Brother Wilfrid Fox Napier, OFM
Apr 14, 2005
The Holy Father, at the Angelus on Sunday 28th January 2001, announced seven more Cardinals, among them the Franciscan Archbishop of Durban (Republic of South Africa).
(ofm.org) Wilfrid Fox Napier was born in Matatiele in Transkei, in the Diocese of Kokstad South Africa, on March 8, 1941, the son of of Thomas Dominic and Mary Davey. He grew up on the family farm with his seven brothers and sisters, amid the injustices brought about by the apartheid regime of the country at that time. The family knew the Franciscans from Ireland who ministered in the area, and Wilfrid's older brother Peter was encouraged by the friars to travel to Ireland to discern whether he had a Franciscan vocation in the Irish Province's novitiate in Killarney. Peter decided that his calling was not to the Franciscans, but he was followed to Ireland by Wilfrid. On his receiving the habit on September 7, 1960, Wilfrid did not - as was customary at that time - take a new religious name.
After first profession on September 8, 1961, Wilfrid studied in the Faculty of Arts in the National University of Ireland, Galway. He took a B.A. degree in Latin and English, graduating in 1964. He excelled at sports - and is still prone to using sporting metaphors when preaching. As a distinguished alumnus of the University, Wilfrid was conferred with an honorary degree of Doctor of Laws on June 26th 1995.
Having made solemn profession in St Anthony's College, Galway, on October 4, 1964, Wilfrid went to the Irish Franciscan College at Leuven, Belgium, where in succession he took degrees in Philosophy and in Theology. He returned to his native South Africa and was ordained in Kokstad Cathedral on July 25, 1970, by local Bishop John Evangelist McBride, OFM, a former Provincial Minister of Ireland. Wilfrid worked in Kokstad diocese for ten years before succeeding Bishop McBride first as Apostolic Administrator in 1978 and then as bishop of the diocese on February 28, 1981, just before his fortieth birthday.
Mgr. Napier was elected President of the South African Catholic Bishops' Conference (SACBC) in 1987 and served for two terms, until 1994, when he became first Vice-President. After one term he was again elected President.
On June 22, 1992, Wilfrid was translated to the Archdiocese of Durban, and took possession of the See on the Feast of Saint Francis, October 4, of that year. In July 1998 he was appointed Consultor to the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples. He has attended various Synods of Bishops in Rome, and has been on the organizing commissions for some of them. He is a member of the Special Council for Africa of the General Secretariate of the Synod of Bishops and Consultant to the Pontifical Commission for the Cultural Heritage of the Church.
On 26th June 1995 the University of Galway, Ireland, conferred an Honorary Doctorate of Law on Archbishop Napier.
On January 28, 2001, Pope John Paul added seven names to the list of cardinals already announced for the Consistory of February 21, 2001. Among those names is that of Wilfrid Fox Napier, OFM.
With the nomination of Mons. Napier to the College of Cardinals, there will be six OFM Cardinals: Paolo Evaristo Arns, Archbishop emeritus of Saõ Paulo (Brazil); José Maria Alexandre dos Santos, Archbishop di Maputo (Mozambique); Aloisio Lorscheider, Archbishop de Aparecida (Brazil); László Paskai, Archbishop of Esztergom and Primate of Hungary; Cláudio Hummes, Archbishop of Saõ Paulo (Brazil) and Wilfrid Napier, Archbishop of Durban (South Africa).