Throughout South Africa, and particularly here in Cape Town, the Catholic Church has been celebrating, over the past year, the 200th anniversary of the existence of the Catholic Church in South Africa. During those years society and the Church has undergone many changes; times of major crisis and times of manifest injustice, as well as times where the Catholic faith has continued to deepen and develop in our land.
Reflecting on some of these changes, Fr Anthony Egan, SJ, offered a snapshot of some of the major events of the life of the Church over these years: “In 2018 the Roman Catholic Church celebrates the 200th anniversary of its official foundation in South Africa. As such it has participated – acted and been acted upon – in two centuries of our history, from the colonial to what we might probably call the post-colonial period. It has played a major role in primary and secondary education through elite colleges and mission schools, working within ‘Bantu Education’ while trying (ultimately successfully) to subvert it. It has made a significant contribution to health care from mission hospitals to antiretroviral drug roll-outs, engaging in the process in the development – and controversies – of medicine and public health. Catholic scholars and public intellectuals have engaged with fellow South Africans on every manner of issue – from philosophy, theology, history and literature to areas as varied as Jan Smuts’ theory of holism and the politics of race, revolution and reconciliation.
Inevitably too, and perhaps most importantly, the church has, alone and in co-operation with other churches, faith communities and civil society, been a voice for justice, democracy and human rights. It has also at times lived comfortably within colonial, segregationist, apartheid and democratic ideologies, turning a blind eye to injustice. Indeed, it might more rightly be suggested that it often found itself on both sides of the divide because of its demographics – increasingly a mirror of South African society.”
His words express something of the complexity of the history of the Church, while at the same time helps us to be aware of the positive contributions the Catholic Church has offered towards building a more equal and peaceful society. As we continue our own history today, let us pray that the Catholic faith will continue to inspire each of us to participate in making South Africa a place where everyone feels at home.
The closing Mass to celebrate the Bicentenary will take place on Sunday 24th June, at the Bellville Velodrome. It is expected that almost all the Bishops of South Africa will be in attendance for the celebration of Holy Mass which begins at 2.p.m. Also, all religious orders will be represented, including the Redemptorists.
Entrance to the Closing Mass is strictly by ticket only. I have ordered 50 tickets for our parish. These will be available to you by getting in touch with Theresa, our receptionist. Please get in touch with her if you would like to attend this important time of celebration and prayer.
Fr Gerard, CSsR