South African Surprised by Designation as Cardinal

Archbishop Napier Helped End Apartheid

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VATICAN CITY, FEB. 4, 2001 ( Among those surprised by the naming of Archbishop Wilfrid Fox Napier as cardinal was the South African himself.

On Feb. 21, the archbishop Durban, along with 43 others, will be made a cardinal at a consistory in Rome. The Pope announced his name Jan. 28.

As president of the South African Episcopal Conference in the early 1990s, Archbishop Napier made a decisive contribution to Nelson Mandela´s peaceful revolution, which brought an end to apartheid.

Napier discovered his religious vocation in Ireland, where he entered the Franciscan novitiate in Killarney. After studying in Europe, he returned to South Africa to be ordained priest in 1970. He was a missionary for eight years, until he was appointed bishop of Kokstad in 1981.

He was president of the country´s bishops´ conference from 1987 to 1994, and made a decisive contribution to human rights and evangelization, especially among the poor. He has been archbishop of Durban since 1992. In 1998 John Paul II appointed him consultor of the Vatican Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples.

In an interview with Vatican Radio, he gives his first impressions after hearing the papal announcement.

–Q: How did you react to your appointment as cardinal?

–Archbishop Napier: It really took me by surprise, because I thought that, given the number of new cardinals announced the previous Sunday, the Pope had appointed all those he had in mind. I was really surprised when I heard there was another list and that my name was on it.

–Q: How have the faithful of your diocese reacted?

–Archbishop Napier: I would say with real joy. Now, during this interview, I am not in my diocese [he was at the headquarters of the bishops´ conference], but I am receiving congratulatory messages from all over. When I telephoned my secretary this morning, she said: «It is 8 o´clock in the morning, but the telephone seems to have gone crazy. There is one call after another.»

–Q: What does this appointment mean for the Church in your archdiocese? What impact will it have on the life of the Church?

–Archbishop Napier: To begin with, it must be said that the greater part of the faithful of my diocese were afraid that this might mean that I have to leave the diocese: It seems that this was one of the first reactions.
<br> «Now that he has been made a cardinal, he will have to go to Rome,» they thought. I have tried to calm them, reminding them that Cardinal McCann was in Capetown for the whole of his life, as was the cardinal archbishop of Maputo in Mozambique. Therefore, it is not a necessary consequence that I must go to Rome. However, I think it is a reason for pride for my diocese to have a cardinal as leader who, moreover, is one of them.

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