sub-Saharan Africa should be deepened;
c. Texts for Christian community animators in Islamic contexts should be prepared.
24.6 Initiatives that encourage reciprocal knowledge, respect and peaceful co-existence are to be promoted among the people. In this spirit, the Christian community is to be helped to affirm its own identity without complexes and to promote justice, peace and reconciliation together.
25. To become more aware of the themes of JPIC
25.1 We are aware of the need to establish clear directives about the treatment of our workers so that they comply with ecclesial and civil legislation in the different countries (cf. Code of Conduct, 122.2.5).
25.2 We reaffirm the choice made at the previous General Chapter regarding our involvement in the direction of the Social Ministry Institute at Tangaza College in Nairobi because of its significant role in the formation of leaders on the African continent (CA 2003, 123).
25.3 The GC, in consultation with the Circumscriptions at continental level, should organise specialisations for confreres, in particular for Brothers, in relevant areas of JPIC.
26. Lobbying and advocacy
26.1 Circumscriptions should, together with other bodies, promote activities of lobbying and advocacy at continental level, paying particular attention to immigrants and refugees.
27. To renew our MA
27.1 MA places among its objectives the creation of networks of solidarity between Churches for the benefit of the needy, working with existing pastoral agencies, particularly with the laity.
27.2 Through the use of modern means of communication, MA should continue initiatives already established in the Comboni tradition and seek new ways to communicate the missionary message.
28. To favour a positive first missionary experience
28.1 The GC and Circumscriptions should respect the principle that new confreres assigned to the mission may make a first experience lasting up to nine years consecutively, giving them the time necessary to learn languages and get to know the local history and cultures.
29. To consolidate insertion in frontier situations
29.1 Within the next six years, those Circumscriptions that have not yet done so are to ensure that there is at least one activity being undertaken in a frontier situation (slums, nomads, immigrants…) taking into account the criteria of living near to the people, in their environment, in simple circumstances. The same principles pertain in the opening of new communities.