Cardinal Stephen Brislin’s Thanksgiving Mass
A day after receiving the red hat from Pope Francis in St Peter’s Square, Cardinal Stephen Brislin of Cape Town presided over a Thanksgiving Mass in St Stephen’s Chapel in the Vatican Gardens.
Priests and students studying in Rome provided the choir as Cardinal Brislin, Cardinal Wilfrid Napier, bishops and clergy took their place in the sanctuary.
In the congregation were religious, members of the Brislin family, friends, and Catholics who had come from South Africa especially to support the cardinal.
Anglican Archbishop Thabo Makgoba and his wife were present as special guests of the new cardinal. The Mass was livestreamed on the SACBC Facebook page, with Bishop Jose Luis Ponce de Leon of Manzini, Eswatini, at the camera.
Among the clergy present was Fr Gerard Masters of Cape Town, the only person to have witnessed the two archbishops of Cape Town receiving their hats: Owen McCann in 1965, when Fr Master was studying in Rome, and yesterday Stephen Brislin.
The homily was preached by Bishop Sithembele Sipuka of Mthatha, president of the Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference. In it, he addressed the critics of the ongoing synodal process and the broken promises of South Africa’s political establishment.
At the end of the Mass, Fr Andile Nkafane presented Cardinal Brislin with a red zucchetto, a gift from the South African priests and seminarians studying in Rome. The cardinal said he would mark it accordingly, and remember to pray for those students when he wears it.
In his remarks, Cardinal Napier noted that Pope Francis’ decision to appoint a second South African cardinal shows how much the Holy Father values the local Church.
Cardinal Brislin thanked all who contributed to the Mass, and issued his special gratitude to those who travelled from South Africa to be with him, giving him support by their mere presence at a time when he needs it.
The new cardinal, who featured as the cover star of The Southern Cross’ September issue with a wide-ranging interview, told Catholic News Service that why Pope Francis chose him as a cardinal “is the 60 million dollar question… it was a great surprise that he even knew my name”.
Cardinal Brislin said that he believes the experience of the Church in South Africa, with its history of “apartheid and colonialism and the fact that ultimately we reached a peaceful settlement — it’s not complete — that we managed to get over the bloodshed and the violence that had been meted out, is a message of great hope that reconciliation is possible, but it takes hard work that you’ve got to keep working at, but it can be done”.