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UKZN Press

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New Biography of Archbishop Denis Hurley: Guardian of the Light

Guardian of the LightComing this June from UKZN Press

Denis Hurley was a courageous opponent of South Africa’s apartheid regime for 50 years, dubbed “an ecclesiastical Che Guevara” by a South African official and “guardian of the light” by Alan Paton. He was a champion of the reforms and “spirit” of Vatican II, who was controversial  for his views on birth control, married priests, and women’s ordination.

In short, Archbishop Hurley was one of our greatest South Africans. This biography – Guardian of the Light by Paddy Kearney, reveals what gave him that stature: his integrity, fearlessness, gentleness of spirit and his magnanimity.

Born in Cape Town in 1915 of Irish parents, Hurley became the youngest Catholic bishop in the world in 1947 at 31 and archbishop of Durban in 1952. He retired as archbishop in 1992, becoming chancellor of the University of Natal from 1993 to 1998. He continued to work as a parish priest well into his eighties. His career as an outspoken opponent of apartheid began in 1951 when, as chairman of the Southern African Bishops’ Conference, he drafted the first of the ground-breaking pastoral letters in which the bishops denounced apartheid as “blasphemy” and “intrinsically evil.” Eventually, along with four other church leaders (including Desmond Tutu), he was regarded as one of the South African state’s “most wanted” political opponents. He was arrested in 1984 and accused of “telling lies,” but the prosecutor dropped the charges when it became clear that Hurley would be able to prove the truth of his statements. He received many death threats and on one occasion his house was petrol bombed.

Guardian of the Light is a must read for all of us.”
– Desmond Tutu

“Denis Hurley’s father was a lighthouse keeper, the guardian of the light that warns the sailors of dangers and guides them away from destruction. Our Archbishop has been doing this work of warning and guiding for the greater part of his life. And he has done it with great faithfulness.”

– Alan Paton, author of Cry, the Beloved Country, on the occasion of the archbishop’s 70th birthday celebration.

“This book not only provides a glimpse into South African history during the apartheid years but a vivid, poignant story of a powerful yet humble man of God, committed to truth, justice and nonracialism. It should be read by every South African and many others too around the world, in order to understand our role as part of the human family.”

- Ela Gandhi, Granddaughter of Mahatma Gandhi, Chancellor of the Durban University of Technology

“Denis Hurley was an inspiration. This champion in the fight against apartheid in South Africa was a bishop ahead of many of his people. Paddy Kearney is well placed to tell the inside story. His book throws fresh light on the life and career of a great churchman.”

-John Wilkins, Editor, The Tablet, 1982-2003

“Archbishop Denis Hurley’s life, a life of immense courage, deep spirituality and prophetic leadership, deserves to be more widely known not only in South Africa, but throughout the world.”

-Albert Nolan, O.P., author of God in South Africa.

About the author

Paddy Kearney was born in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa, in 1942 where he went to school at St Charles’s Marist College. He has Bachelors degrees in Arts (Natal University) and Education (Witwatersrand University) and a Masters Degree in Education from Toledo, Ohio where he had a Fulbright Scholarship. He taught in secondary schools in Durban and Johannesburg and lectured in Education at Natal University. From 1976 to 2004 he headed the staff team at Diakonia, an ecumenical social justice agency founded by Archbishop Denis Hurley to help Durban churches respond to the socio-political challenges of the area. He is at present a consultant to the KwaZulu-Natal Christian Council.

“Chronicling a towering life that shaped earthshaking events in church (Vatican II and its aftermath) and state (apartheid in South Africa), this book informs and inspires. The keenness of Archbishop Hurley’s mind was matched only by the greatness of his heart, the humor of his wit, the twinkling of his eye, the courage of his soul. For those who knew him, this text carefully fills in gaps in his story with documentation and personal interviews. For those who did not, a treat awaits as they meet this fascinating ‘lighthouse’ person of faith.”

- Elizabeth Johnson, Distinguished Professor of Theology, Fordham University

Book details


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