Pope Francis Accepts Retirement of Bishop of South African Diocese, Appoints Successor

Bishop Pius Mlungisi Dlungwane (right) and Bishop Neil Augustine Frank (left). Credit: Courtesy Photo

Pope Francis has accepted the retirement of Bishop Pius Mlungisi Dlungwane of the Catholic Diocese of Mariannhill in South Africa and appointed his successor.

In the latest administrative changes published Thursday, October 13 by the Holy See Press Office, Pope Francis appointed Bishop Neil Augustine Frank who has been serving as Coadjutor Bishop of Mariannhill Diocese since his Episcopal Ordination in February this year as the successor of Bishop Dlungwane.

Born in August 1966 in Pietermaritzburg in South Africa’s Durban Archdiocese, Bishop Frank made his perpetual vows as a member of the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate (OMI) on 4 January 1998 and was ordained a Priest on 21 August 1999.

As a Priest, Bishop Frank served in various capacities including Parish Priest, lecturer, head of the philosophy department and president at Saint Joseph's Theological Institute, and provincial superior of the OMI in South Africa.

Erected as an Apostolic Vicariate on 10 September 1921 and elevated to the rank of a Diocese on 11 January 1951, Mariannhill Diocese had been put under Apostolic Visitation on 6 February 2020 after Pope Francis appointed Archbishop William Matthew Slattery to represent him in the initiative. 


In a September 2020 letter, the leadership of the Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference (SACBC) announced the Vatican’s decision to place the Diocese of Mariannhill under an Apostolic Administrator.

“I have been informed by the nunciature that following the apostolic visitation to the diocese of Mariannhill, the Holy See has decided to appoint an apostolic administrator ‘sede plena et natum Sanctæ Sedis’ in the person of Archbishop (William) Slattery OFM with immediate effect,” SACBC President, Bishop Sithembele Sipuka said in a statement that was obtained by ACI Africa 24 September 2020.

In the letter that was addressed to members of SACBC and the Clergy, Bishop Sipuka clarified the meaning of Archbishop Slattery’s appointment in the Episcopal See that had been under the leadership of Bishop Dlungwane, 72 at the time. 

“What this means is that while Bishop Dlungwane remains the Spiritual head of the Diocese and continues to be a member of the Conference, the actual administration of the Diocese, which includes organization of Pastoral life and work in the Diocese, discipline of the clergy, financial administration and other related administrative matters are now the task of the Apostolic Administrator,” SACBC President stated.

He added, “We entrust Archbishop Slattery, Bishop Dlungwane, the Clergy, religious and the faithful of Mariannhil to the Holy Spirit for a fruitful collaboration in advancing the mission of the Church in that part of the world.”

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Mariannhill Diocese measures 12,612 square kilometers with a population of 335,100 Catholics, according to 2019 statistics.

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.