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Newly Installed South African Bishop Urged to Help People “fall in love with God”

The new Bishop of Kimberly, Duncan Theodore Tsoke. Credit: Southern African Catholic Bishops Conference

The President of the Southern African Catholic Bishops Conference (SACBC) has called on the newly installed Local Ordinary of South Africa’s Kimberley Diocese to strive to help the people of God under his care to grow in their love for God.

In his homily Saturday, April 17 during the installation of Bishop Duncan Theodore Tsoke, SACBC President, Bishop Sithembele Sipuka, made reference to the Gospel of St. John 21 where the risen Lord reinstated his disciple Peter, Jesus Christ asking Peter three times if he loved the Lord.

“Perhaps Bishop Tsoke, more than teaching the people we are entrusting to you today about God, in the light of the readings that you have chosen, you are invited to help them to fall in love with God,” Bishop Sipuka said.

Bishop Tsoke was taking responsibility of Kimberley Diocese, which has been vacant since the appointment, in 2018, of its then local Ordinary, the late Archbishop Abel Gabuza, as Coadjutor of Durban Archdiocese, a position he served until his death on January 17.

Bishop Sipuka urged the newly installed Bishop to come up with activities to help people grow in their love of God, saying that it is only through such love that his work as Bishop would be “stress-free.”

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“Perhaps in the Diocesan Synod you may want to discern about activities and programs that will facilitate falling in love with God because once your people are in love with God, then the rest of everything will follow,” the SACBC President said.

He added, “Bishop Tsoke, by choosing these readings, you have made a claim to be in love with God, or you have expressed an intention to love God and from this love must flow your service to the people entrusted to you.”

The new Local Ordinary of Kimberley who was serving as Auxiliary Bishop of Johannesburg Archdiocese since his episcopal ordination in April 2016 was asked to also extend his love to the people of God who will be under his pastoral care.

“As you join the people Kimberly, do your best to love them and encourage your Priests to do the same and when you and the Priests love the people, they in turn will love Jesus and his Church,” the Bishop of South Africa’s Umtata Diocese who doubles as the First Vice President of the Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar (SECAM) told Bishop Tsoke.

The love, the 57-year-old South African Bishop was told, must show in his being fully available and present to the people, visiting them in their Parishes and in their Deaneries, spending a weekend, spending a week with them, and getting to know their joys and their sorrows.

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The Bishop’s love for the people, Bishop Tsoke was told, would also manifest itself in dreaming together with them dreams to make them eager and passionate for the mission of Christ.

“Lead the Priests and the people entrusted to you today to love God and you will be the most stressed free and happy Bishop because people will not carry out their Christian obligations because you tell them, but they will do so because they love God,” Bishop Sipuka told Bishop Tsoke.

In his April 17 homily, Bishop Sipuka who has been at the helm of Umtata Diocese since his episcopal ordination in May 2008 urged the people of God in the Diocese of Kimberley to develop a personal love relationship with God, saying that such a relationship could not be “commanded.”

“A relationship with God is not vicarious; it is personal,” Bishop Sipuka Prelate said, and added, “Love cannot be instructed; it cannot be commanded. Unless you people of Kimberly, individually fall in love with God, the Priests and the Bishop can teach you about the faith, conceive and implement the best programs and have beautiful courses, if you have not fallen in love with God, it will not help.”

The South African Bishop went on to invite the people of God in Kimberley Diocese to forget the hardships that had marred the Diocese’s two-year operation without a Bishop.

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“It has been two years without a Bishop. There may have been some setbacks, there may have been some trampling on each other’s toes, there may have been some betrayals, there may have been some mistakes, there may have been some hurts but as we install a new Bishop and we do that soon after the resurrection of the Lord, we are invited to make a fresh start, to begin anew because you have a new Bishop at this season when we celebrate the risen Lord among us,” said Bishop Sipuka.

He also made reference to Prophet Jeremiah who, in one of the readings chosen for the day, was sent to the chosen people of God to point out to them how they had deviated from God’s way. In reference to the reading, Bishop Sipuka warned to beware of the structural sins that exist in society.

“There are too many structural sins that are prevailing in our time, the sin of unfair capitalist economy which leads to a few having more than they need while the majority are destitute, the sin of corruption, the sin of violence and the sin of racism,” said Bishop Sipuka.

The South African Bishop who will turn 61 on April 27 added, “Like the Prophet Jeremiah, we must name these structural sins for what they are, but we must also not forget the personal aspect because ultimately sin lies in the heart of individuals.”

He said that the instruction to Jeremiah at the beginning of his ministry to pluck and break down, to destroy and overthrow, to build and to plant, is “an invitation to deal directly with attitudes and behaviors of sin in our lives.”

“Those destructive attitudes need to be destroyed and overthrown, plucked up and broken and then built and planted anew; we are invited to destroy and not to renovate,” the Bishop said.

He exuded confidence that with the newly installed Bishop, all the people of God in Kimberley Diocese would feel included in building the South African Diocese.

“We thank God for the new Tsotsi (tribe in South Africa) chief Pastor from Johannesburg,” Bishop Sipuka said.

He added, “With his arrival in Kimberly, we pray that everybody will feel included and given the opportunity to make his or her contribution and that where we err, as we shall surely err, we will accept prophetic corrections from each other and grow in our life as Catholics and make this Diocese great in advancing the kingdom of God.”

Bishop Tsoke was ordained a Priest of Johannesburg in 1995. He was appointed on March 3 as the Bishop of Kimberley.