- HISTORY OF OUR DIVISIONS IN SOUTHERN AFRICA.
1.1 Christianity came to Southern Africa
with the Portuguese navigators whose chaplain, it is said, celebrated Mass on the shores
of the Cape of Good Hope but was permanently established only through the Dutch settlers
whose influence made some converts among the local inhabitants to the reformed
tradition. The Christian influence was strengthened by the arrival of the French
Huguenots who were fleeing religious persecution in Europe. But it was not until the
arrival of the Moravian Missionaries that a definite effort was made to evangelise the
1.2 Among the early German settlers there were missionaries who established Lutheran
churches in the Cape and elsewhere. The same is true of the first British settlers among
whom there were ministers of the Anglican and Free Church traditions who not only
ministered to their own faithful but also reached out to the Xhosa tribes.
1.3 The first resident Catholic Bishop in the Cape, Bishop Griffiths, arrived in 1837.
There were very few Catholics in the Cape, mainly of Irish extraction, many of whom were
soldiers. It was to these isolated people that the priests ministered. There was not
much mission outreach until the Oblates of Mary Immaculate came to Natal in 1852.
They moved to the interior, to the Free State, to Basutoland (now Lesotho), the
Northern Cape and Bechuanaland (now Botswana) and the Transvaal and in 1896 entered
Namibia. In 1882 they were followed into Natal by the Trappists who later
became the Congregation of Missionaries of Mariannhill and were instrumental in bringing
great numbers of Zulus into the Catholic fold. That same year, 1882, the
Oblates of St Francis de Sales began missionary work in the North Western Cape.
1.4 The first missionaries brought the Faith to Southern Africa in the context of
European culture with the European historical background of division among Christians.
This contributed towards the establishment of the African Independent Churches whose
founders wanted to organise their churches and worship as Africans and not as
Europeans. Following the example of the divided mainline churches, they created new
1.5 At the turn of the century new denominations were introduced from the United States
of America including Pentecostalism. These influenced the establishment of the Ethiopian
Churches and the Zion Christian Churches who claim the largest membership among the
Christians of this country. Because of their syncretism there are some Christians in
mainline Churches who would deny them the use of the term, Christian. However, they do
give an example of making Africans feel at home.
1.6 From the time of the first world war, more Catholic missionary congregations
arrived in Southern Africa. Their ministry brought about a phenomenal increase of
conversions among Blacks, especially in rural areas. The establishment of the Hierarchy in
1951 allowed for better organisation and distribution of personnel.
1.7 In the Republic of South Africa many Christian leaders and members of the laity
were united in their struggle against apartheid. Their efforts to fight apartheid
were co-ordinated in the establishment of the South African Council of Churches
(SACC). Although the Catholic Church had only Observer Status, after Vatican II
there was considerable co-operation in the areas of social concern. It was only
after the Second Vatican Council that the Catholic Church became involved in
ecumenical co-operation and dialogue began to take root. Formal dialogue has since taken
place between the Catholic Church on the one hand and the Anglicans, the Pentecostals and
the Dutch Reformed Churches on the other while friendly relations are maintained with all
the mainline Churches. It is only recently that attempts have been made to reach out to
the African Independent Churches. In 1995 the Catholic Church became a full member
of the South African Council of Churches (SACC), having previously held observer status
from the beginning.
- PROMOTING THE CATHOLIC CHURCH'S CONTRIBUTION TO ECUMENISM (DE #37-54)
2.1 As noted in
the Directory on Ecumenism, the local Church can contribute in many fruitful ways to the
cause of ecumenism (DE #38). In order to assist the Catholic Church in our own region to
do so, the following structures and goals should be put in place:
2.1.1 In each diocese of the territory of the SACBC the Bishop must appoint a competent
person as Diocesan Officer for ecumenism. (DE #41)
2.1.2 In addition to exploring ways of promoting ecumenism with the more traditionally
structured Churches, attention must be given, as a matter of urgency, to exploring ways of
promoting ecumenical dialogue and co-operation with the AICs.
2.2 Wherever possible the Bishop should set up a Commission or Secretariat which should
assist the Diocesan Officer in promoting ecumenism. (DE #41)
2.3 The Diocesan Officer and, where they exist, the Diocesan Commission or Secretariat
for Ecumenism should collaborate with the Department of Ecumenism of the SACBC as well as
the Regional Council of Churches and the Associations of Local Ministers.
