The challenges and opportunities facing Portuguese-speaking Anglican Churches on three continents has been the focus of the first full day of the third Lusophone Network conference in Portugal. More than 30 delegates are attending the gathering in Porto. They include bishops, clergy and laity from Angola, Brazil, Mozambique and Portugal as well as representatives from a range of agencies who work in those countries.
Host, and Lusophone Network co-ordinator, Bishop Jorge Pina Cabral, said it was a joy to get together and he was certain it would reinforce the sense of communion among the churches. “My hope is that it will strengthen the links between the Lusophone dioceses,” he said. “I hope that people will get to know each other and share their stories. I want us to share our spiritual, human and material resources.”
He told the meeting that the Anglican Church in Portugal suffered from a shortage of priests and lack of finances but it was still doing good social work in the community. He said he hoped it could become more mission-focused and less inward-looking in future as it countered the prevailing culture in an increasingly secular and indifferent society.
Bishop Andre Soares from Angola said the church there was predominantly young and that there was a sense of optimism and hope. He said there were 100,000 children waiting to be baptised. But there was a shortage of finances and priests were under pressure and needing to have other jobs to pay their way. He gave one example of a priest who was trying to serve 20 churches. He praised external agencies such as MANNA, ALMA and USPG who had helped the church to deliver social projects such as better sanitation.
The three bishops from Mozambique said the sheer size of the country and the lack of clergy and funding for clergy were challenges. But the youth of Mozambique (one-third is under 12) was a sign of vitality and hope as was the generosity of the church members. Later on Thursday the conference will hear news about the church in Brazil.
The Lusophone churches have more than 350,000 members around the world. The Network is keen to develop links between its members.
“I want the dioceses to make the Network a priority,” Bishop Jorge told the Anglican Communion News Service. “We need to think more globally – to think about our sister dioceses. We need to create a culture of involving other Portuguese-speaking churches and find more ways of collaborating. We are working to improve our communication but there is still more to be done.
“I want us to celebrate our common language and our diversity too. It is part of our richness as Anglican churches. If we are closely linked as a network, it will enrich the Anglican Communion. We are like a Communion within a Communion to the benefit of all.”
On the opening night, there was a thanksgiving presentation on the life of the Bishop Daniel Pina Cabral, the ninth bishop of Libombos in Mozambique led by his son. In the coming days, delegates will see first-hand the social work being carried out by the church in Porto and will also visit parishes for Sunday services. They will also look at Christian education, the role of women in mission; young people and church work and how to develop the Network.
- For conference updates on Facebook see facebook.com/igrejalusitana
- The Anglican Communion Office is developing a webpage for the Lusophone Network. It will go live next week and will have links to various resources.