Archbishop’s talk at PPC Training Day

Training for Parish Pastoral Council’s (PPCs) took place at Bergvlliet Primary School Hall on Saturday 19 November 2022. Below is Archbishop Stephen Brislin’s talk at the training day.

Keep your eyes on the stars and your feet on the ground” , are words attributed to the United States President Theodore Roosevelt. In a sense this saying captures the vision of the Church’s task of evangelization and, indeed, our own desire to re-vitalize the missionary aspect of Christian life. Evangelization has always been the core of the Church’s very meaning and is founded on the command given by Jesus Christ, Go, therefore, and make disciples of people of all the nations” (Matt 28:19). The Church has always endeavoured to do so throughout its 2000 year plus history. In recent times a renewed emphasis has been given to the responsibility of all Christians, all the Baptized, to evangelize. Pope St John Paul II spoke about the “new evangelization” and wrote an important encyclical on the matter entitled Redemptoris Missio. What he meant by the new evangelization was not a new message, or new content. Rather, he said that we have to find new ways and new methods to convey the message of Jesus Christ to the modern world. Furthermore, we have to convey the message of Christ in a language and in concepts that are understandable to the modern mind. He wished to emphasise that the mission to evangelise was not given only to the few in the Church, but that all the baptized have been given this message. For this to happen, we need to develop a missionary spirituality and to draw a distinction between pastoral care and evangelization – pastoral care is the strengthening and the accompaniment to sustain Christian living, whereas evangelization is the proclamation of the Gospel, not only to those who have never heard of Christ but also to those who have fallen away from faith, or who have not integrated the message of Christ into their lives. The new evangelization he spoke of was not territorial in the sense of having to go to other places to proclaim the Gospel – it is to witness and proclaim the Gospel wherever we may find ourselves, in our own context and environment.

Following on from Pope St John Paul II, Pope Benedict created a special department in the Vatican to motivate the new evangelization. Recently that Department has been absorbed into the Dicastery for the Evangelization of the Peoples and we no longer speak of the new evangelization but rather simply of evangelization. 

Essentially, this is the meaning of today’s meeting with all the Parish Pastoral Councils of the Archdiocese of Cape Town. In this post-covid time we are all aware of the need to re-energise and re-vitalize the Church after the devastation of the pandemic. We are all too aware of how people have suffered during the past two years and the ongoing consequences of covid. But we have also been deeply inspired by our participation and role in the synod of synodality. The process of the synod has helped us to reflect on the life of the Church in the world and the life of the Church of Cape Town. We had an honest look at ourselves, examining what is good and what is not so good. We’ve strived to identify the positive and the negative, the successes and the failures. We’ve become aware through the process of the fact that we are “church together” – with different roles, it is true, but that the Church is really Church when we are together as people, religious and clergy, praying together, listening to each, dialoging and discerning the signs of the times and our response to them. The path of synodality, which has always been part of the Church, is now inspiring us to look to the future, and to “look to the stars”, so to speak, to determine how we can re-invigorate our determination to evangelize.

To accomplish any task effectively, including the task of evangelization, we need to organise our efforts on how we are to achieve the task that is before us. To be effective, we need to structure ourselves as a way of giving ourselves the means to be as successful and as efficient as possible. And so, the new statutes of the Parish Pastoral Councils of the Archdiocese gave that structure, based on the portfolios that should exist in each Parish Pastoral Council. This ensures that the pastoral and missionary priorities that have been identified will receive the required attention at parish level. This is important. While the Archdiocese is the “local Church”, our effectiveness at the “coal face”, at local level, is achieved through the efforts of the local parish. Each parish is asked to address the priorities and the policies of the Archdiocese. Organisationally, the portfolios have become the way in which that will happen.

While we are the “local Church”, that is the Church of the Archdiocese of Cape Town, we are not disconnected from the Body of Christ, the Universal Church. We can never separate ourselves from that Body, and neither can we separate ourselves from the Church of Southern Africa as we work in communion with each other as the southern African region. The portfolios of the PPC’s reflect the priorities of the Bishops’ Conference that were determined through many years of dialogue and interaction between the Bishops, clergy, religious and representatives of the laity from every diocese. Much time was spent in reflection and discernment, and we are all committed to implementing the Pastoral Plan and its priority areas. This does not mean that these are the only issues that need to be addressed – there will always be others, not least those which are local issues. Those must not be neglected either. What must remain common to every issue we address and, indeed every undertaking, is evangelization. Everything, including the use of finances, is meant to be ordered to evangelize and to spread the Gospel. 

