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Home Church Bishop Sithembele Sipuka speaks to Spotlight

Bishop Sithembele Sipuka speaks to Spotlight

On the last day of the bishops' January plenary session in Pretoria, Bishop Sithembele Sipuka, bishop of Mthatha and first vice-president of the bishops' conference, spoke to Fr Russell Pollitt. In the interview he clarified the remarks he made about lazy, materialistic and money-loving clergy. He also explained why he cautioned against “Zuma-bashing”.

In an exclusive interview with Spotlight, Bishop Sipuka spoke about moments in the plenary which were highlights for him including opening address of the president of the conference, Archbishop Stephen Brislin, and time spent sharing with the other bishops. He also said that the celebratory mass of the Church's bi-centenary stood out for him.

Bishop Sipuka outside St John Vianney Seminary in Pretoria

Sipuka said that the Council of Evangelisation report was inclusive and comprehensive, and was now beginning to take shape (this is a new structure in the conference).

Speaking about young people, the bishop said that Mini World Youth Day (MWYD) was consoling as it changed the impression that we might have of youth. He said that often youth are considered to be aimless, have a mentality of entitlement, don't take responsibility and are not committed. He said that this was modified by the seriousness with which they took MWYD and that this created a real sense of hope for the Church.

Bishop Sipuka preaching at the bi-centenary celebration of the Catholic Church in Southern Africa at the Church of the Beatitudes in Pretoria East

Commenting on the homily he gave at the bi-centenary Mass, in which he cautioned against “Zuma-bashing”, Sipuka said that South Africa is a complex society and that there are many things that are not spoken about which are also wrong. He mentioned issues like racism and the land debate. Both of these, he said, are not easy issues, but issues the country must grapple with.

He also clarified what he meant when he spoke about priests who cost a lot to form, and then become lazy, materialistic and money-lovers. Whilst he said that there is truth in this, he wants to make it clear that there are many good priests too. He said that one apple can spoil a whole bag of apples and there are priests who have lost the reason and vision of the priesthood.

Listen to the interview with Bishop Sipuka:

Pictures by Frank Tuson and Sheldon Reddiar

* The opinions expressed here by Spotlight.Africa contributors and editors are their own and not official statements of the Society of Jesus in South Africa or of the Catholic Church unless explicitly stated.


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Russell Pollitt SJ
Director of the Jesuit Institute South Africa and Editor-in-Chief of He studied the social sciences, theology and communications. He worked as pastor of the Jesuit’s downtown parish in Johannesburg, South Africa, for 7 years before moving to the Jesuit Institute. He is interested in the relationship between faith and society and the contribution that faith can make to public policy. He regularly comments on politics in South Africa and issues in the Catholic Church. He conducts workshops in South Africa on social media and the human person.

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