2.4 Institutes of Consecrated Life
2.4.1 The Conference of Major Religious Superiors of Southern Africa, in collaboration
with the SACBC Department of Ecumenism, should seek contact and co-operation with
religious wherever they exist in other Christian Churches, e.g., by sharing conferences
and retreats (DE #50).
2.4.2 Educational and health institutions which are directed and served by Institutes
of Consecrated Life:
184.108.40.206 should continue to serve Christians of all denominations as well as persons of
other Faiths and convictions;
220.127.116.11 must make it possible for the ministers of other Churches and religions
to minister to their members who are resident in these institutions.
2.5 Lay organisations should strive wherever possible to co-operate with similar
organisations in other Churches on the level of prayer and action. In particular, where
organisations are devoted to socially uplifting activities, the co-operation should exist
not simply on the level of action but also and especially on the level of prayerful
reflection on the faith that is the common spur to that action (DE#161).
2.6 The possibility of creating pastoral structures with representatives of other
Christian Churches should be explored. For example, parish pastoral councils could
explore with similar bodies in their area the possibility of reciprocal representation on
such bodies. In this way Catholics and members of other Christian Churches
will be drawn together in matters of common pastoral concern.
- ECUMENICAL FORMATION IN THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (DE#55-91)
3. 1 "Concern for
restoring unity is the responsibility of all members of the Church, faithful and clergy
alike" (DE#55). Central to the process of growth in unity is growth in our
understanding of the Word that binds us together. The Scriptures are the inspired
testimony to that Word and as such constitute the source to which the Church's
understanding of its faith must return again and again in order to deepen, purify and
enrich the tradition of faith built on the Word witnessed to within it (Divine
Revelation VI, 21). This conviction we hold in common with other Christians.
Hence central to the process is our growth in the understanding of the Scriptures (DE
3.2 However, more is needed. The importance of striving for Christian unity needs to be
brought into our programmes of catechetical and theological training. We need not
only to educate people as to its importance but make the very process of catechising and
theological education an ecumenical one (DE #161).
To achieve the above, the following recommendations are made:
3.3 That Catholics study the Scriptures in Bible Study Groups not only amongst
themselves but also with other Christians, making use of suitable programmes where
3.4 That in catechetical instruction of youth and adults the teachings on the unity and
catholicity of the Church be structured in such a way as to bring out the tragedy of a
disunited Christendom and the importance of seeking unity. In such teachings, the ways in
which the concepts of unity and catholicity can contribute rather than run counter to
Christian unity should be made clear.
3.5 That in seminaries and institutes of higher studies room be made in the curriculum
for a specific course on ecumenism, and that wherever possible the ecumenical dimension be
included in all of the theological disciplines taught. It is especially important to
seek ways of exposing students to lecturers drawn from other Christian Churches. Where
appropriate, seminarians should be enabled to study with candidates for the ministry for
other Churches, and where co-operative structures already exist, ways should be sought of
participating in them.
- PROMOTING COMMUNITY LIFE AND SPIRITUAL ACTIVITY BETWEEN BAPTISED CHRISTIANS
SACRAMENT OF BAPTISM AND ITS IMPORTANCE (DE #92-101)
4.1.1 By the Sacrament of Baptism a person is truly incorporated into Christ and into
his Church, and is reborn to a sharing of the divine life. Baptism therefore constitutes
the sacramental bond of unity existing among all who through it are reborn. (DE #92)
In order to give full recognition to the bond that binds the baptised, especially where
there is a genuine striving to overcome the historical divisions that weigh upon us, the
following recommendations are made:
4.1.2 As regards the validity of Baptism, the findings of earlier commissions appointed
by the SACBC concerning the recognition of the baptisms performed by other Christian
Churches in our region should be disseminated to all priests and deacons and form part of
catechetical and theological instruction on Baptism. In cases where doubts may
continue to exist concerning a particular Church's baptismal practice, dialogue with that
Church must be sought as a matter of urgency in order to resolve the issue (DE # 94).
4.1.3 As regards the minister, the traditional practice of only one minister performing
the actual act of baptising (viz., the pouring with water while proclaiming the baptismal
formula) is to be retained. However, wherever appropriate a minister of another
Christian Church should be invited to participate in the other parts of the baptismal
liturgy, e.g. readings, prayers, etc. An obvious case where this would apply would be the
baptism of a child, one of whose parents belongs to another Christian Church (DE # 97).
