Burundi, First National Family Forum – Part 2
Unity in Faith: The Importance of the Family in the New Evangelisation
The opening Mass of the Forum
A solemn opening Mass of the Forum began at 16:00 local time at the Foyer de Charité in Bujumbura, which hosted the event for the entire period from 22 to 25 June 2023. The concelebrated Mass was presided over by H.E. Mgr. Gervais Banshimiyubusa, Archbishop of Bujumbura, surrounded by all the bishops of Burundi and six bishops from Rwanda, including His Eminence Cardinal Antoine KAMBANDA, Archbishop of Kigali and President of the Conférence des Evêques Catholiques du Rwanda. The opening Mass was attended by numerous priests from all the dioceses of Burundi, DRC and Rwanda. The Mass was attended by a large crowd of faithful attending the Forum, as well as many religious men and women and the faithful of the parishes in the municipality of Bujumbura.
At the beginning of the Mass, the Apostolic Nuncio in Burundi, Archbishop Dieudonné Datonou, read out a message from Pope Francis, who expressed his joy and gratitude to the CECAB in the person of Monsignor Salvator Niciteretse, President of the Episcopal Commission for the Laity, Family and Life, for taking the initiative to organise such an event in favour of families. In his message, the Holy Father placed special emphasis on the Church’s mission to families, making them responsible for and promoters of a new evangelisation with a view to promoting peace and the development of the Church and the entire society in our country and sub-region.He then mentioned the significance of the jubilee for a Church that is still young but also full of vitality to proclaim the Good News of Christ in the world, starting from Burundi.(cf. Apostolic Constitution Praedicate Evangelium of Pope Francis, 2022).
After the reading of Pope Francis’ message, followed by a long and warm applause, the Archbishop of Bujumbura Gervais Banshimiyubusa thanked the Holy Father for his attention to families and for his spiritual presence at this Family Forum. On behalf of all the faithful of the diocese of Bujumbura, he expressed his gratitude and joy at seeing the first National Family Forum in the history of the Church in Burundi take place on his territory.
Themes developed during the Forum
On the morning of Friday 23 June 2023, His Grace Bishop Salvator NICITERETSE, Bishop of Bururi and President of ECML, introduced the Forum by warmly thanking all participants.
He welcomed the return of good relations between Rwanda and Burundi and expressed his gratitude to the Heads of State of the two countries.Indeed, thanks to the freedom of movement restored between these two countries after a long period of bad relations, families were able to meet again, share this blessed moment and experience a ‘forum of rediscovered friendship’. He greatly encouraged efforts to work towards a complete return to peace and good relations between these two countries. He then presented the programme of the forum and all the speakers.
Topics and speakers
- The family in God’s plan by H.E. Mgr Bonaventure NAHIMANA, Archbishop of Gitega and President of CECAB
- The state of the family in Burundi by Mgr Léonidas NITEREKA, Vicar General of Bururi and Mr Onesphore NDUWAYO
- The family and the new global ethic by H.E. Mgr Joachim NTAHONDEREYE, Bishop of Muyinga
- Galloping demography and birth planning according to the teachings of the Church by His Eminence Cardinal Antoine KAMBANDA Archbishop of Kigali and President of the Episcopal Conference of Rwanda and a Rwandan woman
- The Family: Domestic Church proclaiming the Good News by His Eminence Mgr Gervais BANSHIMIYUBUSA Archbishop of Bujumbura
- The need for and organisation of family pastoral care in a parish by Abbé Félix FUPI and a couple from Burundi (Archdiocese of Bujumbura)
The themes developed were supported by testimonies from families from Rwanda, DRC and Burundi. The questions asked were an opportunity to develop and deepen the teachings received. The Word of God and the homilies of the three days were developed in line with the theme of the Forum.
Group work sessions were also organised. Proposals and a series of resolutions are currently being drafted. A summary will be published shortly.
In all the debates, the challenges facing the family today took centre stage:
- Global ethics
- The culture of death
- Ignorance that the family is a vocation (Genesis 1:28)
- Insufficient preparation of couples for the sacrament of marriage
- Poverty of the family
The Forum was also an opportunity to provide guidelines to ensure that the Christian family is strong enough to respond to its vocation according to God’s plan, at all times, despite the great changes that have taken place in many parts of the world in recent decades.
The following suggestions have been proposed:
- Live these times of great changes and global transformations with great prudence and wisdom, so as not to lose the right direction and meaning of the Christian family
- Read and meditate on the Word of God in the family (familiarise yourself with the Word of God in the family)
- Spread and deepen Pope Francis’ apostolic letter “Amoris Laetitia” and other documents and writings related to the family, with a strong recommendation to translate them into national languages
- Properly prepare young people for the sacrament of marriage to help them understand that founding a family is a vocation
- Promote pastoral care of the family through good preparation of pastoral workers (those who have studied family theology)
- Promoting and encouraging family development activities
The participants also made a number of requests to all families:
- Give as many families as possible the opportunity to benefit from the same teachings developed during this Forum
- Prayer, dialogue and co-responsibility in the family
- Develop a sense of family mercy: asking for and giving forgiveness in the family
- Spread the teachings on the Christian family to all, giving greater priority to children and young people, in order to prepare them to form their own family
Participants also expressed a number of complaints to their pastors:
- The development of comprehensive and adapted teaching for each category of family members, as well as the preparation of related tools to deepen these teachings
- Providing annual reinforcement lessons for families
- Provide the financial and technical means to support family pastoral work
- Establish institutes for specialised teaching of family pastoral care and for the ongoing formation of families
- Invite Church and State authorities to work together to safeguard morality in our society
- An invitation to the political authorities of our respective countries to review population policies and birth control, favouring natural birth methods
- The desire to collect teachings on family pastoral care in a single volume
- They asked the Bishops’ Conference to work to harmonise family pastoral care in all parishes
- Organisation of family forums at diocesan level
- They wished and asked for a much greater involvement of priests in family pastoral work
- They also asked the Bishops’ Conferences of our countries (Burundi, DRC, Rwanda) to work to ensure the availability of funds for the economic development of families
The testimonies of couples from Rwanda, DRC and Burundi set a different tone for the forum.
Closing of the Forum
On the morning of Sunday, 25 June 2023, a closing Mass of the National Family Forum was concelebrated by all the Catholic Bishops of Burundi and neighbouring Rwanda. A large number of priests took part in this Eucharistic celebration, which was attended by many religious men and women and a large crowd of lay faithful. Sunday coincided with the Solemnity of the Uganda Martyrs. In fact, the two ‘sister’ Catholic Churches of Rwanda and Burundi celebrate these Holy Martyrs on the Sunday following the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart, to give thanks to God together for the gift of the Martyrs of neighbouring Uganda. Indeed, the blood of these martyrs was the seed of Christians not only for the Church in that country, but for the entire region.
After the closing Mass, some participants returned to their home parishes the same day, while others took a moment to visit host families, friends and acquaintances in Bujumbura. Faces shone with great joy, as if asking for another and similar rendezvous.
Friendships and fraternities were formed between families from different parishes and different countries, and between consecrated persons from different religious congregations. Nostalgia was already evident on the faces of the families who had attended the reception. All participants returned home safe and sound: one of the many tangible signs of the Lord’s blessing.