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Friday, October 28, 2016
Quiet hero of the anti-apartheid movement
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 Quiet hero of the anti-apartheid movement

Dr Eileen French

Review of : Denis Hurley : a portrait by friends, ed Anthony M Gamley, Cluster Publications, South Africa, 2002

The twenty-seven contributors to this book reflect the many-sided nature of Denis Hurley's contribution to life in Durban, South Africa. Fr Hurley was appointed Bishop at the age of 31, and became Archbishop of Durban (at the age of 35) in 1951, retiring in 1992. Since then he has served as Chancellor of the University of Natal while still retaining some duties at Durban's Emmanuel Cathedral.

Several of his friends note that as a young man Fr Hurley was quiet, shy and somewhat academic. He had to work hard at personal relationships, and this volume bears witness to his success in this aspect of his life. Many of the contributors to this volume say how kind he was, a good listener and always ready to help those in need of his counsel or his commitment. One person writes of Archbishop Hurley's contribution to a funeral, while another tells of his willingness to speak before a tribunal on behalf of a conscientious objector. Others comment on his extensive ecumenical interests.

But the main thread throughout Fr Hurley's life has been his unwavering adherence to improving social justice in a land which, until recently, was one of the most openly inequitable societies in the world. Archbishop Hurley led the Catholic Church in South Africa in exposing and challenging the policy of apartheid. This challenge included issues such as de-segregating Catholic schools, campaigning against the pass laws, and demonstrating on behalf of detainees. Meanwhile Fr Hurley was preaching hope while working under surveillance.

Archbishop Hurley welcomed Vatican II, and contributed to the debates. He was forward looking, too, in his pastoral care as well as in his championing of the demands of the social gospel. His humour and humanity are evident throughout these contributions by his friends.

While Archbishop Hurley is not so well known as other heroes of the anti-apartheid movement (such as Alan Paton or Desmond Tutu) this book is a welcome tribute to a priest, a warm human being and a warrior for social justice.
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