This web site is a memorial to those individuals who were passionate about the reform of the
Roman Catholic liturgy as set forth in Sacrosanctum Concilium (the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy)
and who now, in eternal life, worship the God whom they served in this life.

Denis Eugene Hurley

Denis Eugene Hurley
Nov. 9, 1915 – Feb. 13, 2004

Denis Hurley was born in Cape Town, the son of a deeply religious Irish mother. For four years he lived on Robben Island, where his father was a lighthouse keeper, thus preceding the national leaders imprisoned there, as he was later able to joke with Nelson Mandela.

He was educated at St Charles College, Pietermaritzburg, before going to Ireland as a novice in the missionary order of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate (OMI). Continuing his studies in Rome, Hurley graduated in theology at the Gregorian College, where he was ordained in 1939. According to his biographer, Paddy Kearney, his encounters in Rome with brilliant black students opened Hurley's eyes to the typical white South African attitudes with which he had grown up.

Returning to South Africa, he was assigned to the Emmanuel Cathedral in Durban. At the age of 31 he was appointed bishop, and thus the youngest Catholic bishop in the world. His declaration at his ordination that "where the spirit is, there is liberty" made his sympathies unmistakable.

In 1951, his colleagues made him chairman of the Southern African Catholic Bishops' Conference. In the following year he drafted the first of the ground-breaking pastoral letters in which the bishops denounced the apartheid policy as "blasphemy" and "intrinsically evil". The bishops' teaching was not universally well received by white South African Catholics, but black people saw the pastoral letters as a sign of hope that white attitudes could be changed.

Hurley, who was revered by Zulu Christians, became a leading figure among those who were standing up against the apartheid ideology. Heading the South African Institute of Race Relations in 1965-66, he delivered a magisterial series of presidential addresses to it, urging whites to break out of their self-imposed isolation.

Always seeking to lead by actions as well as words, he went to the scene of apartheid removal schemes, offering moral support to the communities whose homes had fallen under the hammer of the Group Areas Act of 1950 for living in the "wrong" area.

When individuals were under threat, a visit from the archbishop meant a great deal, as did his tall, strongly built presence at protest marches and demonstrations, and at the court appearances of people charged under the myriad laws aimed at silencing the dissent.

Hurley was himself arrested in October 1984 and charged with "telling lies" and defaming the police when he exposed the barbaric activities of the Koevoet security squads in Namibia, but the prosecutor withdrew the charges the following February when it appeared likely 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.

After retiring as archbishop in 1992, Hurley became chancellor of the University of Natal, now part of the University of KwaZulu-Natal, from 1993 to 1998. He continued to work as a priest well into his eighties, looking after the inner-city poor of the Emmanuel Cathedral parish in Durban, and living in a humble house next to the cathedral.

Tribute prepared by The Guardian.