The Catholic Bishops of England and Wales yesterday paid tribute to Archbishop Denis Hurley who died last Friday. He will be remembered for his tireless fight against injustice in South Africa. Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, President of the Catholic Bishops' of England and Wales and Archbishop of Westminster, said: "Archbishop Denis Hurley was an outstanding pastor and leader whom I had the privilege of knowing over many years. His courageous and outspoken witness to Christian and human values, in particular the struggle against apartheid, earned him deserved international recognition. He will be remembered also for his significant contribution to the Second Vatican Council. Above all, he was a much admired and much loved pastor to his people in the Diocese of Durban. He will be greatly missed." Bishop David Konstant, Chairman of Bishops' Conference's International Affairs Department and Bishop of Leeds, said: "Archbishop Hurley was a great man. He served the people of his country faithfully, dutifully and lovingly for nearly 65 years as a priest. He was much loved in his own diocese. His was one of the voices within South Africa that in the days of apartheid ensured that the Catholic Church maintained a firm line against the system. The Church in South Africa will mourn his dying, but will rejoice in the great gifts he so generously brought to all those he served and loved. May he rest in peace." Archbishop Hurley, as Archbishop of Durban, proved a high profile opponent of the apartheid regime working closely with Archbishop Desmond Tutu. It was in 1947 that the young Bishop Hurley first began to call for the Church to oppose apartheid. Even after his home was attacked by petrol bombers, he refused to be silent. In 1952, under his leadership as president of the Bishops' Conference, the South African bishops issued their first official statement on race relations and in 1957 declared apartheid "intrinsically evil." Through his influence, the conference became increasingly outspoken against apartheid and injustice. Over the years Hurley condemned the migratory labour laws separating families. He excoriated forced removals that were used by the government to uproot hundreds of thousands of black people from their traditional homelands. He defended those who were conscientiously opposed to serving in a military that was based on apartheid. This led to his being charged on one occasion with offences against security after speaking out against an army unit, known as the Hammer Head, for their violence against civilians. Although the prosecution withdrew all charges at the hearing, the defence counsel insisted on showing how ridiculous and outrageous the charges had been. The army unit was scrapped soon afterwards. The Archbishop said later that he was proud of appearing in court accused of making "false statements" about the atrocities committed. After the collapse of apartheid, Archbishop Hurley continued in his fight against injustice, playing an active role in South Africa's Justice and Peace movement and responding to the plight of South African affected by HIV / AIDS. CAFOD's South Africa programme officer Jackie Reeve said: "As a CAFOD partner and friend, Archbishop Hurley will be very much missed. His energy and vigour in challenging injustice continued until the very end of his life. His clarity on justice issues has helped to guide and inspire the work of CAFOD and many others in South Africa." He was ordained an Oblate priest at the age of 24 and became the world's youngest bishop in 1947, when he was just 31 years old, and went on to become the world's youngest archbishop just three years later. He was born to Irish Catholic parents in 1916 and as a child, spent five years on Robben Island where his father tended a lighthouse. The island has been notorious in South African history as a prison holding many anti-apartheid activists, including South African's future president Nelson Mandela who was held there from 1964 to 1988. Archbishop Hurley once said: "I joke with President Mandela that we both had Robben Island experiences, though mine were certainl more pleasant." Hurley became the first elected president of the South African Catholic Bishops' Conference in 1951, and served as its leader until 1961, and again between 1981 and 1987. Archbishop Denis Hurley An Appreciation by Bishop David Konstant Archbishop Hurley was a great man. He served the people of his country faithfully, dutifully and lovingly for nearly 65 years as a priest He was the Bishop of Durban for 45 of those years, and was in partial retirement in Durban for a further 8 years. He was born in South Africa (Cape Town) and lived all his life in his home country. His greatness is measured by the richness and quality of his ministry. There are many arenas where he made his mark. His ministry in Durban which he served as bishop and priest for more than half a century is what first comes to mind. When he retired as bishop he asked to stay on as an assistant at the Cathedral, which he did for a few years. He was much loved in his own diocese. The years of his ministry were tumultuous for his country and he played a significant role, though a quiet one, in healing the wounds and promoting peace. His was one of the voices within South Africa that in the days of apartheid ensured that the Catholic Church maintained a firm line against the system. This led to his being charged on one occasion with offences against security because he had spoken out against an army unit (known as the Hammer Head) for their violence against innocent people. When the case came before the court the prosecution withdrew all the charges, but the defence counsel insisted on showing how ridiculous and outrageous the charges had been. The army unit was soon afterwards scrapped. For many years he was the Chairman of the the body set up to oversee English translations for the liturgy. It was not an easy task, but he managed to hold things together and give real leadership. Indeed, to produce an acceptable translation into a language that has become more widely spoken than any other language throughout the world was a great achievement. The Church in South Africa will mourn his dying, but will rejoice in the great gifts he so generously brought to all those he served and loved. May he rest in peace. Source: CCS
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