2014-12-09 13:45:00

Benedict Daswa: a Saint for South Africa

(Vatican Radio) Not many people at all know—or even know of—the tiny village of Mbahe in a remote Northern area of South Africa.

It’s making a place for itself on the map as recent reports tell of “foreigners” crossing the dry “veld” North of Polokwane to visit and to pray on the grave of Benedict Daswa, the man who could become South Africa’s first Saint.

Vatican Radio's Linda Bordoni had a chat with Bishop Joao Rodriguez of Tzaneen about Benedict Daswa and about the significance of his sainthood for the Church in South Africa.

Listen to the interview

Benedict Daswa, who was born in Mbahe, was a Catholic school principal and family man. Bishop Joao Rodriguez of Tzaneen, the diocese to which Daswa belonged and that subsequently conducted the Inquiry into his life and death, describes Daswa as “very strong about his faith, in particular in relation to issues of divination and witchcraft, which is quite prominent and practiced by people in many ways, not only in South Africa but in many parts of Africa and the world.”

“He made his position very clear in conscience; he said that his faith would not allow him to be involved in any way in such practices” he says. 

This strong stance, as Bishop Rodriguez describes, lead to conflict after a lightening strike which many thought was a result of witchcraft. Daswa refused this notion, publicly stating that the weather event was a natural occurrence. This lead to his subsequent murder, which took place not far from the village, on February 2, 1990. He was 48 years old at the time. 

A number of priests attended Daswa’s funeral, and wore red vestments, which indicate “the holy spirit and martyrdom,” Rodriguez explains.

“They felt there was something special about the way he was killed… because of people being against his faith” he says.

Rodriguez says that after his death, the people of Mbahe continued to remember Daswa’s life, and this remembrance grew to be an annual event, sparking the church to investigate more about his life. The official inquiry by the church took place in 2009, and by November of 2010, a decree validating the church’s inquiry was issued. 

The cause for his sainthood has gathered momentum, and in October this year a group of theologians tasked to review the life of the South African Servant of God, unanimously voted that he be named a martyr and be beatified. 

Bishop Rodriguez firmly believes that his beatification will lead to canonization. Daswa – he says - gives “encouragement to Christians and Catholics in particular, and his bold stance also challenges many Christians to consider that very often faith cannot just be comprised.”  

The diocese has also received many testimonies from people regarding blessings they have received through the intercession of Benedict Daswa, which is particularly encouraging for Bishop Rodriguez: “This is the fruit that we look for, the blessings,” he says. 

The matter will now be discussed by the Congregation of the Causes of Saints on the 13 January 2015. Their final recommendation will then be referred to Pope Francis for the final decision.


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