On Seminaries, SACOP and South African Economy

On Friday, 21 January 2022 the plenary’s attention turned to the seminaries, South African Council of Priests, and Justice and peace. Fr. Thomas Plastow SJ and Fr John Selemela gave reports for the Orientation Seminary, St. Francis Xavier in Cape Town and St. John Vianney Seminary in Pretoria respectively.

It is believed that Covid had an impact on vocation programmes of dioceses since the number of students admitted at the orientation seminary have gone considerably down. Both rectors noted that the number of students is very important because it has an impact on how well the seminary is run. A smaller group of seminarians obviously is easy to form and train, but it can make the seminary not viable financially.

The last semester went well for both seminaries despite the covid-19 circumstances, but there were obvious signs of covid fatigue. 126 residential, 22 outside, 148 total. The rectors also reported on the reasons for other students no longer being part of the seminaries. Last year St. John conferred 20 philosophy degrees and 20 in theology. The state of the seminary degrees with regard to Department of Higher Education was also reported. The rectors expressed their gratitude for the support they get from the bishops.

From the department of Formation of clergy, headed by Bishop Robert Mphiwe of Rustenburg, in the form of SACOP, South African Council of Priests which a priest to priest support structure, also a reported of the state of this body. The emphasis was mainly on what are the requirements for each diocese to meet and they SACOP is planning to do going forward. Fr. Sipho Moatlhodi from the Diocese of Kimberley gave the report.

Justice and peace presented two guests, Dr. Vincent Maphai and Fr. Larry Kaufman, to give the bishops their analysis of the economy in South Africa and what needs to be done for things to improve the state of the South African economy.

Dr Maphai’s presentation was focused on the policies of government regarding how they have fared so far. Added to that he spoke about the three main problems Poverty, Inequality, Unemployment. He warned that unless we deal with these three things the country is going to explode. Maphai also drew attention to the Drivers of potential solutions to our economy, among them stating macro and micro economic policies, education, employment. He added that political will and government capacity are critical to the solution.

He reminded that inequality is growing and globally the richest two thousand people have more wealth that the poorest 4.6 billion with South Africa probably among the top 5 unequal societies. He also touched on what he called political scapegoats, lack of capacity in government and what accounts for the ruling party’s paralysis. Dr. Maphai challenged the Church to define its role in this massive challenge.

In his presentation Fr. Larry Kaufman said the faith communities can intervene in different ways on the issue of economy. Among some ways he suggested the interfaith broad-based faith platform where people of different faith come together and help find the solution to the problems of economy in the country. Another way suggested was a national conference of Christian churches, taking an ecumenical approach. The third could be a Catholic Church solo approach, taking the synodal way as a form of doing it to allow catholic from all walks of life to bring forth suggestions. Another approach looked at was the SACBC 1999 Economic statement which will obviously need to be contextualized based on the analysis of the prevailing situation on the ground.  



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