Today, 11th June, in South Africa the XIX Football World Cup begins – a high profile media event in which the Church in South Africa hopes to draw world attention to the situation and problems. The Salesian community is also playing its part.
For the World Cup being held for the first time in Africa, the Bishops’ Conference of Southern African thought up a series of initiatives to make the sporting event also an occasion for human and spiritual growth. On the special site set up for the event Cardinal Wilfrid Napier OFM, archbishop of Durban, writes, “the World Cup has offered a unique opportunity. (…) Sport requires patience, perseverance, respect – values which our societies, and particularly Africa, much need! All values that the Church does not cease to advocate”.
Church leaders in South Africa want to draw the attention of the international media, often too little concerned with the real situation of the Black Continent and now focusing attention on this part of the world. The World Cup should be an occasion to make the players and the fans from all over the world reflect on topics such as human trafficking, HIV & AIDS, Sport and the Church, etc.
In view of the many pastoral opportunities and challenges such an event presents the South African Bishops decide to entrust an import role to those who for 150 years have been involved in the development and formation of the young through oratories games and sport. In 2008 the Bishops’ Conference approached the Salesians through the Superior of the Vice Province in the country Fr Francois Dufour asking them to take charge of the pastoral outreach for the World Cup. It was taken up enthusiastically in spite of the economic and logistical difficulties.
The first step was to create a small organising Committee led by Fr Dufour which made some suggestions: Sunday 13 June the first during the World Cup was declared “World Cup Sunday” and the parishes were provided with liturgical material for the day involving the faithful and the sports fans who had come to South Africa for the occasion.
The Committee prepared handy prayer-book to be distributed free of charge which also contains information about the Church.Fr Dufour is also a member of the team which manages the “churchontheball” site set up by the media desk of the Bishops’ Conference for the World Cup.
In addition to the official events the individual Salesian communities in the country have become involved in various ways. On Wednesday 9 June the Salesian house in Ennerdale, Johannesburg, had a visit from the well-known former Brazilian player John Elber. Accompanied by three different film crews he met some of the children and visited the Salesian Education Project, Finetown.
Source: Info ANS