|South Africa||BISHOPS SET EXAMPLE ON LAND REFORM|
The Catholic Church in South Africa has taken a major step towards giving up large tracts of mission land, and returning it to local black communities.
According to the results of a study commissioned by the Southern African Catholic Bishops' Conference, released on 19 May, the 26 dioceses in South Africa between them own 1829 properties, totalling at least 20,400 hectares. An additional 100 properties, which have not yet been properly surveyed, are not included in the figures, The The Tablet reports.
The president of the bishops' conference, Archbishop Wilfrid Napier of Durban, said that both as a matter of principle, and for pragmatic reasons, the bishops had committed themselves to returning land acquired for mission work. He said the Church was deeply aware of the poverty of many people in South Africa and of the problem of landlessness.
Early missionaries had originally intended the large tracts of land they acquired to be used for a monastic existence on the European model, but this had not proved appropriate in South Africa. "Now there are large farms without adequate resources to work them", Napier said.