And so our vision is to have parishes that are alive and active, that are evangelizing communities, that continue form people in faith, to deepen community, to enhance and strengthen marriage and family life, who engage with and involve young people, who reach out to the wider community and who order the liturgy for the glorification of God and the sustenance of his people. It is an exciting endeavour and one which we must allow to take us “out of our comfort zone”. So much inertia is present because the familiar is so often seen as much safer and so much more comfortable. Our vision for the future demands boldness, but above all it demands trust – trust and faith in God and his presence among among us.

The vision is a way of looking to the stars, but we must also keep our feet on the ground. Our quest is not simply to do something new for the sake of its being new. It is not a matter of “glitz” and “tinsel”. We are not trying to impress others by doing the spectacular. Our aim is to sincerely seek to do God’s will, to make a difference in people’s lives that is lasting and true. There is no room for superficiality, we are not preaching a “cheap” religion or simply a religion based on an emotionally satisfying experience (although nothing wrong with being emotionally satisfied). We are not trying just to get numbers. In all things, we remain with our feet on the ground by remaining faithful to the Gospel, faithful in preaching “Christ crucified” to the world (cf. 1 Cor 1:23), Christ who can be both a stumbling block and considered foolishness by some. We know that the message of Christ is a challenge to every culture, to every lifestyle and to every trend. Christ is a sign of contradiction to the world (cf. Lk 2:34), who challenges each and every person to change and to convert. We should never be ashamed of witnessing to Christ (cf. 2 Tim 1:8) – Christ is our message, not ourselves, and our aim is for his will to be done and not ours. Our aim is to help each other to reach into the depths of God and the richness of his grace. It is not a “dumbing down” of our faith, but a sharing of its treasure and richness. We are sharing the hope which we have within us (cf. 1 Peter 3:15) with confidence and assurance. And we try to do all this through ways and language that our modern generation can understand and appreciate.

Thus, our evangelization always remains rooted in Scripture and in the Tradition of the Church, the teachings that have been passed down through the generations. Evangelization must also remain rooted in our spiritual life where God is the focus of each of our lives. God must be the focus of our communities, of our liturgies (not the priest, or the ministers, or the choir). The Church is vast and diverse at every level of society and every level of giftedness – we gather as people of vastly different personalities, cultures, languages, colours and hues, of ways of life and experiences. The gifts of God’s Holy Spirit are diverse and wide-spread. But we are all united through our focus on God, united by the outstretched hands of Christ on the Cross, united by the one Holy Spirit working in us all. In the words of St Paul, “there is one Body, one Spirit, just as one hope is the goal of your calling by God. There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism, and one God and Father of all, over all, through all, and within all” (Eph 4:4-6). We do not seek “sameness” we rejoice in the diversity that God has blessed us with, but in that diversity we preserve and safeguard the unity of the Body, taking care not to break it further. And so our endeavour is one of prayer, knowing that it is only God who can accomplish what needs to be achieved. We can only empty ourselves and make ourselves available to be his instruments and servants. We know that it is only through prayer and opening ourselves to his grace that we can persevere, because there will be many obstacles and disappointments on the way. We know that looking to the stars can make us starry eyed and when we try to bring the stars to the ground it will be hard and grinding work. But we are committed and remain determined. We are not those who give in to despair (cf. 2 Cor 4:8-9).

So this endeavour, with all its vision and practicalities, is founded on prayerfulness and belief in God’s Spirit continuing to guide and lead the process. It is most especially in the Eucharist, which gathers us like grains of wheat into the one bread, that we celebrate both our diversity and unity. The Eucharist is the channel of God’s grace, the source of his strength for all of us. It is through the Eucharist that our message, our proclamation of Christ, will bear fruit. Truly, the Eucharist is both the source and summit of Christian life and of all our efforts to be faithful disciples of Christ.

I thank all of you for your presence this morning. In starting a new venture we are often inspired and enthused but, as time goes on, our enthusiasm can wane. I hope that we will all see ourselves as labourers for God’s Kingdom, and to understand that the ministry that we have been entrusted with, as PPC members, is far wider than our parochial boundaries – it is to serve God’s Kingdom and to establish that Kingdom. Let us all focus on that and be faithful to it. May God bless you and the parishes you represent. May he bless our Archdiocese, and may he bless his Church throughout the world.

