New Cardinal in Southern Africa Urged to Call Leaders Out for Bad Governance

Stephen Cardinal Brislin exchanges pleasantries with other cardinals at the the September 30 consistory in St. Peter's Square. Credit: Sheila Pires/ Southern African Catholic Bishops' Conference (SACBC)

One of Stephen Cardinal Brislin’s tasks in Southern Africa will be to call leaders out when they deceive those they govern, the President of the Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference (SACBC) has said.

According to Bishop Sithembele Sipuka of South Africa’s Mthatha Diocese, political leaders, especially those in South Africa, have the tendency to say ‘yes’ to people’s needs during political campaigns when, like one of the sons in the Gospel of Matthew, they mean ‘no’ and do not act on their mandate.

“Our political leaders back at home are saying all the right yes’s. But it is a big no in real life. What is painful is that this no remains forever because initially, it is presented as a yes. And so, when you try to challenge it, you appear unreasonable,” Bishop Sipuka said in his homily on Sunday, October 1.

Bishop Sipuka made the remarks at Cardinal Brislin’s inaugural Mass in Rome. Cardinal Stephen was one of the 21 Church leaders who were created cardinals by Pope Francis at a consistory in St. Peter’s Square on September 30.

Bishop Sipuka likened the behavior of politicians in South Africa to that of the second son in the Gospel of Matthew who said ‘yes’ when his father sent him to work in his vineyard but did not go.


“Our present ‘no’ in South Africa is disguised as a ‘yes’. The ‘no’ to the dignity of many of our people committed by the people we once trusted is a painful reality. It requires the wisdom of a Cardinal to point out the ‘no’ that is hidden in a ‘yes’. And that is why through the Church, God has given us a second Cardinal in southern Africa,” Bishop Sipuka said.

Addressing the new Cardinal, the SACBC President (SACBC) said, “Cardinal Brislin, in the light of today's Gospel, it appears to me that one of your mapped out tasks is to help us to always say ‘yes’ to God, starting with the leadership of the Church.”

“You are entrusted with the task of inviting and challenging those who are insidious and cunning, presenting their ‘no’ as ‘yes’ at the expense of the poor,” Bishop Sipuka said.

Bishop Sipuka reminded Cardinal Brislin that in his new rank, he was expected to lead through example and “sometimes” through “prophetic challenge”.

“Today’s Gospel is addressed to us religious leaders who may be tempted to think that we have it all because we are religious leaders,” he said, and added, “The humbling reminder from Jesus is that even as religious leaders we have a lot to learn from those we lead. Including those we consider to be sinful. This is because spiritually, no one can claim to have arrived. Not even the Cardinal. We are all on the way, being inspired and encouraged by each other and totally dependent on God.”

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Agnes Aineah is a Kenyan journalist with a background in digital and newspaper reporting. She holds a Master of Arts in Digital Journalism from the Aga Khan University, Graduate School of Media and Communications and a Bachelor's Degree in Linguistics, Media and Communications from Kenya's Moi University. Agnes currently serves as a journalist for ACI Africa.