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Catholic Diocese in Swaziland Remembering Compassionate Bishop Who Supported Refugees

Poster announcing the annual Bishop Zwane Memorial Lecture in memory of the late Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Manzini in Swaziland Credit: Catholic Diocese of Manzini/Facebook

Several decades have passed since the passing on of Bishop Aloysius Isaac Mandlenkhosi Zwane who shepherded the people of God in the Catholic Diocese of Manzini in Swaziland in the Ecclesiastical Province of Johannesburg in South Africa.

But the compassion that the Bishop showed the vulnerable, especially the migrants and refugees who sought refuge in South Africa during his tenure, lives to date.

To keep the work of Bishop Zwane alive, the Catholic Diocese of Manzini that is within the Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference (SACBC) has been running the Bishop Zwane Memorial Lecture every year, a platform on which discussions on key issues affecting society are held.

The leadership of the Diocese announced on Wednesday, May 12 the theme for this year’s lecture as, “We dare to dream of a Peaceful Southern Africa: Reflections of Pope Francis’ Fratelli Tutti.”

Slated for Saturday, May 22, the lecture is expected to be conducted at the Cathedral of Our Lady of Assumption, Manzini.

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The Diocese has also invited Fr. Dumisani Vilakati, the Director of the Secretariat of the Inter-Regional Meeting of the Bishops of Southern Africa (IMBISA) to be the main speaker at the event.

In the May 12 communiqué, the Manzini Diocesan Commission for Justice and Peace remembers the Bishop who they describe as a “progressive Priest” who was “ahead of his time.”

“The Catholic Diocese of Manzini, through the Diocese’s Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace in Eswatini, celebrates the life and work of Bishop Aloysius Zwane who was one of the most progressive Priest of his time, in fact, ahead of his time,” the Church media writes.

In the communiqué, the late Bishop is remembered as “a uniquely fearless opponent of social and economic injustices and a man of great honor and principle.”

Not only was Bishop Zwane ahead of his time, he was also a champion of the poor, the downtrodden, and stood alongside the oppressed, helping their voice to be heard, the leadership of the Diocese of Manzini explains.

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Bishop Zwane ascended to the helm of leadership of Manzini Diocese in 1975, serving for only five years until his death in 1980.

The Bishop who died in a car accident is said to have promoted ecumenism, forming friendly relations with leaders of other churches in his Diocese.

Recalling the late Bishop’s apostolate with refugees in the Southern African country, the leadership of the Diocese of Manzini narrates, “As a Church leader, Bishop Zwane was deeply concerned about the tendency to show bias against immigrants and refugees than any other in the Southern Africa Catholic Bishops’ Conference after the 1976 upheavals in South Africa, and later, Mozambican refugees fleeing the civil war in their country.”

According to the Diocese’s communications officials, Bishop Zwane regarded refugees and immigrants as “messengers from God.”

Bishop Zwane, they say, “was a strong proponent of the Christian tradition that supports the rights of refugees and immigrants, encouraging all in his Diocese to treat them as angels, messengers of God.”

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The Bishop Zwane Memorial Lecture was founded as a tribute to Bishop Mandlenkhosi Zwane, who, following his episcopal ordination, “quickly captured the hearts and minds of not only the Catholic community but also non-Catholics and is still fondly remembered.”

The lecture bearing the late Bishop’s name was formed “some years” after his death inspired by the thought to give the Bishop a lasting memorial as a preservation of his legacy.

The legacy, the leadership of the Diocese of Manzini says, runs under the motto taken from John,10:10, “that they may have life.”