South Africa: Church on the ball

South African Bishops prepare to play France

South African Bishops prepare to play France

While football fans around the world sit with eyes glued to television sets following  the World Cup games being played in South Africa, the Catholic Church in that country is busy with spiritually enriching initiatives for fans who have followed the teams to the country to see them play.

The Southern African Catholic Bishops' Conference (SACBC), besides opening a special website www.churchontheball.com and Peace Cup for the event, also prepared a special World Cup prayer and liturgy book distributed free to all fans on request. The booklet includes a short history of the Catholic Church in South Africa and a list of parishes nearest to the stadiums where the football games are being played. The booklet can also be downloaded at churchontheball.com.

According to the main Catholic newspaper The Southern Cross, Fr François Dufour, coordinator of the SACBC World Cup pastoral programme, said he was disappointed that the local Catholic Church had failed to obtain the collaboration of the International Football Association FIFA in spiritually enriching initiatives for the visiting fans from many different countries.

Many individual parishes invite fans in the area to join in special initiatives. Sacred Heart Cathedral in Pretoria for example is a member of an ecumenical society called Tshwane Leadership Foundation, which has promoted a Better World Village-World Cup 2010 initiative. The initiative aims to transform Burgerspark, one of the city's most popular parks, into a World Cup Village, a place to bring together fans of different social class, ethnic origin, language and nationality.

“The idea is not only for amusement, to have a good time ” Fr  Victor Phalana, Cathedral delegate for the initiative  told The Southern Cross, - "but also to offer an opportunity for discussion, dialogue. The aim is to reflect together on important issues such as homeless people, street children, poverty, AIDS, human trafficking, crime and drugs”.

Source: Fides