Catholic Church in South Africa

The Catholic Church in South Africa is part of the universal Catholic Church composed of the Roman Rite and 22 Eastern Rites, of which the South African church is under the spiritual leadership of the Southern African Catholic Bishops Conference and the Pope based in Vatican City. It is made up of 26 dioceses and archdioceses plus an apostolic vicariate.

In 1996, there were approximately 3.3 million Catholics in South Africa making up 6% of the total South African population. Currently, there are 3.8 million Catholics.[1] 2.7 million are of various black African ethnic groups, such as Zulu, Xhosa, and Sotho. Coloured and white South Africans each account for roughly 300,000.[2] Most white Catholics are English speaking, and the majority are descended from Irish immigrants. Many others are Portuguese settlers who left Angola and Mozambique after they became independent in the 1970s, or their children. The proportion of Catholics among the predominantly Calvinist white Afrikaans speakers, or South African Asians who are mainly Hindus of Indian descent, is extremely small.

Structure and leadership


The Catholic Church in South Africa consists of five Archdioceses (Bloemfontein, Cape Town, Durban, Johannesberg, and Pretoria), 22 Dioceses, 2 Vicariates Apostolic and a Military Ordinariate. The five Ecclesiastical provinces are

The Southern African Catholic Bishops Conference

The Southern African Catholic Bishops Conference is a collegial body approved by the Holy See and has as its particular aim:

to provide the bishops of the territories mentioned above with facilities for consultation and united action in such matters of common interest to the Church as consultation and co-operation with other hierarchies; the fostering of priestly and religious vocations; the doctrinal, apostolic and pastoral formation of the clergy, religious and laity; the promotion of missionary activity, catechetics, liturgy, lay apostolate, ecumenism, development, justice and reconciliation, social welfare, schools, hospitals, the apostolate of the press, radio, television, and other means of social communication; and any other necessary activity.


The Apostolic Nuncio to South Africa is Archbishop James Patrick Green appointed to the post on 17 August 2006. He is also the Apostolic Nuncio to Lesotho, Swaziland and Namibia as well as the Apostolic Delegate to Botswana.

Catholic Church and apartheid

Denis Hurley, Archbishop of Durban and a member of the Central Preparatory Committee of Vatican II, stands perhaps as the most eminent Catholic cleric in South African history. He was appointed bishop at the age of 31 and was a leader in opposing the apartheid regime. Like him, many senior officials within the Roman Catholic Church in South Africa opposed apartheid, but a group of conservative white Catholics formed the South African Catholic Defence League to condemn the church's political involvement and, in particular, to denounce school integration.[3]




  2. Catholics in RSA 1996 census statistics posted on the website of the Archdiocese of Bloemfontein.
  3. Country Studies. "Religion and apartheid". Source: Rita M. Byrnes, ed. South Africa: A Country Study. Washington: GPO for the Library of Congress, 1996.

St Joseph's theological Institute (Cedara)

External links

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