Catholic Bishops in Southern Africa Deliberating Creation of “Missionary Commission”

Fr. Mike Lewis SJ, the Chairman of the National Professional Conduct Committee at the plenary meeting of the SACBC. Credit: SACBC

Members of the Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference (SACBC) are deliberating on the possibility of establishing a Missionary Commission aimed at creating awareness about “the missionary mandate of all the baptized”.

In a press release shared with ACI Africa Wednesday, August 3, the SACBC Communications Officer says the Missionary Commission that the Catholic Bishops in Botswana, Eswatini, and South Africa are envisaging would be part of SACBC Council for Evangelization.

“This Commission would represent the missionary dimension and concern itself with mission outreach, mission practice and promotion,” Fr. Phuti Makgabo says, adding that the Commission’s “specific aim in the conference would be to create a greater awareness of the missionary mandate of all the baptized and help with the implementation of the SACBC Pastoral plan.” 

The Catholic Bishops in the three-nation Conference are deliberation the creation of a Commission that would fall under the SACBC Council for Evangelization, Fr. Makgabo further says in his August 3 statement released on the sidelines of the August 1-5 second Plenary Assembly of SACBC taking place in Mariannhill Diocese.

The envisaged Missionary Commission, the SACBC Communications Officer says, “will somehow develop an environment under which the Pontifical Mission Society (PMS) will also be able to bring out especially the spiritual aspect of the PMS as opposed to only the more known side concerning finances.”


Regarding Priestly formation, SACBC members who are meeting at the Mariannhill Monastery in Pinetown, South Africa, are deliberation on the possibility of “separating academic formation from human, spiritual and pastoral formation” of candidates to the Priesthood, Fr. Makgabo says.

In their discussions about formation, the Bishops from Botswana, Eswatini, and South Africa are mainly focusing on St. John Vianney Major Seminary and Lumko Institute, the SACBC pastoral institute based in Germiston, Gauteng province, the South African Priest says.

He added that the Bishops are deliberating “on how they envision the national seminary taking shape in the future in terms of how it is going to function going forward.”

“The discussions about the future of the seminary are work in progress,” Fr. Makgabo further says in his August 3 press release, adding, “One of the future possibilities is separating academic formation from human, spiritual and pastoral formation in terms of offering them at different separate places.”

The Catholic Bishops are also deliberating on the boundaries of Dioceses in their regional Conference that the SACBC Communications officer describes as “the realities of small dioceses or communities which are not economically viable; and whether there would be a need to suppress some of the dioceses or create new dioceses.”

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In the August 3 press release shared with ACI Africa, Fr. Makgabo says that the Bishops of Botswana and Eswatini gave updates about the current social, economic, and political situation in their respective countries.

“Bishop Ponce de Leon said presently Eswatini has a low-key violence, and the opposition groups are currently quiet, and so basically it is a situation of wait and see,” SACBC Communications Officer has reported in his press release. 

The Local Ordinary of Manzini Diocese, the only Catholic Episcopal See in Eswatini, urged the people of God under his pastoral care “to start being vocal on matters that require comments from the Church because they too, together with the Bishop, are the church,” Fr. Makgabo recalls. 

According to the South African Priest, Bishop Ponce de Leon “suggested that individuals and groups within the Church need to start projecting their voices into the public squares concerning the affairs of the country.”

Two Catholic Church leaders in Botswana, Archbishop Frank Atese Nubuasah of Gaborone Diocese, and the Local Ordinary of Francistown Diocese, Bishop Anthony Pascal Rebello provided updates about the political situation and immigration challenges in the country.


According to Fr. Makgabo, “Bishop Anthony Rebello of Francistown spoke about the immigration problems they have encountered recently but eventually Archbishop Nubuasah and government officials managed to sort out the problem.”

“Due to covid restrictions it was impossible to have access to the detention center which has about 650 people with no legal documents. But now the detention center is open. The need to go to the detention center is there because they need to help with the proper documentation for the release of the detainees,” Fr. Makgabo says in his August 3 press release, referencing the detention centers in Botswana.

The five-day second SACBC Plenary Assembly set to conclude on Friday, August 5 is also looking at “further rollout and implementation of Diocesan Child Safeguarding Policies, training of parish and deanery structures, the promotion of safe environments, and the promotion of professional conduct amongst the clergy and religious,” the SACBC Communications Officer says in his August 3 press release.

Meanwhile, in a separate report shared with ACI Africa, the SACBC Secretary General has highlighted the issue of property rates regarding assets of the Church. 

According to Fr. Hugh O’Connor, new policies “categorizing all non-residential church property under Business and Commercial” poses a challenge as some municipalities “have removed the Place of Worship designation from their rates policy.” 

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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.