By Sheila Pires
The outgoing Apostolic Nuncio to South Africa, Archbishop Peter Brian Wells, has lauded the Catholic Church in Southern Africa for being a “young” and “very alive” Church.
In a recent interview with Radio Veritas about his diplomatic mission in Southern Africa, the representative of the Holy Father in Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Namibia, and South Africa said, “One of the things you cannot help but be impressed by, especially in southern Africa, is first and foremost the validity of the church here. It is a very alive church.”
“The participation of the faithful, the beautiful liturgies that we celebrate together, and one of the things that have always impressed me is the youth of our community. Here it is a very young community, and it is a community with lots of hope and with lots of potential. That is one of the things I’m going to take away with me”, said Archbishop Wells.
The 59-year-old Vatican diplomat who has been serving as Apostolic Nuncio in South Africa for seven years commended the Catholic Bishops for “being much more outspoken… about numerous issues, whether it be the issue of migration or refugees… especially gender, violence, the church has been very outspoken about these issues, and I think you’re seeing a more narrowed and concrete precise narrative that they are presenting recently in the last years. And I see this continuing in the future.”
The South Africa-based Apostolic Nuncio bemoaned racial division and “structural racism” within the Church and some institutions. Archbishop Wells lamented the absenteeism of the white and colored communities at ‘diocesan gatherings.”
“When we do, for instance, have diocesan gatherings, certain groups are not present. We just need to be blunt about that. The black community is present. But oftentimes the white community is not present, and the colored community is not present. We need to ask ourselves why this is happening?”, he questioned.
He added, “If we can find some solution for that, but at the same time we also should know that it is true that and you look at doctors and leadership, it’s still very top heavy among the white community. And this is something that’s interesting and something that also needs to be addressed. We do have to look at structural racism and the way it is still in place in some of our institutions.”
The Holy See Press Office announced on Wednesday, February 8 that Pope Francis has transferred Archbishop Wells to the Vatican Diplomatic Mission in Thailand and Cambodia. In the interview with Radio Veritas, the American-born Vatican diplomat said that although he has never “been to that part of the world”, he is “very excited.”
“When I was in working in the Vatican, there were a number of years where I followed that region and was involved in the General Affairs section, but I was involved with that region and so I knew it on paper. But there’s a huge, big difference at the chasm between what you know on paper and what you find out when you get there and get to be actually with the people. So, I’m really looking forward to it”, said Archbishop Wells.