Year-end Review 2009
It was the year when three priests were murdered in South Africa and the country got a new president, while Pope Benedict visited the Holy Land, hosted the second Synod for Africa, closed the Year of St Paul and opened the Year for Priests, lifted the excommunication of four schismatic bishops and gave converting Anglicans a special dispensation. GÜNTHER SIMMERMACHER looks back at the year 2009.
The Vatican announces that 20 Church workers were violently killed in 2008.
Fr Enrico Parry is appointed rector of St John Vianney seminary, now merged with St Peter’s minor seminary.
In a pastoral letter to the archdiocese of Johannesburg, Archbishop Buti Tlhagale calls on Catholics to reflect on their attitudes towards refugees and asylum-seekers.
The Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference (SACBC_ is instrumental in getting South African emergency aid to Gaza as the territory is besieged by Israel. Cardinal Renato Martino describes Gaza as looking like “a big concentration camp”, and criticises Hamas for turning Gaza “into a human shield”.
Mariannhill monastery is robbed for the second time in two months. The monastery farm’s manager Br Konrad Diethei is assaulted during the robbery.
Pope Benedict lifts the excommunication of four bishops of the Society of St Pius X (SSPX), causing controversy when it emerges that one of them, Bishop Richard Williamson, is a Holocaust denier.
A Spanish judge opens an investigation into the 1989 murder of six Jesuits and two employees during El Salvador’s civil war.
Fr Eldred Leslie, a traditionalist priest based in Pietermaritzburg, is murdered on January 21. He is buried by the SSPX.
Archbishop Mandla Paul Khumalo is installed as head of the archdiocese of Pretoria on January 25.
The SACBC calls on the Southern African Development Community not to give Zimbabwe’s Mugabe “illegitimate” regime credibility by negotiating with it. The bishops also launch an appeal to raise funds for Zimbabwe’s suffering citizens.
Cardinal Walter Kasper, the Vatican’s chief ecumenist, blames “misunderstandings and management errors in the curia” for the lifting of Bishop Williamson’s excommunication. The Vatican’s spokesman, Fr Federico Lombardi SJ, says the Vatican failed to communicate properly on that matter and on the episcopal appointment of controversial Austrian Fr Gerhard Wagner, who later asks the pope to withdraw his appointment.
The bishops appeal against a Vatican instruction ordering them to suspend the implementation of the first phase of the new English texts of the Roman missal, saying it was introduced prematurely in November 2008 against Vatican instructions.
Zimbabwe’s churches call for the establishment of a truth and reconciliation commission in the country.
Pope Benedict appoints Bishop Valentine Tsamma Seane to head the diocese of Gaborone, Botswana. He is installed on April 25.
Fr Peter-John Pearson, director of the Catholic Parliamentary Liaison Office, commends President Kgalema Motlanthe’s State of the Nation address for its emphasis on democratic values.
In a pastoral letter, titled “Awake! Awake! Protect our Democracy”, the bishops of Southern Africa call on South Africans to vote responsibly.
It is revealed that the late Legionaries of Christ founder Fr Marcial Maciel, already disgraced over abuse allegations, had fathered a child.
Pope Benedict names Cardinal Wilfrid Napier of Durban as one of three co-presidents of the second Synod for Africa in October.
The University of Cape Town apologises for blasphemous content in the annual student magazine Sax Appeal.
Fr Daniel Mahula, 33, of Klerksdorp is murdered on February 27 after picking up hitchhikers at Wolmaransstad. Four suspects are arrested.
Fr Lionel Sham, 65, of Mohlakeng, Johannesburg, is murdered on March 8, only a week after the murder of Fr Mahula. At Fr Sham’s funeral, Archbishop Tlhagale condemns “a generation of animals who have no regard” for other people’s life or property, and calls for a reversal of “this culture of impunity”.
The Vatican allows the Southern African bishops to continue the implementation of the first phase of the revised Roman missal.
Pope Benedict visits Cameroon and Angola to present the working document for October’s Synod for Africa. The document notes that although the Catholic Church is strong in Africa, its impact is weak.
Pope Benedict issues a letter to the world’s bishops, conceding that mistakes were made in the Williamson affair but saying that he was stung by personal criticisms. He also places dialogue with the SSPX under the authority of the Congregation for Doctrine.
The Mariannhill monastery farm is closed after two attacks in December and January.
