Cardinal Wilfrid Napier with Pope Francis

Cardinal Wilfrid Napier calls it quits

[Source: Clinton Moodley, Independent Newspapers]

Cardinal Wilfrid Napier, the leader of the Catholic Church in South Africa, has written to Pope Francis, tendering his resignation – in line with canon law that requires him to step down on his 75th birthday.

In an exclusive interview with the Sunday Tribune, Napier said it was with mixed feelings that he prepared to step down and cope with a life not governed by the needs of the church.

“There is a feeling of uncertainty. There is the feeling that I have to go at a time when so many possibilities are opening up, like the Denis Hurley Centre and its commitment to deal with social issues,” he said.

Napier, who has been cardinal for 15 years, said when his resignation was approved, it could take up to two years for him to be replaced.

When he retires, Napier plans to return to Ireland where his journey to become a priest began in the 1960s. He also plans to catch up with family and friends and “sort out all his old photographs”.

“Most bishops, when they retire, believe they have the chance to do what they’ve always wanted to do, but they become busier than ever.”

Religious groups have congratulated the cardinal on his birthday and pending retirement.

Vice-president of the Council of KwaZulu-Natal Jewry, Alana Baranov, said Napier’s inspiring and important work, particularly in the interfaith arena and in building bridges between communities, was vital to building a free and peaceful South Africa.

“We’d like to take this opportunity to express our gratitude to him for all his endeavours.”

President of the South African Hindu Maha Sabha, Ashwin Trikamjee, said his organisation wished the cardinal many more birthdays and good health. He said he had earned his retirement.

“We wish him well. He has been a pillar of strength in the interfaith movement in the province and his contribution to church matters is unmatched. He has made great sacrifices, not only for the church but for South Africans,” he said.

The chairman of the Grey Street Mosque, A V Mahomed, wished the cardinal well. He said Napier had played an important role in bringing people together.

“He was a guiding light and we will miss him.”

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