The new bishop of Witbank, Mons. Giuseppe Sandri, was ordained on 31st January 2010 at Maria Trost (the first Comboni mission in South Africa)
On the 31st of January 2010 about four thousand people, coming from the four corners of the Diocese of Witbank (travelling up to 250 km) and from nearby Dioceses, gathered at Maria Trost (the first mission of the Mccj in South Africa), near Lydenburg, for the Episcopal consecration of Fr. Giuseppe Sandri, Mccj. Present were almost all the bishops (28) of the Southern African Bishop’s Conference, the Councillor of the Nunciature in South Africa, Swaziland, Lesotho, Botswana and Namibia, Mgr. Eloy Alberto Santiago y Santiago, 80 priests, including all the priests of the Diocese of Witbank, almost all the Mccj in South Africa, Fr. Tesfaye Tadesse Gebresilasie, the Comboni Assistant General responsible for English Speaking Africa and Mozambique, Fr. Jeremias dos Santos Martins, the provincial superior of the Mccj in South Africa and all the other Mccj provincial and delegates superiors of English speaking Africa and Mozambique. Religious sisters of many Institutes were also present. An official delegation of three priests from the home Archdiocese of Fr. Sandri, Trento, was also present, together with the family of Fr. Sandri’s brother. The main consecrator was the Archbishop of Johannesburg, His Grace Buti Tlhagale, OMI, assited by Bishop Hugh Patrick Slattery of Tzaneen and Bishop Mogale Paul Nkhumishe of Polokwane and a former bishop of Witbank. His eminence Cardinal Wilfrid Napier OFM of Durban delivered a challenging homily. The ceremony, in spite of the people having to seat in the hot sun for 4 hours, was a truly memorable celebration, where everyone actively participated, danced and joined in the songs led by a local choirs and one from South Tyrol. The Pope’s Bull of election, read by Mrg. Eloy Alberto Santiago y Santiago, was received with a great applause. A moving moment was when all the bishops present laid hands of the newly elected bishop and, again, when after the consecration they shared with him the sign of peace. When the main consecrator presented the new bishop to the faithful, he was greeted with a thunderous applause. The priests of the Diocese then pledged their loyalty and obedience to their new bishop and exchanged with him the embrace of peace. Warmly welcomed were the letters of congratulations and good wishes from Fr. Enrique Sánchez González, the Superior General of the Comboni Missionaries, and from the Archbishop of Trento. People listen patiently and attentively to brief speeches by Archbishop Bute Thecae, Fr. Jeremias dos Santos Martins and Mgr. Lauro Tisi of Trento. Fr. Vusimusi Magagula, in the name of all the priests in the Diocese, welcomed in a stirring way the new bishop. Gifts then were joyfully brought to Mgr. Sandri by all the representatives of the parishes in the Diocese and by many of those present. Mgr. Sandri then thanked everyone and all who organized such a memorable celebration, remembering also the many Comboni Missionaries who worked and died in the Diocese. The day finished by a convivial meal provided for all the participants.
The Diocese of Witbank has now a new pastor and the Institute, once a gain, extends its congratulations and best wishes to Mgr. Sandri.