“Comfortable in not playing their role": Bishop in South Africa Laments Laity’s Inactivity

SACBC President Bishop Sithembele Sipuka greeting Pope Francis during the Ad Limina Visit in Rome. Credit: SACBC

The Laity in South Africa are not playing their role as members of the church, and they seem to be comfortable with this status quo of inactivity, Bishop Sithembele Sipuka of the country’s Mthatha Diocese has lamented.

“Judging by the lack of enthusiasm to be involved, despite all the persuasion and begging by the Priests and Bishops, it appears that the laity has become comfortable in not playing their role in the Church," Bishop Sipuka says in the latest Newsletter of the South African Diocese dated Monday, July 3.

While members of the Clergy accord the Laity opportunities to exercise their role, the South African Catholic Bishop says he finds it regrettable that the Laity are "not ready for the most part.”

As a way forward, the Bishop of Mthatha Diocese who doubles as the President of the Southern African Catholic Bishops' Conference (SACBC) says, “There is a need for the re-education of the laity about the imperatives of being baptized and confirmed.”

In the eight-page Diocesan Newsletter devoted to the encounters during the SACBC members’ June 12-17 Ad Limina visit, Bishop Sipuka says the Laity’s participation in the Church was one of the issues that was discussed when the Catholic Bishops of Botswana, Eswatini, and South Africa visited to the Dicastery for the Laity Family and Life.  


At the Vatican dicastery, he recalls, they had "a cordial discussion, agreeing really on all points of discussion about the laity playing a role proper to them in the life and work of the Church by virtue of their baptism and confirmation and not as extensions of ordained ministry and religious life.”

Bishop Sipuka says that SACBC members left the Dicastery for the Laity Family and Life “with a heightened awareness of the need to beef up the self-sustenance drive in our Conference because the overseas coffers from which we traditionally got support are on the verge of drying up."

“One major point of discussion was the issue of the growing inability of this Dicastery to provide financial and material assistance to mission areas like ours as well as the need for reporting for project funds received," the 63-year-old Catholic Bishop who has been at the helm of Mthatha Diocese since his Episcopal Ordination in May 2008 says.

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