+Stephen Brislin
Archbishop of Cape Town, 19 November 2022

Bishop Cawcutt Funeral

Bishop Reginald Michael Cawcutt, retired Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Cape Town, was laid to rest from Our Lady Help of Christians Church, Lansdowne on a wet and wintry Wednesday, 17th August 2022. Fellow Bishops from the Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference (SACBC) joined Archbishop Stephen Brislin, together with many of the priests and laity of the Archdiocese of Cape Town, to pay him tribute and celebrate his life.

Toward the end of the liturgy, Archbishop Brislin read out some of the many messages of condolences and tributes from around the world, and members of Bishop Cawcutt’s family present at the funeral – as well as Bishop Sithembele Sipuka (president of the SACBC) – also paid him tribute.

Bishops present at the funeral were: Bishop Sithembele Sipuka (Diocese of uMthatha), Archbishop Buti Tlhagale OMI (Archdiocese of Johannesburg), Bishop Noel Rucastle (Diocese of Oudtshoorn), Bishop Adam Musialek (Diocese of De Aar), Bishop Sylvester David OMI (Auxiliary Bishop of Cape Town), and retired Bishops Edward Adams and Frank De Gouveia (both of Oudtshoorn Diocese).

Bishop Reginald Cawcutt was born in Rugby, Cape Town on October 25, 1938 and did his schooling at Rugby Primary; St Agnes Convent, Woodstock; and Christian Brothers’ College, Green Point. He did his seminary studies at St John Vianney Seminary, Pretoria and was ordained a priest in Cape Town on July 9,1962. He was ordained Auxiliary Bishop of Cape Town on August 26,1992 and resigned as Auxiliary Bishop on 17th July 2002. He died on 5th August 2022.

Archbishop Brislin’s homily pays tribute to his life and his ministry.

Below the homily is a collage of pictures from the funeral liturgy.


As we gather for the funeral of our brother, Bishop Reg Cawcutt, it is good to remind ourselves of the purpose and meaning of a Requiem Mass. First and foremost, with humility and awareness of the frailty of our own humanity, we commend the deceased into the loving arms of the Saviour, praying for him and asking God to forgive whatever sins may have been committed. The most powerful way in which we can do this is through the celebration of the Eucharist which brings us into communion with God and with the Church – the Church of both the living and dead. Secondly, it is meant to give consolation and comfort for all who mourn the loss of a loved one. Our faith gives meaning to life and death. Thirdly, the celebration strengthens us in our hope, as we re-affirm our belief in resurrection, and it strengthens us in our resolve to live a Christian life worthy of our calling as followers of Jesus.

The prophet Micah encapsulates what it means to live a life worthy of God – to act justly, to love tenderly and to walk humbly with our God. These three actions are inseparably connected. We cannot act justly if we do not love tenderly and we cannot love tenderly unless we are humble before God who is the fullness and source of perfect love – a love which is sacrificial and without selfishness. In his 60 years of priesthood and thirty years of episcopacy, although only active for ten years as a bishop, Bishop Reg Cawcutt tried to live this through his ministry as a priest and bishop. As a priest, apart from his role in parishes, his ministry and passion as chaplain to the deaf community built on the work and initiatives of others to strengthen and accompany those who struggled to find their place in society despite their impairment. Through preaching and showing God’s love for them, he nourished their faith, built their self-esteem and their self-confidence, giving them purpose and hope. 

He ministered as naval chaplain for many years, despite much criticism at the time. Involvement with the apartheid armed forces by a Catholic priest was disputed and contested at a time when troops were deployed in the townships, but this did not dampen his resolve to give pastoral care to the conscripts and members of the navy. He recognized the spiritual needs of the individuals, the persons, and was unashamed in giving them the pastoral care that was their right. This was at a time when the Catholic Church had publicly given support to conscientious objectors and was highly opposed to the apartheid regime, and yet was also obliged – in justice – not to neglect the spiritual wellbeing of those caught up in the system. 