Bishop Edward Adams condemns corruption in Oudtshoorn that sees poor people being struck of housing waiting lists in favour of people who have paid bribes.
The Missionaries of Charity, founded by Mother Teresa of Calcutta, elect German-born Sr Mary Prema as their head.
Fr Anil Topno MSFS, 33, an Indian missionary serving in Vredendal-North, Keimoes-Upington diocese, is killed in a car crash. Fr Susaikannu Esack SAC of Wynberg, Cape Town, is injured in the accident, caused by a vehicle illegally overtaking a truck.
Archbishop Vincent Nichols of Birmingham, England, is named new head of the archdiocese of Westminster.
Fr Brendan Long, a priest of the archdiocese of Cape Town who formed a friendship with the imprisoned Nelson Mandela, dies on April 4 at 74 in Ireland.
Durban’s Juma Masjid mosque donates R50,000 to the new Denis Hurley Centre, next to Emmanuel cathedral.
Abbot Anselm van der Linde, a convert from Roodepoort, becomes a member of the Austrian bishops’ conference with his election as head of the historic Cistercian abbey of Wettingen-Mehrerau.
The world’s Franciscans begin their months-long celebration of the 800th anniversary of the papal approval of the congregation founded by Francis of Assisi.
Fr Frans Samyn OMI of Potchefstroom is awarded the Knight in the Order of the Crown honour by the Belgian government.
Pope Benedict appoints Archbishop Zygmunt Zimowski as prefect of the Pontifical Council for Health Care Ministry.
Pope Benedict canonises five new saints: Ss Arcangelo Tadini, Bernardo Tolomei, Nuno de Santa Maria Alvares Pereira, Geltrude Comensoli, and Caterina Volpicelli.
The Knights of da Gama’s former supreme knight, Brendan Geoghegan dies in Johannesburg on March 26 at 85.
Archbishop Tlhagale in a letter urges newly-elected President Jacob Zuma to make HIV/Aids a national priority. On World Aids Day, December 1, President Zuma makes a speech that heeds the advice.
Pope Benedict visits the Holy Land and Jordan, urging the region’s people and leaders to set aside their historic antagonism and engage in dialogue towards peace.
In a pastoral letter to the archdiocese of Cape Town, Archbishop Lawrence Henry tells Catholics that they have a duty and responsibility to act against human trafficking.
Long-time Southern Cross columnist Fr Jack O’Brien dies on May 19 at 89, shortly after breaking his hip in a fall.
Producers for the movie Angels And Demons, based on a book by Dan Brown, try to stir a controversy by suggesting the Vatican tried to obstruct filming. The Vatican ignores the comments.
The Congregation of Mariannhill Missionaries and Sisters of the Precious Blood celebrate the centenary of the death of their founder, Abbot Franz Pfanner.
US president Barack Obama delivers the commencement speech at the Catholic University of Notre Dame. Mr Obama’s invitation had caused protests because of his support for legal access to abortion. However, the Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano commend the president for trying to find common ground on the issue.
The bishops of Ireland welcome the release of the Ryan Report — which details widespread physical, psychological, emotional and sexual abuse in Catholic institutions — as a step towards knowing the truth.
Two people are killed in a bomb blast during a Mass in Katmandu, Nepal. A suspect is arrested in June.
The Neocatechumenal Way’s Redemptoris Mater seminary wins the football Clericus Cup after beating NAC Martyrs, team of the US bishops’ seminary in Rome, 1-0.
Vatican Radio announces that it will accept advertising for the first time in its nearly 80-year history.
Fr Ernst Plöchl, 78, of Mariazell in Mthatha diocese, is murdered at his residence on May 30. He is the third priest to be murdered in South Africa this year. A day later, Fr Thabo Lenyatsa, 31, of Bloemfontein dies in a car accident.
Pope Benedict welcomes South Africa’s new ambassador, George Johannes, to the Vatican, saying that the the country has “a unique opportunity to support other African countries in their efforts to achieve stability and economic progress”.
The Year for Priests begins on June 19.
The University of San Francisco confers an honorary degree on Bishop Kevin Dowling of Rustenburg in recognition of his work in the field of HIV/Aids.
Gene Donnelly, former managing editor of The Southern Cross, celebrates his 40th anniversary with the newspaper.
Fr Vincent Zungu, minister provincial of the Franciscans in Southern Africa, is elected the order’s general definitor for Africa.