4.1.4 As regards official sponsors and witnesses, except for Eastern Orthodox
Christians, the Directory on Ecumenism forbids members of other Christian Churches to be
one of the official sponsors at a Baptism performed in the Catholic Church (DE
#98). However, the permission that is given for others to act as
witnesses - provided there is at least one confirmed and practising Catholic acting as an
official sponsor - should be utilised to the full. Here too it should be
encouraged that wherever appropriate a confirmed practising member of another Christian
Church be invited to act as a witness. The names of such witnesses should be entered as
such into the baptismal register. We also encourage theological reflection on the
extent to which the distinction that is made between Eastern Orthodox Christians and
others in this matter should be retained.
4.1.5 As regards conversions, while proposing humbly our conviction that 'the Church of
Christ subsists in the Catholic Church' (Lumen Gentium) we affirm that any form of
proselytism is unworthy witness. Instead, as with the Eastern Orthodox Churches, the
emphasis should fall on seeking unity between Christian Churches. Nevertheless,
those individual Christians who seek full communion with the Catholic Church are to be
4.1.6 As regards rites of initiation, the rites to be followed for
admitting validly baptised Christians into full communion with the Catholic Church must
not be allowed to give the impression that someone is becoming a member of Christ's
Body for the first time (DE#100). The ceremony must be structured in such a way as
to give full recognition to the Christian faith and experience that the person brings with
him or her. The emphasis should be on receiving a brother or sister Christian into fuller
communion with us.
18.104.22.168 In the rites of initiation a clear distinction must be made between catechumens
(unbaptised) and those who are already baptised in other Christian Churches (Rite for
22.214.171.124 Christians who were baptised in other Christian Churches and who seek full
communion in the Catholic Church, should be examined regarding their motivation, in order
to ensure that it is not for purposes unrelated to their convictions of faith. Examples of
insufficient reasons are: because it is nearer to their home, because the spouse is a
Catholic, because of disputes with their own minister, etc.
126.96.36.199 Preparation for the reception of Christians into full communion should,
wherever possible, build on the Christian knowledge they already have. Such
knowledge may even include an extensive familiarity with the Catholic Faith.
However, even in the latter case it may be necessary to take time to enable such people to
adjust to the duties and responsibilities of daily Catholic life, rather than admit people
to full communion too soon after the request is made.
4.2 THE SACRAMENT OF CONFIRMATION
4.2.1 'In the present state of our relations with the ecclesial Communities of the
Reformation of the 16th century we have not yet reached agreement about the significance
or sacramental nature or even of the administration of the sacrament of
Confirmation. Therefore, under the present circumstances, persons entering into full
communion with the Catholic Church from one of these Communities are to receive the
sacrament of Confirmation according to the doctrine and rite of the Catholic Church before
being admitted to Eucharistic Communion' (DE#101).
In view of this, the following recommendation is made:
4.2.2 Where Christians who are received into full communion with the Catholic Church
have not received the sacrament of Confirmation, the latter should be administered to them
on their reception, prior to their participating as full members of the Catholic Church in
its celebration of the Eucharist.
- 5. SHARING SPIRITUAL ACTIVITIES AND RESOURCES
5.1 'In spite of the serious
difficulties which prevent full communion, it is clear that all those who by baptism are
incorporated into Christ share many elements of the Christian life. There thus
exists a real, even if imperfect, communion among Christians which can be expressed in
many ways, including sharing in prayer and liturgical worship' (DE #104).
The following recommendations flow from the above as regards ecumenical prayer and
non-sacramental liturgical worship:
5.2 Catholics are encouraged to join in prayer with Christians of other Churches.
5.2.1 Participation in the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity should be seriously
encouraged in all Parishes and Religious Houses (DE # 110).
5.3 The opportunities for representative sharing in non-sacramental liturgical
worship, on a regular basis, should be explored by diocesan and parish pastoral councils
which are broader than fraternals (DE # 116-119). 5.3.1 Where such opportunities exist,
Catholics are to be encouraged to participate in such worship. Other Christian communities
are to be invited to non-sacramental Catholic forms of worship. In view of the above, the
possibility of engaging in worship with one or more of the AICs ought to be explored.
