Dowling retires as pope makes new bishops appointments
Pope Francis has accepted the resignation of Bishop Kevin Dowling of Rustenburg, Southern Africa’s second-longest serving active bishop, and has appointed a successor. He also transferred the bishop of Eshowe to the diocese of Witbank.
Bishop Dowling will be succeeded by Bishop Robert Mogapi Mphiwe, 48, currently vicar-general of Pretoria archdiocese. The announcement was made on November 25.
Meanwhile, Bishop Xolelo Thaddaeus Kumalo of Eshowe is being transferred to the diocese of Witbank, which had been vacant since the death of Bishop Giuseppe Sandri in May 2019. Bishop Kumalo had headed the diocese of Eshowe since 2008.
Bishop Dowling offered his resignation to the pope, as required by canon law, upon reaching the age of 75 in February 2019. The Redemptorist was appointed bishop of Rustenburg on December 2, 1990. The principal consecrator at the episcopal was Archbishop Denis Hurley of Durban, a cousin of his.
An influential bishop in the Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference, Bishop Dowling gained worldwide admiration for his work for peace and for the poor, and his advocacy for those affected by HIV/Aids.
He served three terms as co-president of the global Catholic peace movement Pax Christi, from 2010-19.
Bishop Dowling is an alumnus of Christian Brothers’ Mount Edmund School in Pretoria; now he will be succeeded by another Pretoria-raised man.
Bishop-elect Mphiwe will be the third bishop of the diocese of Rustenburg, after Bishops Dowling and Henry Hallett CCsR (1971-90).
Born in Pretoria on March 14, 1972, he studied at St Peter’s and St John Vianney Seminaries in Pretoria, and at the Pontifical Athenaeum of Saint Anselm in Rome, where he obtained is licentiate in liturgy. He was ordained to the priesthood on November 1, 1997.
Bishop-elect Mphiwe has served the parishes of Marapyane (1997-99), Atteridgeville (2009-10) and Centurion (2011 to present). He also was a lecturer and trainer at St Peter’s Seminary in Garsfontein (2000-01 and 2005-08).
He is the fourth successive vicar-general of Pretoria archdiocese to be appointed bishop, after Archbishop Abel Gabuza (Kimberley in 2010, for the past two years coadjutor archbishop of Durban), Archbishop Dabula Mpako (Queenstown in 2011, since 2019 archbishop of Pretoria), and Bishop Victor Phalana (Klerksdorp in 2014).
Bishop Kumalo, 66, was born in Kokstad on July 2, 1954, and ordained on October 10, 1991 by Bishop Hubert Bucher for the diocese of Bethlehem. He was appointed bishop of Eshowe in 2008, and ordained there on June 7 that year. He becomes the eighth bishop of Witbank.
For Bishop Kumalo, going to Witbank will be a sort of homecoming: he was ordained to the transitory diaconate in what was then the diocese of Lydenburg-Witbank by Bishop Mogale Paul Nkumishe.
The new appointments leave the dioceses of Kimberley, Kokstad, Queenstown and Eshowe vacant.
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