The British & Irish Lions rugby team is accompanied on their tour of South Africa by a Catholic chaplain, Fr John O’Brien.
Br Raphaël Rafiringa, a convert who guided the Catholic Church in Madagascar through extreme difficulties in the 1880s, is beatified.
South Africa is ranked among the world’s seven “worst places for refugees” in a review by the US Committee for Refugees and Immigrants.
On a visit to San Giovanni Rotondo in southern Italy, Pope Benedict hails St Padre Pio as a concrete model for all priests.
Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, says that relations between the Catholic Church and Muslims have improved significantly in recent years.
Closing the Year of St Paul, Pope Benedict announces that tests done on the presumed tomb of the apostle in Rome’s basilica of St Paul outside the Walls revealed the presence of be fragments of a person who lived in the first or second century.
Pope Benedict appoints Archbishop Alex Kaliyanil to head the archdiocese of Bulawayo.
Actress Farrah Fawcett, who could be seen holding a rosary throughout her battle with cancer, dies at 62 on June 25.
In his third encyclical, Caritas in Veritate, Pope Benedict criticises greed that produces poverty in others.
The SACBC announces that its appeal for Zimbabwe’s poor raised R1,3 million, while its appeal for Gaza raised more than R80,000.
The diocese of Tzaneen opens the sainthood cause for Benedict Daswa, who was killed in 1990 for opposing witchcraft.
Pope Benedict signs a decree that opens the way for the beatification of Cardinal John Henry Newman.
Pope Benedict appoints Bishop Adam Musialek to head the diocese of De Aar. He is installed on September 24.
FIFA president Sepp Blatter says that religious gestures should be banned from football.
While on holiday in northern Italy, Pope Benedict breaks his right wrist in a fall.
Archbishop Manuel Monteiro de Castro, former nuncio in Pretoria, is appointed secretary to the Congregation of Bishops. In November he is also named a consultor of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
Fr Augustine Makhomba Khanyile is elected minister provincial of the Franciscans in Southern Africa.
Pope Benedict laicises a Franciscan priest, Tomislav Vlasic, who served as a spiritual adviser to the Marian visionaries in Medjugorje.
Eleven Catholic churches are torched by Muslims in sectarian violence in Nigeria’s Borno state. No mosques are damaged.
At their plenary session in Mariannhill, the bishops of Southern Africa decide to implement a three-year research project on the life and ministry of priests in the region.
The third annual Pastoral Forum for the Laity meets in Durban under the theme “The Priesthood of the Laity”.
Fr Mike Deeb OP, director of the SACBC’s Justice and Peace Department, describes the anger behind violent anti-poverty protests as “frightening”.
The first biography of Archbishop Denis Hurley, titled Guardian of the Light and written by Paddy Kearney, is published.
The Catholic Bible College in Johannesburg appoints Bernadette Chellew as its new rector.
The US president’s Emergency Plan for Aids Relief (Pepfar) renews funding for the SACBC’s Aids Office, but with budget cuts and limits on number of people that can be treated.
With the induction of Sonia Sotomayor, six of the nine members of the US Supreme Court are Catholics.
Pope Benedict invites the world’s clergy to celebrate the closing of the Year for the Priest in Rome in June 2010, creating a travelling headache for South African priests hoping to return home during the football World Cup.
South Korea’s first Catholic president, Kim Dae-jung, the 2000 Nobel Peace laureate, dies on August 18 at 85.
Retired Archbishop Pius Ncube of Bulawayo claims that agents of the Zimbabwean government had planned to assassinate him in an attack on his car that injured a priest.
Cardinal Napier says the newly formed National Interfaith Leaders Council, led by Rhema Bible Church founder Rev Ray McCauley, had “betrayed” the trust of the 12-year-old National Religious Leaders’ Forum.
Fr Mike Deeb OP says that gender tests on athlete Caster Semenya could help “dispel stereotypes” about gender, but condemns the media taunting and humiliations the 18-year-old runner had been subjected to.
Catechetical pioneer Sr Theodula Müller CPS dies on August 27 at 91.
A delegation of US bishops, including Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, and Church workers tours Southern Africa. They have particular praise for the local Church’s Aids work.
Fr Eddie Panlillo, governor of the Philippine province of Pampanga, withdraws his candidacy for the country’s 2010 election.
