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Bishop Sithembele Sipuka is new President of SA Bishops’ Conference

At the annual August plenary of the Southern African Catholic Bishops’, taking place in Mariannhill, KwaZulu Natal, the bishop of the diocese of Mthatha, Sithembele Sipuka was elected president of the Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference (SACBC).

On Saturday morning, 04 August 2018, at the bishops’ plenary meeting in Marianhill, KwaZulu Natal, Bishop Sithembele Sipuka was elected president of the Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference. He will succeed Archbishop Stephen Brislin of Cape Town who has served as the leader of the conference since February 2013.

Sipuka is currently the 1st vice president of the Conference so he is familiar with the inner workings of the SACBC. He is well known in the African Catholic world where he serves as the 2nd vice president of the Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar (SECAM), who celebrate their golden jubilee this year. He is also the representative for the Inter-regional Meeting of Bishops of Southern Africa (IMBISA) in SECAM.

Sipuka was ordained a priest in 1988 and ordained the bishop of Mthatha in 2008. He served on the staff of St Peter’s Seminary in Pretoria and, later, was rector of the national seminary, St John Vianney in Pretoria. He holds a PhD in Systematic Theology from the University of South Africa (UNISA) entitled The sacrifice of the Mass and the concept of sacrifice among the Xhosa: towards an inculturated understanding of the Eucharist.

L-R: Bishop Graham Rose, Bishop Sithembele Sipuka and Bishop Dabula Mpako

The bishops also elected the other members that will form the so-called “troika” for the conference. All three bishops were previous seminary rectors.

Bishop Dabula Mpako of the Diocese of Queenstown will serve as 1st vice-president and Bishop Graham Rose of the Diocese of Dundee has been elected 2nd vice president.

The elections for other office bearers will be held in February 2019, when Sipuka is due to take over officially from Brislin, who will, until then, continue to serve as the SACBC President.

This is a developing story and will be updated. In the meantime listen to Spotlight.Africa editor-in-chief’s interview with Bishop Sipuka at the January 2018 plenary, earlier this year.  The full story can also be read here.

Images: Facebook and Twitter / Bishop José Luís Ponce de León

* 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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Ricardo da Silva SJ
Ricardo is a member of the South African region of the Jesuits and an ordained deacon of the Roman Catholic Church. In 2020, he received a master's degree in journalism from the Graduate School of Journalism at Columbia University, New York, where he was an African Pulitzer Fellow and reported on religion, mental health, housing and other social injustices. Before moving to the U.S.A., Ricardo served as acting editor of spotlight.africa and was on the team at Jesuit Institute South Africa. His preparation for ministry as a Jesuit has taken him to study theology in Brazil, philosophy in the U.K and brief working stints in Zimbabwe and Spain. As a Jesuit, he has ministered to refugees, migrants, people experiencing street homelessness, young adults, seminarians, the elderly, and high school and university students, staff and faculty. Before entering religious life in 2007, Ricardo worked in marketing, communications, and brand management before joining the Jesuits in 2007. Ricardo holds dual citizenship, having emigrated from Portugal to South Africa at the age of six with his mother.

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