5.4 The burial of members of each other's Churches should be determined on the
local diocesan level. In terms of this Directory deceased members of other Christian
Churches may be buried with Catholic Rites, especially in the case of a deceased spouse
(DE#120). Deceased Catholics may in turn be buried with the rites of another Christian
Church, should there be a justifying reason for doing so.
5.5 Despite the difficulties that can exist, the symbolism of sharing a single building
for worship can be of great value in binding different Christian Churches together.
In situations where a parish is in need of a building for worship, the bishop should in
the first instance consider whether or not it would be advisable to share an already
existing building belonging to another Christian Church, or to erect a new one in
partnership with such a Church (cf.DE # 138).
- 6. SHARING SACRAMENTAL CELEBRATIONS
6.1 "A sacrament is an act of Christ
and his Church through the Spirit. Its celebration in a concrete community is the
sign of the reality of its unity in faith, worship and community life. As well as being
signs, sacraments - most specially the Eucharist - are sources of the unity of the
Christian Community and of spiritual life, and are means for building them up. Thus
Eucharistic communion is inseparably linked to full ecclesial communion and its visible
6.2 "At the same time, the Catholic Church teaches that by baptism members of
other Churches and ecclesial Communities are brought into real, even imperfect communion,
with the Catholic Church." (DE #129)
6.3 Governing Principles
6.3.1 The principles governing sacramental sharing laid down in the Directory on
Ecumenism can be summarised as follows:
(a) the sacraments and most especially the Eucharist are signs as well as sources of
unity and therefore are properly open as a matter of course only to those who are in full
ecclesial communion with each other;
(b) baptism creates a bond between all the baptised which seeks its full expression in
eucharistic communion (DE # 129).
6.3.2 The general rule flowing from these principles is therefore that abstinence from
shared sacramental worship is the normal state of affairs but circumstances can exist in
which such a sharing becomes not only permissible but advisable (DE # 129).
6.3.3 The circumstances in which such sharing is justified are (a) danger of death and
(b) any other pressing need.
6.3.4 The norms for judging when such a need exists should be laid down by the diocesan
Bishop (DE#130), although the Directory on Ecumenism does single out the situation of
spouses in a mixed marriage, bound to each other as they are by the sacraments of Baptism
and Matrimony (DE #160).
6.3.5 The pastoral advisability of permitting sharing the sacraments depends both on
the general situation of the local worshipping community and on the conditions to be met
by the individual persons concerned.
6.3.6 When such sharing is justified, the following conditions are to be met :
(a) the person admitted to such sharing must seek it of his or her own initiative; (b)
must be unable to receive the sacrament from a minister of his or her own Church; (c) must
manifest Catholic faith in the sacrament; (d) must have the proper dispositions for the
fruitful reception of it' (DE #131).
6.3.7 As regards (b) in 6.3.6 above, this inability need not be one that exists over a
period of time but could arise out of the nature of the situation in which the petitioner
finds himself or herself (e.g., when spouses in a mixed marriage attend a eucharistic
6.3.8 As regards (c) in 6.3.6 above, it is important to recall that there is a
crucial distinction between the substance of the faith and the way in which it is
expressed. What is required is unity in the substance of the faith.
Moreover, in judging whether or not such unity is present, due cognisance must be taken of
those ecumenical agreements that display the existence of a substantial agreement in
faith. One example of such an agreement is that which was reached by the
Anglican and Roman Catholic International Commission regarding the Eucharist. In the
light of that agreement, members of the Anglican Communion may be presumed to share the
essentials of Eucharistic faith with us.
In view of the above the following recommendations are made. These are
permissive, not prescriptive, since they clarify what can be done within the framework of
6.4 Since `the salvation of souls is the supreme law', in danger of death the above
norms are not to be interpreted narrowly. Pastoral considerations must predominate, when
in such circumstances Christians from other churches wish to receive the sacraments of
Penance, Anointing of the sick or the Eucharist.
6.5 In cases other than danger of death, provided that conditions (a) to (d) mentioned
in 6.3.6 above are fulfilled, the following guidelines apply:
6.5.1 As regards baptismal celebrations, Christians of other Churches who so wish are
to be encouraged to participate as fully as possible. Similarly, Catholics are to be
encouraged to participate, where invited, in baptismal celebrations of other Christian
Churches (see 4.1.3 & 4.1.4).
