Put “word of God into action” in Caring for Migrants, Refugees: Bishop in South Africa

Members of Pastoral Care Office for Migrants and Refugees, Kroonstad Diocese. Credit: Sr. Maria Rissini

There is need to put the “Catholic faith and word of God into action” in reaching out to migrants and refugees, the Bishop of South Africa’s Kroonstad Diocese has said. 

In an interview with ACI Africa following the official establishment of Migrants and Refugees Office in his Episcopal See, Bishop Peter Holiday said that caring for migrants and refugees makes Christians “a community of faith”.

“We must be active and put our Catholic faith and the word of God into action,” Bishop Holiday told ACI Africa during the Wednesday, August 10 interview.

The South African Bishop added, “If we do that in the context of migrants and refugees, we will truly be a community of faith that opens their hearts in welcoming migrants and refugees in our Diocese. The Church, the Christian Catholic community of Kroonstad Diocese cannot sit back and do nothing.”

Credit: Sr. Maria Rissini


During the 2019 Plenary Assembly, members of the Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference (SACBC) resolved to establish offices for migrants and refugees at Diocesan and Parish levels.

The establishment of the migrants and refugees’ offices in the Dioceses and Parishes of the SACBC member countries of Botswana, Eswatini and South Africa is aimed at providing pastoral, social and spiritual care for the people on the move. 

On August 6, the SACBC Coordinator for Migrants and Refugees, Sr. Maria de Lurdes Lodi Rissini, facilitated a one-day workshop on migration in Kroonstad Diocese.

In the August 10 interview with ACI Africa, Bishop Holiday said the workshop “was very good, very informative”, adding that the workshop participants “were encouraged to carry out this mission of the Church with regards to migrants and refugees”.

Credit: Sr. Maria Rissini

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The South African Bishop who has been at the helm of Kroonstad Diocese since 2011 regretted the plight of migrants and refugees in South Africa.

“As it has been very apparent in the news in our country, and of course in our Dioceses,” he said, migrants and refugees have been through “real injustices”.

The experiences of injustices include how refugees and migrants “have been really discriminated against, how they have been abused, and how their businesses in the townships have been destroyed or vandalized by the local people,” Bishop Holiday told ACI Africa August 10.

The 70-year-old South African Bishop bemoaned the plight of migrants and refugees in his Episcopal See, saying, “It’s a reality in the Diocese, these sporadic attacks are widespread, and it’s of great concern to all of us, that people who come to this part of the country to find some employment, to find a place of safety, have to be treated in this way, in such an unjust way.”

“These migrants and refugees are coming here looking for a place of safety for their family and their children, or a place to earn a living to support their families, and yet they are treated in such a degrading way,” Bishop Holiday lamented.  


He added that it is difficult “to see that brothers and sisters, human beings, can treat one another like this.”

Now that pastoral agents in his Diocese have received training on the care for migrants and refugees, the Local Ordinary of Kroonstad said, “we will see to it that they are cared for and respected.”

Bishop Holiday told ACI Africa that during the August 6 workshop, representatives from the Home Affairs and Education departments discussed with participants the rights of migrants and refugees, especially children’s “right to education and grants”.  

Credit: Sr. Maria Rissini

He emphasized the need for people on the move to follow the appropriate processes to obtain “the right documentation”.

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“It's important that migrants and refugees go through the right processes when entering the country, that they have the right documentation,” Bishop Holiday said.

He added, “we are very happy to have these two Catholics working in the home affairs and education departments; we need such people on board as we carry out this pastoral care for migrants and refugees.”

“As a Church, we have spoken about the plight of migrants and refugees for a long time. Our Holy Father, Pope Francis, has been a shining light, an example on the issue of migrants and refugees, hence the Bishops Conference has taken this up with a great urgency,” Bishop Holiday said in reference to SACBC decision to establish offices for migrants and refugees at Diocesan and Parish levels.

He continued, “In the last number of years, we've tried to put into action the care for migrants and refugees … We have appointed a Chaplain, and he has attended workshops run by the National Office under Sister Maria and has shared and informed us about this real concern of the church and together we looked at what can be done to sensitize the community about the plight and rights of migrants and refugees.”

Sheila Pires is a veteran radio and television Mozambican journalist based in South Africa. She studied communications at the University of South Africa. She is passionate about writing on the works of the Church through Catholic journalism.