A delegation of American bishops is visiting Zimbabwe and South Africa on behalf of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB). The bishops intend to observe not only the challenges facing the African countries, but also the humanitarian work and the “fully alive” faith of Christians in the region.
Bishop of Pensacola John H. Ricard and Bishop of Salt Lake City John C. Wester visited Zimbabwe from August 26-28. They will visit South Africa from August 28 to September 6, where they were scheduled to be joined by Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, a retired Archbishop of Washington.
Bishop Ricard is chairman of the USCCB Subcommittee on Africa, while Bishop Wester is a committee member. During their trip they plan to talk with Church officials and visit projects funded by the Pastoral Solidarity Fund for the Church in Africa.
Bishop Wester, Chairman of the USCCB Committee on Migration, is also leading a delegation for the Migration and Refugee Services office. The fact-finding mission is assessing the problems of refugees and displaced persons in South Africa and Zimbabwe.
Children and women victims of human trafficking, an activity described as a modern-day slave trade, are a particular concern of his delegation.
All three bishops are associated with Catholic Relief Services (CRS). According to the USCCB, they are observing the humanitarian work CRS is involved in, especially in combating HIV-AIDS.
Patrick Markey, executive director of the USCCB Office of National Collections, organized the trip.
“As we saw clearly during Pope Benedict’s recent trip to the Cameroon and Angola, the Church in Africa is not only growing rapidly. It is also fully alive and rich in vocations,” Markey said in a USCCB press release. “The Church in Africa also faces many challenges and for that reason Catholics in the U.S. have so generously responded to a call from the bishops to give them a hand.”