As South Africa’s April 22 elections approach, Cardinal Wilfrid Napier, Archbishop of Durban and spokesman for the Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference, has issued a letter calling on political leaders to stop using church services as election platforms and to stop seeking “endorsement” from churches.
His March 25 statement insists that the Catholic Church in South Africa does not endorse any specific political party.
“It is not the role of any church to do so,” he explained. “As the Catholic Church, we rely on the fundamental principle that democracy allows individuals the right to make their own informed choice according to their conscience. This informed choice must be free from any coercion from church, political party or other interest group, and guided by the moral principles by which we distinguish between right and wrong, good and evil, truth and falsehood.”
Encouraging Catholics who are registered to vote to do so, Cardinal Napier appealed for prayers:
“Let us all intensify our prayers for a peaceful, just and transparent election process that respects the rights and choices of all South Africans.”
Recent South African events have brought attention to churches’ involvement in the country’s politics.
According to The Citizen, Rhema Bible Church recently upset some members of its congregation after it invited ANC president Jacob Zuma to address the congregation during a Sunday morning service.
In response, United Democratic Movement leader Bantu Holomisa wrote a letter to the church requesting he also be allowed to address the congregation.
The South African Council of Churches is also probing complaints against some of its North West members who have pledged support for Zuma in upcoming elections.