South Africa: The Bishops’ Conference Mobilizes for the World Cup

Source: FSSPX News

"Peace cup" symbol.

“The World Cup has offered a unique opportunity, one we don't want to miss!” With these words the president of the South African Bishops’ Conference, Cardinal Wilfrid Napier, presents the numerous actions the South African Church developed for the duration of the Word Cup of football [soccer] taking place in his country from 11 June to 11 July 2010. On the Internet site created especially for the occasion, www.churchontheball.com, the prelate lays stress on the values shared by football and the Church: “Charity, dialogue with other religions and cultures, love of neighbour...”

Among the most remarked initiatives was the publication of a special booklet for prayer and the liturgy available to every soccer fan who requested one. The booklet also includes a short history of the Southern African Catholic Church and a list of places of worship nearest the stadiums where the World Cup matches were taking place.

Every parish also launched initiatives for meeting with the fans. The Cathedral of the Sacred Heart in Pretoria, the administrative capital of the country, participated in an ecumenical group that promoted the “Better World Village–World Cup 2010” campaign. It consists in transforming one of the most popular parks in the city into a “World Cup village.” The goal of the operation is to unite the fans from different social classes, ethnic groups, languages, and nations. “It cannot just be fun,” Fr. Victor Phalana, director of the initiative, explained to the South-African Catholic weekly the Southern Cross, [it should] “rather be a time for dialogue as well. We will look into the issues of homelessness, street kids, Aids, Human Trafficking, Crime and Drugs.”

A soccer tournament, the Peace Cup, was also organized from 5 June to 3 July at Atteridgeville, the biggest township in and around Pretoria. The teams are made up of local players, soccer fans from around the world in South Africa to watch the World Cup, and refugees from African countries who live in and around Pretoria. According to a declaration of the program’s director, Capuchin Father Kees Thönissen, the Peace Cup is "about appreciative and friendly relations rather than promoting any national pride.” “Peace is built on inner values such as mutual respect and appreciation of difference," he added, stating that the matches serve as “a peaceful mechanism that can break down prejudicial boundaries.”

Other actions, less ecumenical and more spiritual, were being offered on the occasion of football’s World Cup. For instance, relics of St. Thérèse of Lisieux are being venerated in South Africa for the first time. Since 25 June, for twelve weeks they will be carried through the various provinces of the country, the South African Bishops’ Conference announced in a communiqué published on its Internet website. This initiative was taken by the Catholic youth of St. Francis of Assisi Parish at Yeoville, a suburb of Johannesburg, “deeply inspired” by the saint and by her faith, and “attracted by her Little Way.” The bishops hope that these relics “will inspire people, strengthen their faith,” and be a challenge “to live our faith and follow our vocations/callings as St Thérèse did."

(Sources: apic/fides/www.churchontheball.com/www.sacbc.org.za — DICI No. 218, 10 July 2010)