6.5.2 As regards the Sacraments of the Sick and of Penance, the mere request for such
sacraments can be taken as evidence of pressing spiritual need and the sacrament may be
administered. Special consideration should be given to spouses in an interchurch
marriage who may wish to approach these sacraments together, if their situation justifies
6.5.3 As regards the Eucharist, a special need can be said to exist on occasions when
Christians from other Churches attend a Eucharistic celebration for a special feast or
event. On these occasions eucharistic sharing may be both meaningful and desirable,
expressing the degree of unity that the participating Christians already have with each
188.8.131.52 It has been a long-standing pastoral practice in the Catholic Church not to
refuse someone who comes to receive communion in good faith. However, where
possible and according to circumstances, it may be advisable or even necessary to inform
such a person afterwards of Catholic discipline.
184.108.40.206 A unique situation exists as regards spouses of a mixed marriage who attend
Mass together in a Catholic Church. The uniqueness consists in the fact that their
baptismal unity in Christ has been still further sealed by the sacramentality of their
marriage bond. Hence both may experience a real need to express that unity by
receiving Holy Communion whenever they attend Mass together. If such couples attend
Mass together only infrequently, then they may both receive Communion on those occasions,
provided that it is the spontaneous desire of the non-Catholic partner to do so. In
cases where both parties attend Mass together virtually every Sunday, then the
non-Catholic party may approach the local Ordinary through the parish priest for
permission to receive Communion every time he or she attends Mass with his or her
spouse. In all the above cases it is assumed that the non-Catholic lives devotedly
within his or her tradition. Cases where the only Church that the non-Catholic
partner attends is the Catholic Church must be referred to the local Ordinary through the
6.5.4. The guidelines given above must not be allowed to lead to a situation where the
divisions between Christians are no longer taken seriously. Catholics must therefore
be educated as to the reasons why abstinence from eucharistic sharing is the general norm
and why only a limited form of such sharing is possible. Catholics also need to be
educated to take seriously the fact that the degrees of visible unity between the Catholic
Church and other Churches can differ. In the case where the visible unity is very
close - e.g., in the case of the Orthodox Church - less weight (from a Catholic
perspective) may be placed on the divisions and more on the unity already possessed, thus
justifying a far freer sharing in the sacraments in general and the Eucharist in
particular. In cases where the visible unity is marred by very many serious
divisions, more emphasis needs to be placed on bearing truthful witness to the sad state
of the division, thus justifying a more limited form of sacramental sharing.
6.5.5 As regards Catholics seeking to receive the sacraments from pastors in other
Churches, the same circumstances apply as above (viz., regarding need, substantial
agreement in faith, etc.). Catholics must also have due respect for the ecclesiastical
discipline that may operate in the Church in which they seek to receive a particular
sacrament. The Directory on Ecumenism also notes a further condition, viz., that the
sacrament be sought 'from a minister in whose Church these sacraments are valid or from
one who is known to be validly ordained according to the Catholic teaching on ordination'
(DE #132). As regards the Eastern Orthodox Churches, this condition is already
fulfilled. As regards the Churches arising out of the divisions that occurred in the
West at the time of the Reformation, the matter, from a Catholic perspective, is not so
6.5.6 Where it is not permissible for Catholics to receive the sacraments in another
Church, they should be educated to take the pain of Christian divisions sufficiently
seriously to use that opportunity to pray and pledge themselves to strive for Christian
- INTERCHURCH MARRIAGES
7.1 Catholics and members of other Churches who are entering
into the covenant of marriage must be adequately prepared to make an ecumenical
partnership of their marriage, as envisaged by the Post-Synodal Exhortation,
"Familiaris Consortio," while respecting the responsibilities of the Catholic
partner regarding the practice of the Faith and the education of the children (FC 78).
7.2 Where there are genuine pastoral reasons for the granting of a dispensation from
the canonical form of marriage, it should not be refused.
7.3 Pastors should make the fullest possible use of opportunities afforded for
ecumenical celebrations for mixed marriages.
7.4 It is against freedom of religion and the dignity of women that a wife should be
expected to join the Church of her husband or that pressure be put on either spouse to
convert, on the pretext of achieving unity of faith.
Johnson Mkhabela (Mr)