We should not forget, either, when he was Bishop, his concern and compassion for those who were afflicted and affected by the HIV/AIDS crisis that, in the 1990s, took the world by storm and thousands perished. It was a time of turmoil as the world grabbled with this new disease – in some ways it was similar to our own times when we have had to come to grips with the Covid crisis. It was not known, in the early days of the HIV disease, that it was spread through the exchange of bodily fluids It was feared that it was spread through the air and through touch. For those of us who lived through those times, we will remember how those infected with the HI Virus were isolated and contact with them was avoided. There was real fear which descended into an inhumane stigma as the disease became associated with sexuality and sexual transmission. Because of the stigma those with HIV were often treated as “modern-day lepers”, they became the pariahs of society. It was a time of denial, of burying heads in the sand, as humanity struggled to make sense of it and how to respond to it. Many did not even want to speak of it and there were those who, in ignorance, propagated that this was punishment from God – a belief that the Catholic Bishops of Southern Africa, together with other Bishops’ Conference and faith leaders, refuted as a misrepresentation of God and how he acts in the world. In this time of turmoil and fear, Bishop Reg was a pioneer in becoming involved in ministry to those with HIV and Aids. The late Archbishop Henry had expressed a desire to find a Christian response to the crisis. And so, Bishop Reg was one of the founding members of the Catholic Aids Network of the Archdiocese of Cape Town which had the aim of educating people on the disease and how it could be prevented. Cape Town was, to the best of my knowledge, the first diocese in the country to respond in this way. The Bishops’ Conference, in turn, set up the AIDS Office, and the Catholic Church in this country, through the AIDS Office and volunteers in dioceses, became recognized as the single biggest service provider to HIV and AIDS sufferers, except for government. Its outreach continues to this day.

In all his ministry Bishop Reg recognized the needs and the struggles of the individual in a rapidly changing world. However, his ministry became engulfed in a storm of controversy when he set up a website for homosexual priests. Ultimately, the controversy led to his eventual resignation from the episcopacy in July 2002. He resigned he said, for the sake of the unity of the Church. He did not want to be a point of division. 

Controversial, outspoken, determined, kind and generous – these were all parts of his character. There was certain innocence about him too, which was both endearing but also, perhaps, his greatest handicap. We should not let the controversy distract us from his innate goodness, his kindness, his compassion and, above all, his faith and his love for the Church. We should recall that Jesus reserved his greatest criticism, not for those who struggled or those who had fallen into sin, but for those who were blinded by hypocrisy and lacked any empathy for the struggles of others. There is no doubt that Bishop Reg touched the lives of many people and gave them hope through his pastoral care and compassion despite criticism and controversy.

Now, as we gather to celebrate our hope of Resurrection, sharing in the life of God through the Eucharist, we place our trust in Christ alone, for it is he alone who has opened before us the promise of eternal life. We gather together as saints and sinners, knowing that we all fall short of the glory of God, and that no one is worthy of salvation in himself. It is through Christ’s love, his self-giving on the Cross, that we can be redeemed. He is the resurrection and the life, and we believe. 

But it is necessary that we, ourselves, re-commit our lives to God as we strive to act justly, to love tenderly and to walk humbly with our God. Part of doing this is precisely by accompanying those with whom we journey, by responding to the needs of others strengthening them in their struggles and the confusion of modern day life, by sharing our faith with them and by giving them the reason for our hope. Let us pray that we will never turn away from those who need our support through fear of what people might say, but that we will be like the Good Samaritan and leave all else in order to act compassionately. Like the Samaritan, may we see the person in need of help and respond, and not be deterred by our fears.

As we proceed now to celebrate and share the Eucharist, celebrating our communion with God and our brothers and sisters living and dead, we commend our brother Reg to the merciful and forgiving love of God. May he, and all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God rest in peace.

+Stephen Brislin
Archbishop of Cape Town
17 August 2022

(Click on first image to view in Slideshow view)

Consecration of Ukraine and Russia

At a Mass to celebrate the Solemnity of the Annunciation at St Mary’s Cathedral Cape Town, Archbishop Stephen Brislin consecrated Ukraine and Russia to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. This was in union with Pope Francis’s consecration later today from the Vatican.

Consecration of Russia and Ukraine

Archbishop Stephen Brislin will be joining the Holy Father Pope Francis in consecrating Ukraine and Russia to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, during Mass on Friday 25th March, at St Mary’s Cathedral at 13.10 pm.

Due to unforeseen technical difficulties, the Mass will NOT BE LIVESTREAMED as previously announced, but recorded and uploaded to our website, Facebook page and YouTube channel after the Mass. We apologise for any inconvenience this may cause.


Archbishop Stephen Brislin invites you to pray the prayer of Consecration in union with Pope Francis, if possible at about 6.30 pm on Friday 25th when he will do the consecration of Ukraine and Russia to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. If it is not possible to pray it at that time, then anytime during the day. 

Act of Consecration to the Immaculate Heart of Mary 

Basilica of Saint Peter 

25 March 2022 

O Mary, Mother of God and our Mother, in this time of trial we turn to you. As our Mother, you love us and know us: no concern of our hearts is hidden from you. Mother of mercy, how often we have experienced your watchful care and your peaceful presence! You never cease to guide us to Jesus, the Prince of Peace. 

