Need “to repair broken families” Highlight in South African Synodal Process: Archbishop

Archbishop Buti Joseph Tlhagale of South Africa's Johannesburg Archdiocese. Credit: Sacred Photos ZA/Sheldon Reddiar

The need to bring stability in family life, repairing families that are “broken”, is among the highlights of the ongoing preparations for the Synod on Synodality in South Africa’s Johannesburg Archdiocese, Archbishop Buti Joseph Tlhagale has said.

In an interview with ACI Africa, the Archbishop of Johannesburg said that in the synodal process in his Metropolitan See, the people of God are also examining the youth and their participation in Church activities.

“Several themes have been raised. The first is marriage and family life. We need to stabilize family life; we need to repair broken families. If we don't do that, the unhappiness tends to perpetuate itself in the children in those families”, Archbishop Tlhagale told ACI Africa during the Wednesday, May 11 interview.

He added, “It's important from time to time to renew family bonds, so families can become aware of their responsibilities and challenges and how to respond to those challenges; renewal of marriage, and family life is extremely important.”

The South African Catholic Archbishop said the Synodal process is also giving space to young people "so that their voices are heard and that they are also seen and participate in church activities.”


In giving the youth space, he said, “you will be expanding their aspiration to be also participants.”

Archbishop Tlhagale also encouraged the youth to push for their space. He said, “Hopefully, they themselves will drive this to be participants in society, and to be able to articulate themselves on what they expect society to do … and how society should enable them or help them.”

Young people experience many challenges and fear their future due to unemployment, the member of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate (OMI) said, and added, “The issue of unemployment seems very high on the minds of young people, and that they feel extremely anxious and insecure. And they don't think society is doing much to address some of these challenges which they face. They fear for their future.”

He continued, “Apart from those issues of being heard and participating at various platforms and within the church, young people feel that their future is endangered.”

Making reference to the 2019 Synod of the Archdiocese of Johannesburg, the Catholic Church leader who has been at the helm of the South African Metropolitan See since June 2003 said the structures put in place during that Synod paved the way for participatory consultations during the present Synodal process.

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“What they did at the last Synod was to set up a permanent committee that will drive the entire process of the Synod. At each Parish, they appointed what they call a synod champion, basically a person who will keep the issues that were raised at the Synod alive within the Parish,” he said.

In the May 11 interview, the 74-year-old Catholic Archbishop said the ongoing Synodal process is also consulting with the Laity on the issue of discrimination and marginalization of certain minority groups.

“Then there was the question of LGBTQI. Regarding the discrimination on sexual basis of sexual orientation, that became a very big issue, that all these issues that appear to be on the margin should be brought on to a broader platform where people can share and respond to the needs of minority groups,” he said about the Synodal process taking place under the theme, “For a Synodal Church, Communion, Participation, and Mission”.

He added, “There's a question of women that came up regarding injustices against women because of femicide.”

“Lack of equality and participation for women is an ongoing challenge. And yet, somehow, rather, we don't seem to grapple with the challenge itself,” Archbishop Tlhagale said.


He cited the controversy around the ordination of women saying, “Presumably, that will be perpetually on the list within the Catholic Church, where some women feel that they’re simply being discriminated against, by the ordination of males only, and that that very act of ordaining males only reinforce discrimination against women, not only in church, but in society.”

“These are some of the discussions that went on at this plenary. And now, the idea would be to make sure that these topics are not lost,” Archbishop Tlhagale told ACI Africa May 11.

He added, “(Members of) the permanent committee that monitors the follow up on these various issues, have to make sure that nothing is lost, and that we don't repeat ourselves three years or five years from now, but that we should try to implement the decisions that were made by this particular Synod.”

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.