Archbishop Hurley Remembered as Apartheid Foe

English and Welsh Episcopate Pays Tribute to Late South African

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LONDON, FEB. 16, 2004 ( The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales paid tribute to Archbishop Emeritus Denis Hurley of Durban, remembering him as a tireless fighter against injustice in South Africa.

The archbishop died Friday at age 88.

«His courageous and outspoken witness to Christian and human values, in particular the struggle against apartheid, earned him deserved international recognition,» Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor, president of the English and Welsh bishops’ conference, said today.

In Durban, Archbishop Hurley proved a high-profile opponent of the apartheid regime, working closely with Anglican 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 South African bishops’ conference, the prelates 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 Denis Hurley condemned the migratory labor 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.

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.

At the Britain-based Catholic Agency for Overseas Development, South Africa program officer Jackie Reeve said: «His energy and vigor 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.»

Denis Hurley was born in Cape Town to Irish Catholic parents in November 1915.

He was ordained a priest with the Oblates of Mary Immaculate at age 24 and became the world’s youngest bishop in 1947, when he was just 31. He went on to become the world’s youngest archbishop just three years later.

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