Inaugural Pope Francis Youth Award lauded for Social and Environmental Transformation

By Gift Gara

Contestants in the Pope Francis Youth Award for Faith and Social Transformation pose for a picture with the Nuncio, Bishops and other dignitaries.

The Apostolic Nuncio to Zimbabwe, Archbishop Paolo Rudelli, recently led the 2022 inaugural Pope Francis Youth Award for Faith and Transformation at Arrupe Jesuit University. The event that was held on 17 September 2022 drew together young people from different dioceses in Zimbabwe who came to witness the launch of the initiative.

Dignitaries from the church and the state graced this grant occasion to witness the award giving ceremony sponsored by the Nunciature and hosted by the Centre for Ethics at Arrupe Jesuit University. Archbishop Robert Ndlovu of Harare, Bishop Rudolf Nyandoro of Gweru, who is also the Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops’ Conference Chairman for Education, the representative of the Embassy of Kenya, Consolata Longurasia, the ambassador of Korea to Zimbabwe, the secretary to the Nuncio, Fr. Fillipe, the Provincial of the Southern Africa Province of the Society of Jesus, Very Rev Leonard Chiti, SJ, the vice chancellor of Arrupe Jesuit University, Fr. Dr. Afulo and many others attended the launch.

The Pope Francis Award for Faith and Social Transformation is an annual competition on the teachings of Pope Francis and the Catholic Social Teachings. The award is given to either individuals or a group of young people who demonstrate consistency in faith and social transformation in their schools, communities or churches.

The Papal Nuncio to Zimbabwe hands over a certificate to one of the winners of the Pope Francis Awards for Faith and Social Transformation.

The aim of Pope Francis Youth Award is to recognize efforts being made by the youth in spearheading programs to conserve the environment, caring for refugees, the sick, the poor, fellow youth, and peace building. The initiative which is the first of its kind in Zimbabwe has seen 10 applicants being awarded out of the 20 who participated in the contest.

Speaking at the launch, Archbishop Paolo Rudelli encouraged the youth to take up the initiative of societal transformation through engaging in programs that promote environmental sustainability and mitigate the effects of climate change in communities.

“Pope Francis teaches on social transformation, as presented in Laudato Si’, He repeatedly highlights that humanity and environment is interconnected so it is the duty of humanity to take good care of the environment. The relationship between our societies and the environment is inseparable from fraternity, justice and faithfulness,” said Archbishop Rudelli.

Pope Francis Award benefits young people in Zimbabwe.

He went on to say that what we want to promote is the new society based on fraternity which can be created by the youth, who are for social transformation. The Nuncio challenged the church to raise its voice in safeguarding the environment and in the fight against social exclusion of marginalised groups and individuals.

Archbishop Robert Ndlovu said humanity is in crisis as a result of individualistic tendencies of many people. He stated that the Gospel of today calls us to transformation so as to better our society and contribute to environmental conservation. He challenged contestants to have a collective bargaining in fighting individualism, social, economic, political exclusion of those who live on the peripheries and to stand in solidarity with them as a Synodal Church..

“Humanity is in crisis but we do not seem to realise it. Individualism is seen through failing to extend a hand to the other person and by failing to realise the needs of others,” said Archbishop Ndlovu.

Archbishop Ndlovu echoed the need to engage everyone in the process of taking care of the environment and urged all young people to be environmentally friendly.

The overall winners who are from Mbare expressed their deep seated gratitude for having their efforts recognized in fighting climate change through clean up campaigns. They thanked the Papal Representative to Zimbabwe for introducing and sponsoring the Pope Francis Youth Award.

“It is our duty to fight climate change through clean up campaigns and educating Mbare residents about the need for a clean city. We highly appreciate the determination shown by the Papal Representative to Zimbabwe in introducing and sponsoring this noble cause to conscientise young people to be agents of social change as underscored in the Social teachings of the Church.” said a representative of the winning group.

The winners transformed one of the dumping sites in Matererini Flats, Mbare into a park thereby creating recreational facilities for the community.

Other winners were from the Archdiocese of Bulawayo, Mutare Diocese, Mutoko and students from Arrupe Jesuit University in Harare.

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