It is revealed that shortly before his death on August 25, US Senator Edward Kennedy, a Catholic, wrote to Pope Benedict, who returned his blessings.
It is reported that the book Our Joy in Being Catholic by Bishop Oswald Hirmer has sold about 50,000 copies in the first 15 months since publication, making the book a best-seller in South Africa.
Pope Benedict visits the Czech Republic.
Pope Benedict announces that he will convene a Synod of Bishops for the Middle East in October 2010.
The second Synod of Bishops for Africa takes place in the Vatican. Over three weeks, the synod discusses subjects such as poverty, governance, formation, the environment, urbanisation and more.
In an intervention at the African Synod, Bishop Sithembele Sipuka of Mthatha says that the Church in South Africa is still racially divided.
Professor Jan Janssen, vice-chancellor of the University of the Free State, says that state schools would function better if they were run by nuns.
Anthony Beale is the new supreme knight of the Knights of da Gama, succeeding Vic Barra.
Pope Benedict canonises Fr Damien de Veuster, Sr Jeanne Jugan, Archbishop Zygmunt Fekinski, Fr Francisco Coll Guitart, and Br Rafael Arnaiz Baron.
It is confirmed that in 2010, Pope Benedict will travel to Britain, Portugal and Malta.
The Church in Southern Africa commits itself to assist the Church in Sierra Leone in rebuilding.
President Jacob Zuma says that religion has a vital part to play in addressing society’s ills.
Cardinal Napier says that the secular media ignored the Synod for Africa, and reports only on controversial stories abut the Church.
Pope Benedict appoints Ghanaian Cardinal Peter Turkson president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace.
Bishop Michel Neary of Tuamn, Ireland, calls new reported apparitions at the shrine of Knock as “undermining faith”.
Bishop Kevin Dowling is awarded a special commendation at the Southern Africa Drivers of Change Awards.
Pope Benedict issues the apostolic constitution Anglicanorum coetibus which permits he establishment of personal ordinariates for Anglican converts that may maintain some Anglican traditions.
The Vatican begins formal dialogue with the schismatic Society of St Pius X.
Irish Columban Father Michael Sinnott is released a month after being abducted in the Philippines.
Bishop Joe Potocnak, retired bishop of De Aar, returns to the United States.
German Cardinal Joachim Meisner claims that the role of the Catholic Church in the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 has been largely forgotten.
The Redemptorist order elects Fr John M Brehl as its new superior general.
Christian Brother Mark Hallissey, an education expert, dies on November 2 at 89.
Bishop Herbert Lenhoff resigns as head of the diocese of Queenstown on grounds of ill health.
Pope Benedict appoints Bishop Giuseppe Sandri MCCJ to head the diocese of Witbank.
An ongoing study commissioned by the US Conference of Catholic Bishops suggests that sexual abuse by priests can be ascribed to past incidents of sexual abuse and events in society, but dismisses homosexuality as a cause.
Jesuit Father Wolfgang Thamm is assaulted by Zimbabwean soldiers.
Anglican primate Archbishop Rowan Williams of Canterbury visits the Vatican, saying that the pope’s dispensation for converting Anglicans is nothing groundbreaking from an ecumenical viewpoint.
The Murphy Report on abuses in the archdiocese of Dublin is published. Irish Church leaders apologise and call on bishops named in the report for covering up allegations to resign their offices. They also criticise the Vatican for failing to assist the commission’s investigations.
A CD featuring the voice of Pope Benedict, titled Alma Mater, is released worldwide.
Missionaries for Africa Father Louis Blondel, 70, is murdered by robbers at his Diepsloot presbytery near Pretoria. He is the fourth Catholic priest to be murdered in South Africa in 2009.
Ireland’s bishops apologise collectively for clerical abuse of children and agree to work with the government to set up mechanisms for handling allegations.
Archbishop Mandla Paul Khumalo unexpectedly resigns as head of the archdiocese of Pretoria, and South Africa’s longest serving prelate, Bishop Erwin Hecht of Kimberley, retires at the age of 76.
Three years after his excommunication, the former archbishop of Lusaka, Emmanuel Milingo is laicised.
Pope Benedict declares Pope Pius XII venerable. Jewish groups protest.
A woman knocks down Pope Benedict during the entry procession for the papal Midnight Mass at St Peter’s basilica. The pope is unharmed, but French Cardinal Roger Etchegaray, 87, suffers a broken hip in a fall during the incident.