Church bristles as ANC heavies seek its blessing
for a conference hosted by the Centre for Child Protection at the Pontifical Gregorian University. Dlamini-Zuma chaired a session on internet pornography and its effect on children, after which delegates had an audience with Pope Francis.
Archbishop Stephen Brislin, president of
The ANC’s succession contest has caused tension in the Catholic Church as hopefuls turn to the church for support.
Bishops in KwaZulu-Natal are to hold a meeting next Sunday to discuss whether the church should provide a platform to ANC politicians.
Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma and Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa have both taken their campaigns to churches.
Cardinal Wilfrid Napier this week told the Sunday Times that the meeting was to discuss whether bishops should allow political campaigning in their churches.
“For us, no politicians should be given a platform to speak at a religious function,” said Napier.
The supposed involvement of sections of the church in promoting certain ANC presidential candidates came under the spotlight this week following Dlamini-Zuma’s trip to the Vatican where, on Friday, she had an audience with Pope Francis.
Dlamini-Zuma arrived in Rome on Tuesday
the Southern African Catholic Bishops Conference, said the body had nothing to do with Dlamini-Zuma’s trip, which had been organised when she was still chairwoman of the AU Commission.
Dlamini-Zuma’s term at the commission ended eight months ago.
“This should not be seen as an endorsement by the church,” Brislin said.
Napier said Dlamini-Zuma’s trip to the Vatican was “not indicative that she has the support of the church”.
Bishops first became concerned about the issue in May, when a service at St Catherine’s Roman Church in Bulwer‚ Dlamini-Zuma’s birthplace, turned into an endorsement of her.
She attended the service alongside President Jacob Zuma, who has endorsed her as his successor.
This is said to have raised the ire of some bishops because of the “disrespect” of some rituals as a result of Zuma’s presence.
In July, Dlamini-Zuma attended a service at the Catholic Church in Mariannhill, west of Durban, where she spoke about the ANC presidential race and told congregants it was time for a woman to be in charge of the country.
Bishop Mlungisi Pius Dlungwane, of Mariannhill, was criticised for giving Dlamini-Zuma a platform to campaign.
He told the Sunday Times yesterday that Dlamini-Zuma’s presence at the church was nothing extraordinary.
“We invite many people to the church — some are politicians and some have nothing to do with the church,” Dlungwane said.
He has drawn harsh criticism in the past for accepting R500 000 from the Jacob Zuma Foundation to go towards a new Zulu translation of the Bible.
“Some people were concerned because they saw it as propaganda because it was around the elections. There was nothing like that,” Dlungwane said.
The bishop is a known Zuma associate, but he said he had no relationship with the president other than being distant family.
“My mother is maZuma but it is distant family, that’s all,” he said.
Ramaphosa, too, caused controversy last month when he addressed a service at the Catholic Church in Jan Kempdorp in the Northern Cape.
He was accused of “politically hijacking” the service, because he was accompanied by many supporters in ANC regalia.
Brislin said the Bishops Conference had not, and would not, endorse any candidate.
“We maintain that the Catholic Church in Southern Africa will not endorse any candidate,” he said.
Brislin said he was aware of discontent. The church could not stop anyone from attending services, but this should not be misconstrued as political endorsement, he said.
Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, left, and Cyril Ramaphosa.