Cardinal in South Africa Appointed Apostolic Administrator of Country’s Eshowe Diocese

Wilfrid Cardinal Napier

Pope Francis has appointed the Archbishop of Durban in South Africa, Wilfrid Cardinal Napier, as the Apostolic Administrator of the Diocese of Eshowe.

The President of the Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference (SACBC), Bishop Sithemebele Sipuka, announced  Cardinal Napier’s appointment in a statement published Tuesday, February 16.

Eshowe, which lies within the Ecclesiastical Province of Durban, became vacant after the Holy Father transferred Bishop Xolelo Thaddaeus Kumalo to South Africa’s Diocese of Witbank in November 2020.

In his message, Bishop Sipuka says Cardinal Napier’s appointment as the Apostolic Administrator of Eshowe is an “added responsibility” that comes immediately after the demise of his Coadjutor, Archbishop Abel Gabuza who succumbed to COVID-19-related complications last month. 

“We wish him well and assure him of our prayers and support,” the SACBC President says, addressing himself to the South African Cardinal.


The Cardinal who will turn 80 next month was ordained a Priest for the Order of Friars Minor in July 1970, and a Bishop for South Africa’s Kokstad Diocese in February 1981.

After 11 years of service as Bishop, he was transferred to the Archdiocese of Durban as an Archbishop. He became a Cardinal in February 2001. 

The Holy Father extended his tenure at the helm of South Africa’s Durban Archdiocese in 2016 and 2018.

Reacting to Pope Francis’ 2018 request to continue his service in the Archdiocese, Cardinal Napier said that he was glad to take up the challenge and prove the Holy Father right “by doing all that is necessary to remain physically and mentally fit as possible.” 

The Cardinal will temporarily oversee the administration of Eshowe Diocese, which was established in January 1951. It covers 26,364 square kilometers and has a population of 73,207 Catholics, according to SACBC.

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Magdalene Kahiu is a Kenyan journalist with passion in Church communication. She holds a Degree in Social Communications from the Catholic University of Eastern Africa (CUEA). Currently, she works as a journalist for ACI Africa.