Durban - Dubbed the “guardian of the light” by Alan Paton, Durban’s Catholic Archbishop Denis Hurley is remembered as an outspoken opponent of apartheid.
His biography, Denis Hurley: Truth to Power, was launched in Durban last night, alongside the 2012 Archbishop Denis Hurley Lecture, organised by the Justice and Peace Commission of the Archdiocese of Durban in association with the Denis Hurley Centre Trust, which was commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Second Vatican Council.
Known as Vatican II and recognised as a groundbreaking event for the Catholic Church between 1962 and 1965, Hurley regarded the council as “the most exciting experience of my whole life”.
In line with the spirit of Vatican II, this year’s lecture focused on reaching out to people of other faiths. Guest speaker for the event, Ela Gandhi, said in her address last night “nearly 2 000 years ago, at a time when you might say the whole civilised world was comprised within the confines of the Roman Empire, St Paul proclaimed one of the great truths of history ‘we are all members of one another’. During the 20th century, this eternal truth has taken on a new and exciting significance.”
Gandhi also highlighted important outcomes of Vatican II that played a significant role, including the setting up of the Justice and Peace Commissions which continue to advocate for the less fortunate and identify the need for peace between various faiths.
Truth to Power is a new abridged version of Hurley’s original biography Guardian of the Light, by Paddy Kearney.
Hurley became the youngest Catholic bishop in the world in 1947 at 31 and archbishop of Durban in 1952.
Not only was he controversial in his views on birth control, married priests and women’s ordination, but as chair of the Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference in 1951, Hurley drafted the first pastoral letters in which the bishops denounced apartheid as “blasphemy” and “intrinsically evil”.
He soon became one of the apartheid state’s most wanted political leaders, alongside Anglican Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu.
He was charged with “telling lies” in 1984, but the prosecution had to drop the charges when it became clear Hurley could prove his statements.
He continued his work as a parish priest well into his 80s and passed away in 2004.