Yet we have strayed from that path of peace. We have forgotten the lesson learned from the tragedies of the last century, the sacrifice of the millions who fell in two world wars. We have disregarded the commitments we made as a community of nations. We have betrayed peoples’ dreams of peace and the hopes of the young. We grew sick with greed, we thought only of our own nations and their interests, we grew indifferent and caught up in our selfish needs and concerns. We chose to ignore God, to be satisfied with our illusions, to grow arrogant and aggressive, to suppress innocent lives and to stockpile weapons. We stopped being our neighbour’s keepers and stewards of our common home. We have ravaged the garden of the earth with war and by our sins we have broken the heart of our heavenly Father, who desires us to be brothers and sisters. We grew indifferent to everyone and everything except ourselves. Now with shame we cry out: Forgive us, Lord! 

Holy Mother, amid the misery of our sinfulness, amid our struggles and weaknesses, amid the mystery of iniquity that is evil and war, you remind us that God never abandons us, but continues to look upon us with love, ever ready to forgive us and raise us up to new life. He has given you to us and made your Immaculate Heart a refuge for the Church and for all humanity. By God’s gracious will, you are ever with us; even in the most troubled moments of our history, you are there to guide us with tender love. 

We now turn to you and knock at the door of your heart. We are your beloved children. In every age you make yourself known to us, calling us to conversion. At this dark hour, help us and grant us your comfort. Say to us once more: “Am I not here, I who am your Mother?” You are able to untie the knots of our hearts and of our times. In you we place our trust. We are confident that, especially in moments of trial, you will not be deaf to our supplication and will come to our aid. 

That is what you did at Cana in Galilee, when you interceded with Jesus and he worked the first of his signs. To preserve the joy of the wedding feast, you said to him: “They have no wine” (Jn 2:3). Now, O Mother, repeat those words and that prayer, for in our own day we have run out of the wine of hope, joy has fled, fraternity has faded. We have forgotten our humanity and squandered the gift of peace. We opened our hearts to violence and destructiveness. How greatly we need your maternal help! 

Therefore, O Mother, hear our prayer. 
Star of the Sea, do not let us be shipwrecked in the tempest of war. 
Ark of the New Covenant, inspire projects and paths of reconciliation. 
Queen of Heaven, restore God’s peace to the world. 
Eliminate hatred and the thirst for revenge, and teach us forgiveness. 
Free us from war, protect our world from the menace of nuclear weapons. 
Queen of the Rosary, make us realize our need to pray and to love. 
Queen of the Human Family, show people the path of fraternity. 
Queen of Peace, obtain peace for our world. 

O Mother, may your sorrowful plea stir our hardened hearts. May the tears you shed for us make this valley parched by our hatred blossom anew. Amid the thunder of weapons, may your prayer turn our thoughts to peace. May your maternal touch soothe those who suffer and flee from the rain of bombs. May your motherly embrace comfort those forced to leave their homes and their native land. May your Sorrowful Heart move us to compassion and inspire us to open our doors and to care for our brothers and sisters who are injured and cast aside. 

Holy Mother of God, as you stood beneath the cross, Jesus, seeing the disciple at your side, said: “Behold your son” (Jn 19:26). In this way he entrusted each of us to you. To the disciple, and to each of us, he said: “Behold, your Mother” (v. 27). Mother Mary, we now desire to welcome you into our lives and our history. At this hour, a weary and distraught humanity stands with you beneath the cross, needing to entrust itself to you and, through you, to consecrate itself to Christ. The people of Ukraine and Russia, who venerate you with great love, now turn to you, even as your heart beats with compassion for them and for all those peoples decimated by war, hunger, injustice and poverty. 

Therefore, Mother of God and our Mother, to your Immaculate Heart we solemnly entrust and consecrate ourselves, the Church and all humanity, especially Russia and Ukraine. Accept this act that we carry out with confidence and love. Grant that war may end and peace spread throughout the world. The “Fiat” that arose from your heart opened the doors of history to the Prince of Peace. We trust that, through your heart, peace will dawn once more. To you we consecrate the future of the whole human family, the needs and expectations of every people, the anxieties and hopes of the world. 

Through your intercession, may God’s mercy be poured out on the earth and the gentle rhythm of peace return to mark our days. Our Lady of the “Fiat”, on whom the Holy Spirit descended, restore among us the harmony that comes from God. May you, our “living fountain of hope”, water the dryness of our hearts. In your womb Jesus took flesh; help us to foster the growth of communion. You once trod the streets of our world; lead us now on the paths of peace. Amen.