SOUTH AFRICA: Bishops Reserve SECAM Position, Rejecting Controversial Document Fiducia Supplicans

By Arnold Neliba

PRETORIA, FEBRUARY 2, 2024 (CISA)-“…it is up to the local bishop to see how he will implement it in his diocese. This is quite clear because it is a pastoral issue and not a doctrinal issue,” Cardinal Stephen Brislin, the spokesperson for the Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference (SACBC) has said.

The Cardinal was reacting to the controversial declaration Fiducia Supplicans at a January 30 press conference together with President Bishop Sithembele Sipuka after the bishop’s plenary in Pretoria.

He said the conference’s local bishops would implement the document and its recommendations with blessings and prudently.

“Each bishop has to assess the particular needs of his own diocese and the particular impact this would have. And we in South Africa felt that obviously, it is up to each local bishop but that we would implement the document and its recommendations with blessings, prudently,” Cardinal Brislin stressed.

In January, Cardinal Fridolin Ambongo Besengu, O.F.M. Cap., the president of the Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar (SECAM), said that he signed a document rejecting “Fiducia Supplicans” on behalf of the entire Catholic Church in Africa. The Congolese cardinal noted that his statement on the declaration reflected a synthesis of all the African bishops’ responses to “Fiducia Supplicans” before going to Rome to present it to Pope Francis.

Reacting to the joint position by African bishops, Cardinal Brislin said the position by South African bishops is “certainly not a criticism of the other African bishops, as they must just see and assess their own particular situations. Others are fully entitled to do that as they are looking at their own particular situations and their own particular pastoral concerns.”

In a January 29 interview, Pope Francis made divisive statements about the Church in Africa terming it as “special” with regard to the extra-liturgical blessings proposed for same-sex couples. He said that from a cultural point of view for Africans “homosexuality was something ugly.”

Concerning the church teachings, Bishop Sipuka said the Catholic Church still holds that same-sex unions, according to the teaching of the church, are not in accordance with the will of God.

“People who have deviated—or who are deviating from the will of God are not excluded from the mercy of God,” Bishop Sipuka said.

However, Bishop Sipuka explained “We don’t know what concrete expression that prudence would take; it will depend on the circumstances. An impression should not be given both to those who are asking for a blessing that by blessing them you are legitimizing what they are doing or those who are observing.”