SOUTH AFRICA: SACBC Renews Fight Against Racism, Admits Role of Church in Perpetuating Vice

By Paschal Norbert

PRETORIA, JANUARY 31, 2023 (CISA)- “We continue to note with a sense of shame the failure in many of our parishes in South Africa to transcend the racial divisions of the past and be comfortable in being multiracial, multicultural, and multilingual. This is evident, for instance, in the perennial conspicuous absence of English-speaking Catholics in our Diocesan celebrations. This is a painful reminder of the continued lack of racial cohesion within the Church,” the Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference (SACBC) has said.

In a statement issued on January 24, 2023, at the end of their plenary meeting and the 75th anniversary of SACBC, and the centenary anniversary of Papal representation in Southern Africa, the Catholic bishops noted that the Church in South Africa has done little to address the effects of racist social conditioning among its members.

“Racism, we note again, is deeply entrenched in our society, and cannot be ended simply by pretending that it does not exist or by wishing it away. In this regard, we recalled with a sense of remorse that while in the past the hierarchy of the Church issued statements condemning apartheid and racism, in its internal daily life and practice the Church colluded with discrimination and segregation in its parishes, seminaries, and religious congregations. This racially informed way of being Church has, unfortunately, continued well into our own times and is proving difficult to transcend,” the bishops said.

The bishops also pointed out mushrooming incidents of racism in South Africa, with a particular reference to a racial incident “at a holiday resort in Bloemfontein, where some white people violently prevented some black teenagers from using a pool.’’

“We find it disconcerting that after almost 30 years of the new dispensation; we still witness incidents of this nature,” the prelates averred.

In admitting to the lacklustre nature in which SACBC has failed to deal directly with the vice of racism and its manifestation in the Church. The bishops renewed their 2016 clarion call for all the people of God “to have a candid conversation on racism and its manifestation in order to adequately and seriously address racism and racial divisions.”

“As we celebrate the 75th jubilee of the SACBC, we renew this call to make the fight against racism a personal mission by remaining awake to unconscious racial tendencies and to convert. Furthermore, we encourage the use of programs and workshops in our parishes which facilitate awareness-raising regarding the deeply entrenched effects of the long history of racist social conditioning and provide adequate and appropriate ways of helping people to break free from such, largely unconscious, effects,” appealed the prelates.