News & events

Panel Discussion and Media Briefing

On 22 October the members of the Department of Theology of St Augustine College, namely Dr Judith Coyle (Head), Dr Madge Karecki and Dr Jakub Urbaniak, issued a News Release on the recent Synod on Family that took place in Rome. At 11h30 a number of invited theologians representing various Christian denominations shared their views on this document as well as the most topical issues regarding the situation of families in South Africa from the viewpoint of their respective traditions. The invited speakers included: Fr Petros Parginos from the Orthodox Church, Prof Graham Duncan from the Uniting Presbyterian Church in Southern Africa, Mrs Alice Mugglestone from the Anglican Church and Dr Anthony Egan, SJ, from the Roman Catholic Church. In the end, the audience, including the invited journalists, had an opportunity to engage with the theologians-panellists. Prof Nicholas Rowe (Academic Dean) moderated the discussion. Refreshments were served afterwards in the College Cafeteria. At St Augustine’s we aim at providing a platform for an ongoing dialogue on relevant issues such as the situation of family and marriage in South Africa and related pastoral challenges faced by all religious communities. And we want to show that such a dialogue can be carried on in the spirit of mutual respect and trust even when our views differ radically. The fruitful debate that we hosted this week proved that our friends from other Christian traditions share our sense of responsibility for the future of families and observe carefully, with a lot of hope, the developments taking place in the Catholic Church.





St Augustine College applauds the Roman Synod on the Family
as new moment of openness and calls for further ecumenical discussion
on the situation of families in South Africa


JOHANNESBURG – Wednesday, 22 October 2014. St Augustine College, the only Catholic institution of higher education in South Africa, has applauded Pope Francis' efforts to establish a new and creative process for the Extraordinary Synod on the Family that took place
from 5 to 19 October 2014 in Rome.

Theologians representing various denominations today participated in a panel discussion held on St Augustine's campus in Victory Park to share their views on the most topical issues regarding the situation of family in a South African context in the light of the recent Synod.

Referring to the Synod convened by Pope Francis, the academics representing the Department of Theology at St Augustine College commended the Pope and the organising committee of the Synod for including married couples and other members of the laity in each day's sessions. Though the laity did not have voting rights, they spoke at the beginning of each day about some aspect of family life and they participated in group discussions. Thus the bishops from around the world had an opportunity to learn about various complex cultural views on marriage, sexuality and family issues. There was a new level of transparency with daily press briefings and the publication of the votes for each paragraph of the final report of the Synod whose official English translation
is yet to be published.

Dr Madge Karecki, President of St Augustine College, notes that unlike previous synods which used to begin with a review of Catholic teaching, this Synod started with discussions on the present challenges to marriage and family. "Preparations began with a survey sent to every Catholic diocese and distributed either online or in hard copy to every parish. This was done so that the bishops would have an informed sense of what couples and families face as they seek to live their faith. This kind of contextual approach is appropriate given the diverse areas of the world where the Church is present. The Synod had a pastoral tone thanks to the Pope's opening talk to the delegates. Pope Francis told them to 'speak clearly and listen with humility'. He also reminded the members of the Synod that the purpose of the assembly is 'to better nurture and tend the Lord's vineyard, to help realise God's dream, His loving plan for his people'. The Catholic Church has been invited to a new moment of openness to the work of the Holy Spirit" – Dr Karecki says. "We as Church are challenged to remember the centrality of the person in all our pastoral efforts to journey with others so that they might experience God's redeeming love and mercy."

Dr Judith Coyle, Head of the Theology Department at St Augustine College, pointed out that at the Synod differing opinions were expressed about marriage, divorce, homosexuality and various family situations, especially in the context of the Eucharistic communion. "This is a natural part of the development of thought," says Dr Coyle. "We need to remember that this Synod is only Part One of the process that leads to the final session to be held in October 2015. In the meantime, we must work with the Synod's report. At St Augustine's, we intend to study this document critically, but also in the spirit of a 'hermeneutic of charity'. For us, as South African Catholic theologians, the essential task is to raise questions that are particularly relevant to our own cultural and ecclesial contexts. The report states that it is necessary not to stop at an announcement that is merely theoretical and has nothing to do with people's real problems. Thus the Synodal Fathers encourage us, the theological community around the world, to identify, first of all, the 'real problems' of those who seek God's mercy – that is, of all the believers. Only then will we be able to come to some clearer perspectives on the best ways of healing and accompanying the families in our church communities."

"For us, South Africans, apart from a number of issues related to divorce/remarriage, cohabitation and same-sex relationships – issues which received due attention at the Synod, even though unanimity among the bishops has not been reached – many other problems seem equally, if not more, relevant. For instance, the impact of HIV/AIDS on family life, the phenomenon of 'amalgamated families', single-parent families, child-led families, the dramatically changing role of women in contemporary societies and its impact on family life, and so on. At St Augustine's we want to discuss these and other burning issues with the representatives of various Christian denominations as well as different religious traditions, for only such a broad dialogue can bring about solutions that will prove adequate to our South African contexts. At the same time, we deeply believe that Catholic understandings of the human person and family can significantly contribute to this common effort. As today's event shows," Dr Coyle concludes, "St Augustine College is willing to provide a platform for this ongoing debate."