Like St. Peter, “we are not perfect”: South African Catholic Bishop on Ad Limina Visit

SACBC Troika with Cardinal Napier at the Tomb of St Peter, Rome. Credit: SACBC

The President of the Southern African Catholic Bishops' Conference (SACBC) has said that Catholic Bishops, just like Peter the Apostle, “are not perfect” in their Episcopal Ministry. 

In his homily during the Tuesday, June 13 Holy Mass celebrated at the tomb of St. Peter on the second day of SACBC members’ Ad Limina visit, Bishop Sithembele Sipuka urged his brother Bishops at the helm of the Church in Botswana, Eswatini, and South Africa to be guided by “humility and dependence on the Lord”.

As shepherds of God’s flock, Bishop Sipuka said, there is no need to “be hard on ourselves or each other but, like Peter, turn to the Lord to ask for the increase of faith, forgiveness for our failures, and the grace and wisdom to carry out this task of being elders in humility and dependence on the Lord rather than trusting in ourselves.”

The Bishop of South Africa’s Mthatha Diocese recalled the imperfections that the Apostle Peter displayed, saying he “denied Jesus three times and tried to run away here in Rome when Jesus met him and asked, ‘Where are you going?’”

“We come to a fellow elder who understands that we are not called because we are perfect,” said the South African Catholic Bishop during the June 13 Holy Mass at the tomb of St. Peter in Rome, the second day of the SACBC members’ June 12-17 Ad Limina visit.


Making reference to the first letter of St. Peter where the Apostle refers to the Church leaders as “fellow elders”, the SACBC President underscored the need for Bishops to foster communion and collaboration devoid of “superiority or inferiority complex”.

He said, “If Peter is referring to us fellow elders, this is what we should be among ourselves; all fellow elders and equally participate in the discussions and pastoral activities of the conference with no superiority or inferiority complex; we are all fellow elders.” 

The South African Catholic Bishop who has been at the helm of Mthatha Diocese since his Episcopal Ordination in May 2008 encouraged the practice of altruism describing the Episcopal Ministry of shepherding as one that involves seeking “the well-being of the sheep instead of looking after one’s own advantage at the expense of the sheep.”

“This task of holistic and sacrificial shepherding lies ultimately with us, and in turn, we are to encourage our collaborators to be holistic in this task of shepherding,” Bishop Sipuka said. 

He highlighting some of the challenges SACBC members and their collaborators face in shepherding the people of God in their respective countries, including guiding the youth and the lack of cohesion and unity among the flock of different races.

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“Some of us are reaching a point of frustration because of the seeming lack of response by the youth,” the SACBC President said during his June 13 homily at the tomb of St. Peter in Rome, and added, “Yet frustrated as we may feel, we are not to give up on them because we are called to ‘tend them’”.

He continued, “While Pope Francis rightly encourages us to smell like the flock, it is difficult when the flock does not want to smell like each other by being one and by cooperating.”

“Let us ask St. Peter, a fellow elder who understands these challenges of shepherding, to pray for us for the grace of the wisdom to gather all the portions of the flock into one flock,” Bishop Sipuka implored.

Silas Mwale Isenjia is a Kenyan journalist with a great zeal and interest for Catholic Church related communication. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Linguistics, Media and Communication from Moi University in Kenya. Silas has vast experience in the Media production industry. He currently works as a Journalist for ACI Africa.