Burundi, First National Family Forum
“Let us promote the pastoral care of families: let the family be a Church proclaiming the Good News of Christ”
The Conférence des Evêques Catholiques du Burundi (CECAB), through the Commission Episcopale pour les Laïcs, la Famille et la Vie (CELFV), organised the first National Family Forum from 22 to 25 June 2023. The Forum was held at the Foyer de Charité in Bujumbura and was well attended by families from the eight dioceses of the Catholic Church in Burundi. All parishes were represented and all participants had the joy of being accompanied by their pastors. The organisation of family pastoral work in all the dioceses of Burundi requires a priest to be responsible at diocesan level for coordinating all activities.
About ten couples accompanied by their pastors from the dioceses of Uvira and Bukavu, in the Democratic Republic of Congo, were present. The forum was particularly marked by the participation of several couples from all the dioceses of Rwanda, accompanied by their pastors: six Rwandan bishops travelled to attend this historic event.
Volunteers from the Foyer de Charité of Bujumbura, members of the Charismatic Renewal, various praise and animation groups, members of Catholic Action movements, and various choirs from the parishes in the municipality responded massively to the work of preparing, welcoming and accompanying the participants.
An estimated 3500 people attended the Forum
The entire Forum was also covered from start to finish by the media, social networks, radio and national and international newspapers. So the many people who could not attend the Forum in person were able to follow all the sessions and lectures from a distance. I would like to mention, among others, Radio Maria Burundi, which has even become the national radio station of reference thanks to its diversified programmes on Church news, both local and universal.
Catholic Church in Burundi, 125 years of evangelisation
This first National Family Forum is the fruit of a jubilee year in which the Catholic Church in Burundi celebrates 125 years of evangelisation. Burundi first heard the Good News in 1897.
Last year, on the occasion of the solemn mass on 10 February 2022, when the Church in Burundi solemnly welcomed the new Apostolic Nuncio Monsignor Dieudonné Datonou, the President of the Bishops’ Conference of Burundi, Monsignor Joachim Ntahondereye, welcomed the new Nuncio and informed him that, in addition to its evangelisation activities, the Catholic Church in Burundi will celebrate 125 years of evangelisation in 2023, when the first mission was founded in Muyaga, in the diocese of Ruyigi (in eastern Burundi).
The opening celebrations for this jubilee of 125 years of evangelisation in Burundi took place on Saturday, 1 October 2022, during a concelebrated Mass presided over by Bishop Joachim NTAHONDEREYE, president of the Burundi Bishops’ Conference. In his homily, he paid tribute to the first missionaries and invited the faithful to keep the flame of the Gospel alive. It is in this spirit of the first missionaries to spread the Good News of Christ throughout Burundi that the theme of this forum was born: ‘Let us promote the pastoral care of the family: let the family be a domestic Church proclaiming the Good News of Christ’.
Announcement and preparation of the Forum
On 10 November 2022, the Conférence des Evêques Catholiques du Burundi (CECAB) decided to organise the first National Family Forum, with the general theme “Promoting family pastoral care: let the family be a domestic Church proclaiming the Good News of Christ”. This theme was part of the speech given by Bishop Joachim Ntahondereye, then president of CECAB, at the opening Mass of the Jubilee Year, inviting all the faithful to “keep the flame of the Gospel alive”.
Furthermore, in his welcome address to the new Apostolic Nuncio in Burundi, Bishop Dieudonné Datonou, on 10 February 2022, did not the CECAB President place special emphasis on evangelisation activities? Is not the Christian family the domestic Church proclaiming the Good News of Christ to those around it, starting with its members – parents and children – and promoting basic Christian education?
So, at their meeting, the bishops of Burundi and Rwanda gathered in ACOREB (Association of the Conferences of the Ordinaries of Rwanda and Burundi, which brings together the bishops of these two countries, created on 6 June 1981) all expressed the desire to organise together a National Family Forum to celebrate the jubilee of this sister Church of Rwanda. The Church of Rwanda mobilised a considerable number of families to participate in this Forum: thirty-eight Rwandan couples took part.
Pope Francis, Families following the example of Saint Joseph
Our Pastors wanted to follow this line to make the Christian family in Burundi shine, because it too is called to become a light in the society in which it finds itself, in its reality, its time and its context. The Christian family is a domestic Church. “The future of the proclamation of the Good News of Christ depends on families as domestic churches” (Pope John Paul II).
Our pastors have therefore decided to work together to promote the pastoral care of families:
- Distributing and teaching Pope Francis’ document ‘Amoris Laetitia’ to all families and the faithful. This document has already been translated into the national language, Kirundi. It can be found in every parish and in the offices responsible for family pastoral care, so that it is accessible to all.
- Implementation of the document on families: the Directory on the Family of the Church of Burundi.
- Accompanying a large number of families, all the families of Burundi, starting with those who experience spiritual and material difficulties more than others.
Joyful preparation and sensitisation of families
A long period of preparation at all levels in the eight dioceses of the Catholic Church of Burundi was followed by a sensitisation of the families and religious communities in the parishes of the municipality of Bujumbura, in order to give hospitality to other families from other parts of the country or from abroad who would participate in the Forum. Many of the families participating in the Forum practised a series of works of mercy towards other families: welcoming foreigners, offering hospitality, giving food and drink, teaching, etc. The president of the Episcopal Commission for the Laity, Family and Life (CELFV) and bishop of the Bururi diocese, Monsignor Salvator Niciteretse, together with his collaborators from the Family Pastoral, spearheaded the entire organisation of this event.