Cardinal Wilfrid Napier, head of the Roman Catholic Church in southern Africa and Archbishop of Durban, has denied a news report in a Durban newspaper that Father Eldred Leslie was refused a funeral in the Church.
Father Leslie was a Traditional Catholic priest who was murdered in Pietermaritzburg 10 days ago.
“When I saw the story in the paper I called two of the priests who were approached by Reverend Wall of the Fraternity of St Pius X. They agreed to do a funeral for Father Leslie in their churches, but indicated that they would have to celebrate the Mass.
However, Reverend Wall insisted that one of their own do the funeral.
No parish priest could allow that because those priests do not have ‘faculties’ to celebrate a service in a Catholic Church.
“The priests of the Fraternity do not acknowledge the authority of the Archbishop.
Consequently, they do not see the need to present themselves to him in order to receive faculties from him. Faculties are the canonical permission or licence to minister in the territory of a diocese.”
Cardinal Napier questioned what the local Traditional Catholic Church’s motives were for wanting to hold a funeral for Father Leslie in a Catholic Church.
“If their church on Gumtree Avenue in Durban is too small, why did they ask to use a Catholic church? The Archdiocese has itself on numerous occasions used venues such as the International Convention Centre, the Durban Exhibition Centre, Absa Stadium or Westridge Tennis Stadium.
Why are they making an issue of using one of our churches?”
He also said he could not understand why Father Leslie’s funeral was reportedly to be held at Mariannhill monastery near Pinetown. The Congregation of Missionaries of Mariannhill is a Catholic order.
The Bishop of Mariannhill, Bishop Pius Dlungwane, was at a meeting in Pretoria and said he could not comment, but referred The Witness to the Superior of the Mariannhill monastery, Father Gideon Sibanda.
He said the leadership of the monastery had made a decision to allow Father Leslie’s funeral to be taken there by a Traditional Catholic priest.
“We are just providing a venue. Father Leslie was well known by a number of people around here and this is not a doctrinal issue. They are not opposed to the Catholic faith. We took into account the new developments that have taken place and the process of reconciliation towards church unity that the Pope has initiated.”
In moves to heal the rift with breakaway conservative Catholics, Pope Benedict XVI has issued a document that gives permission for the traditional Latin or Tridentine Mass to be said in churches, which Traditional Catholics believe should be restored. Cardinal Napier said he is committed to reconciliation and met with local members of the Fraternity.
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