Sunday, January 22, 2023

Catholic Bishop in South Africa Concerned about Weakness of Conference’s Institutions

SACBC President's Address – Archdiocese of Cape Town 

The President of the Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference (SACBC) has expressed concern about what he refers to as a weakness of the institutions of the three-nation conference, noting that most of them have died and that the remaining one is in a “precarious” condition.

According to Bishop Sithembele Sipuka, SACBC’s Catholic Institute of  Education (CIE) is the only remaining institution of the Conference that brings together those at the helm of Catholic Dioceses in Botswana, Eswatini, and South Africa, and the department risks losing its strength in the region.

“One sign of the strengths of a conference is its institutions through which it exercises influence in society. We have lost many of our institutions, and even the remaining ones are precarious,” Bishop Sipuka said in his Wednesday, January 18 address at the ongoing SACBC Plenary Assembly.

He added, “One institution that remains strong but will also become weak if we do not plan appropriately for it is our schools supported by the Catholic Institute of  Education.”

“CIE is helping our school to continue to be a force of influence, and I propose that we give it more support because if it also dies, we will lose a significant public platform to influence,” he said.

The SACBC President who has been at the helm of South Africa’s Mthatha Diocese since his Episcopal Ordination in May 2008 highlighted the challenges that CIE is facing, including the lack of qualified teachers to teach in Catholic schools in the region.

“One of the major challenges we have in our Catholic schools is the quality of the teachers who do not have work ethics to say anything about the Catholic ethos,” he said.

Bishop Sipuka proposed the establishment of a SACBC teachers’ training college so as “to strengthen this significant foothold for influence in society.”

He said that a SACBC-owned teachers’ training college would produce teachers of good quality for Catholic learning institutions.

In his address at the event that was held at St. John Vianney National Major Seminary in the Archdiocese of Pretoria, the South African Catholic Bishop also identified financing as the other major concern of the SACBC. 

“Like all other institutions, the financial situation of our Dioceses, and therefore of the Conference, is getting worse and worse,” Bishop Sipuka said, and explained that some Bishops in the three-nation Conference have been unable to send and pay for their students in the Seminary.

“Soon, we will see more Bishops being in this (financial) situation,” he said, and added, “In her report to the November board, the finance coordinating secretary painted a gloomy picture where fees will be drastically going up every year; in five years, this seminary will be struggling to survive because Bishops will not afford to bring their students here.”