Catholic Church in South Africa

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The Catholic Church in South Africa is part of the worldwide Catholic Church composed of the Roman Rite and 22 Eastern Rites, of which the South African church is under the spiritual leadership of the Southern African Catholic Bishops Conference and the Pope in Rome. It is made up of 26 dioceses and archdioceses plus an apostolic vicariate.

In 1996, there were approximately 3.3 million Catholics in South Africa, making up 6% of the total South African population. Currently, there are 3.8 million Catholics.[1] 2.7 million are of various black African ethnic groups, such as Zulu, Xhosa, and Sotho. Coloured and white South Africans each account for roughly 300,000.[2] Most white Catholics are English speaking, and the majority are descended from Irish immigrants. Many others are Portuguese settlers who left Angola and Mozambique after they became independent in the 1970s, or their children. The proportion of Catholics among the predominantly Calvinist white Afrikaans speakers, or South African Asians who are mainly Hindus or Protestant of Indian descent, is extremely small.



The Catholic Church in South Africa consists of five Archdioceses (Bloemfontein, Cape Town, Durban, Johannesberg, and Pretoria), 22 Dioceses, 2 Vicariates Apostolic and a Military Ordinariate. The five Ecclesiastical provinces are—

  • Bloemfontein
  • Cape Town
    • Leadership: Archbishop Stephen Brislin appointed 18 December 2009.
    • Contains the following dioceses:
      • Aliwal
        • Bishop Michael Wüstenberg appointed 24 February 2008.
      • De Aar
        • Bishop Joseph Potocnak, S.C.I. appointed 1 May 1992.
      • Oudtshoorn
        • Bishop Francisco Fortunato De Gouveia appointed 28. May 2010.
      • Port Elizabeth
        • Bishop Vincent Zungu consecrated 28 June 2014.
      • Queenstown
        • Bishop Herbert Lenhof, S.A.C. appointed 3 February 1984.
  • Durban
    • Leadership: Cardinal Wilfrid Napier, appointed 29 March 1992.
    • Contains the following dioceses:
  • Johannesburg
    • Leadership: Archbishop Buti Tlhagale, O.M.I. appointed 8 April 2003.
    • Contains the following dioceses:
  • Pretoria
    • Archbishop William Slattery, OFM appointed 23 December 2010.
    • Contains the following dioceses:
  • Military Ordinariate of South Africa
    • Leadership: Archbishop William Slattery, OFM appointed 23 December 2010.

Southern African Catholic Bishops Conference

The Southern African Catholic Bishops Conference is a collegial body approved by the Holy See and has as its particular aim:

to provide the bishops of the territories mentioned above with facilities for consultation and united action in such matters of common interest to the Church as consultation and co-operation with other hierarchies; the fostering of priestly and religious vocations; the doctrinal, apostolic and pastoral formation of the clergy, religious and laity; the promotion of missionary activity, catechetics, liturgy, lay apostolate, ecumenism, development, justice and reconciliation, social welfare, schools, hospitals, the apostolate of the press, radio, television, and other means of social communication; and any other necessary activity.

Apostolic Nuncio

The Apostolic Nuncio to South Africa is Archbishop Peter Bryan Wells appointed to the post on 9 February 2016. He was also the Apostolic Nuncio to Botswana, Lesotho, Swaziland and Namibia.

Catholic Church and apartheid

Denis Hurley, Archbishop of Durban and a member of the Central Preparatory Committee of Vatican II, stands perhaps as the most eminent Catholic cleric in South African history. He was appointed bishop at the age of 31 and was a leader in opposing the apartheid regime. Like him, many senior officials within the Catholic Church in South Africa opposed apartheid, but a group of conservative white Catholics formed the South African Catholic Defence League to condemn the church's political involvement and, in particular, to denounce school integration.[3]




  • [self-published] Provides links to the structure and personnel history. Used heavily for diocesan and personnel information in the section on structure and leadership.
  1. ^
  2. ^ Catholics in RSA 1996 census statistics posted on the website of the Archdiocese of Bloemfontein.
  3. ^ Country Studies. "Religion and apartheid". Source: Rita M. Byrnes, ed. South Africa: A Country Study. Washington: GPO for the Library of Congress, 1996.
  • St Joseph's theological Institute (Cedara)

External links

  • is the website of the South African Bishops' Conference
  • is the website of the Archdiocese of Cape Town
  • is the South African Catholic University
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