Pope Francis Condoles with Families of Seminary Formators in South Africa

Fr. Sibusiso Zulu (left) and Fr. Owen Wilcock (right) from South Africa who died in a car accident on December 3

Pope Francis has expressed his condolences to the families of the two priests, formators at Saint John Vianney Seminary in Pretoria, South Africa, who died in the December 3 road accident and made known his prayerful solidarity with the two others who survived the Tuesday afternoon tragedy.

“Informed of the automobile accident resulting in the death of Fathers Owen Wilcock and Sibusiso Zulu, formators at Saint John Vianney Seminary, Pretoria, His Holiness Pope Francis sends his heartfelt condolences to their families and commends their souls to the mercy of Almighty God,” reads part of the condolence message signed by Secretary of State, Pietro Cardinal Parolin.

“He likewise prays for the recovery of Fathers John Selemala and Ricardo Smuts, upon the seminary community and those affected by this tragedy, His Holiness invokes the divine blessings of consolation and strength,” the December 8 message reads referencing the tragic accident along South Africa’s N1, the national route running from Cape Town through Bloemfontein, Johannesburg, Pretoria and Polokwane to Beit Bridge on the border with Zimbabwe.

At the same time, the outgoing Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples Fernando Cardinal Filoni sent his condolences through SCBC President Bishop Sithembele Sipuka saying, “I request your Excellency to convey our deepest condolences and assurance of prayers to the Southern Africa Catholic Bishops’ Conference, the Community of St. John Vianney Seminary and to the Ordinaries of the respective Dioceses to which both the Victims and Survivors belong.”

“This missionary Dicastery is deeply concerned over the implied loss suffered by the Church in the Southern African Region, in particular St. John Vianney Seminary,” the Cardinal stated.


“In recognition of the important and dedicated service the above-mentioned priests have been rendering to the National Seminary, this congregation prays with you all for the eternal repose of Fathers Owen Wilcock and Sibusiso Zulu as well as the speedy recovery of Fathers Masilo Selemela and Ricardo Smuts,” the Cardinal added.

The accident occurred after Mokopane Toll Plaza, northeastern South Africa, the Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference reported.

On Saturday, December 7, clergy, nuns and seminarians working or studying in Rome offered Holy Eucharist for the repose of the souls of the two priests, both of them alumni of the Urbaniana in Rome. Fr. Zulu completed his studies in Missiology in 2017 while Fr. Wilcock graduated in Moral Theology in 2009. 

Fr. Zulu from the Diocese of Eshowe was laid to rest Monday, December 9 in his diocese.

The burial of Fr. Wilcock from the Diocese of Port Elizabeth has been slated to take place Tuesday, December 10 at East London in Port Elizabeth Diocese.

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The two injured priests are recovering at the Netcare Hospital in Polokwane, northern South Africa.