Broken Families Can “rise from their own situation”: Catholic Archbishop in South Africa

Archbishop Buti Joseph Tlhagale during the Ministry and Vocations Fair marking the Archdiocesan phase of the World Meeting of Families. Credit: ACI Africa

Broken families are able to “rise from their own situation” and rebuild their respective lives, the Archbishop of South Africa’s Johannesburg Archdiocese has said in an interview. 

In the interview with ACI Africa on the sidelines of the Ministry and Vocations Fair marking the Archdiocesan phase of the World Meeting of Families, Archbishop Buti Joseph Tlhagale underscored the need for rebuilding families after challenging experiences, and cautioned against the tendency to “give up”.

“Broken families should not necessarily see themselves as broken. They should be able to rise from their own situation and start from scratch,” Archbishop Tlhagale said during the June 25 interview. 

He added, “I know we tend to depend on each other but when, unfortunately, it has not been possible to build a good family, it is good to move on with one’s life.”

“Having gone through our experience in difficulty does not mean that we should give up. We should be able to rise up and live our own lives,” Archbishop Tlhagale said, and added, “Weakness shouldn't detain us and make us regret and live in the past.” 


The member of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate (OMI) reiterated the need for family members undergoing difficulties in their relationships “to try as much as possible to move on with their own lives and not regret what has happened.”

“We should continually look up to the people of hope and look up to mending our lives and enjoying our lives,” he said.

The Local Ordinary of Johannesburg Archdiocese also challenged African and colored families to “nurture the vocations of their children”, and to ensure that their children have access to education.

He cautioned children in South Africa against substance abuse and crime, and wished that both African and colored families “rise out of a life of poverty”.

“One would have thought that after 27 years of democracy that our country, our families, our children, or our country would have changed quite a bit because of the growth of young people”, the South African Archbishop told ACI Africa. 

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He regretted the fact that as South Africans, “we do not seem to have made much progress regarding our young people, and I single out the Africans and the colored communities because we are the ones who seem not to have made progress; we are the ones who seem to be burdened with the challenges that face young people.”

Archbishop Tlhagale went on to say, in relation to the development and growth of both African and colored communities in South Africa, “We don't seem to come out of poverty. We are the ones who do not stay in school in order to make a difference in our own lives; we are the ones who are involved in crime.”

“We are the ones whose children are involved in drugs. There doesn't seem to have been any change and that is why I'm specifically singling out these communities, whereas the other communities seem to be stable and making progress somehow,” he told ACI Africa June 25 moments after celebrating Holy Mass for families that participated in the Ministry and Vocations Fair in his Metropolitan See.

In his homily at the Eucharistic celebration, the 74-year-old Archbishop called on the people of God in South Africa to put love at the center of their family. 

He said, “Love should be at the center of every family; love is what builds a family.”


“In marriage love evokes love, love nurtures love, love calls for love, love is fulfilled by love. Love feeds on love, love is strengthened by love. Love generates love”, Archbishop Tlhagale said in his homily June 25.

He added in reference to love, “At times, it simply leaves us in a state of awe; love thrives when expressed in full measure. Love hungers after love and if it is not returned, it diminishes but never dies; love remains.”

The Archdiocese of Johannesburg held the Ministry and Vocations Fair for families June 25 in response to the invitation of the Vatican Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life that every Diocese worldwide hosts local initiatives to mark the 10th edition of the World Meeting of Families.

Making reference to the theme of the 10th edition of the World Meeting of Families, “Family Love: A Vocation and a Path to Holiness”, Archbishop Tlhagale said being a member of a family is a vocation, and that mutual care needs to be fostered at family level.

“Scripture says there's nothing superior in loving those who love you… There's nothing less than superior, nothing admirable, nothing great about loving people who love you”, he said in reference to St Paul’s letter to the Corinthians.

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“Perhaps we need to say the opposite”, the South African Archbishop went on to say, and explained, “There will always be something greater when you love those who love you. It will always be superior, because when you are a member of a family, that is your vocation: to love those around you, to fulfill them in their love, because in fulfilling their love, you fulfill your own vocation as a member of the family.”

The 74-year-old Archbishop encouraged families to “consider from time to time” going for spiritual retreats together to revive their spirituality. 

“Families should probably consider from time to time to go on a family retreat to self-medicate spiritually, for a family’s spiritual growth,” he said, adding that “in doing so one would then be maintaining spiritual health as a family, spiritual stability as a family, and above all, peace in the family.”

Archbishop Tlhagale encouraged families to read Papal documents such as Pope Francis’ Amoris Laetitia and Merciful Judge, Pope John Paul II’s letter on the family in the modern world, Familiaris Consortio

“I would strongly recommend that each family should have these little booklets that can be read from time to time so as to renew the commitment of members of the family,” Archbishop Tlhagale told ACI Africa during the June 25 interview.

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.