Why is the SSPX in Africa?
The Remnant's Interview
of Fr. Loïc
SSPX District Superior for Africa
Fr. Loic Duverger gave a
comprehensive interview to columnist
Brian McCall of The Remnant newspaper about the extent
of the SSPX's missionary work on the
African continent. This article will be published in
the forthcoming issue of The Remnant, who we thank for
kindly allowing us to publish in advance on our website.
thanks also to Mr. McCall for granting the Society of St. Pius
X the opportunity to speak at such length about its apostolic
to the Interview
by Brian McCall
2010, Pope Benedict XVI established a Pontifical Council for the
New Evangelization. As the auto-demolition of the Church continues
and the Church bleeds members from all sides, even the Vatican
recognizes something must be done. A New Evangelization has been
called for repeatedly by John Paul II and Benedict XVI. Yet, the
ever “new” methods embraced by Vatican II and its apologists never
seem to produce the hoped for results. So yet another new-fangled
gimmick must be tried. Meanwhile conversions dwindle to a trickle
and abandonment of the Faith increases to a tsunami. In the “old”
days, the New Evangelization was simply called missionary work,
the missionary work commissioned by Our Lord when he sent His
Church to “teach all nations.” That “old” Evangelization converted
continents and built civilizations. My instinct told me we are not
likely to find much advice on restoring that missionary zeal from
a Vatican bureaucracy conducting studies and writing papers on how
to jump start a “new” evangelization based on the “new” (now
tired) ideas of Vatican II. So I decided to talk to someone out in
the trenches living the “old” evangelization, the one that worked
for two thousand years. I, therefore, contacted Fr. Loïc Duverger,
superior of the African district of the Society of St. Pius X.
Lefebvre with Bishop Francois Ndong (+1989), the first
native Gabonese bishop. The Archbishop consecrated him in
1961 an auxiliary bishop for the diocese of Libreville,
Gabon; later he became the ordinary of the Oyem diocese.
stated he saw in Archbishop Lefebvre "the model priest"
and his friendship and devotion to him never ceased. In
1986 he pleaded with his mentor: "Send us priests, we
need holy priests. Here in Gabon, there aren't any."
Although the name of
Archbishop Lefebvre is today mostly
associated with the crisis of the
Council and his defense of
Tradition, the Archbishop spent thirty years before this
tumultuous Council toiling in the missionary vineyard of Africa.
This interview was conducted over the month of March and thus
transpired over the twentieth anniversary of the death of
Archbishop Lefebvre (March 25, 1991).
It is clear that Archbishop Lefebvre’s love for saving souls and for the African missions is
alive and thriving in his successor in Africa, Fr. Loic Duverger.
Father’s wisdom, hope, and sanctity shine clearly through this
interview and provide a clear argument for the restoration of
the “old” evangelization and its fruitful harvest. Perhaps the
Holy Fr. should consider establishing a Pontifical Council for
the Old Evangelization. If so, Fr. Loic Duverger, should be appointed its head.
you, Father, for agreeing to this interview. I am certain you are
very busy with your Apostolate. I appreciate the significant time
you have devoted to answering my questions.
the Society’s activities in Africa begun? Who initiated the work?
Was it Archbishop Lefebvre himself?
apostolate of the Society began in the early 1980s, when
Archbishop Lefebvre came to South Africa to encourage the faithful
who were resisting the crisis in the Church. But it was only in
1985 that the first priory was opened in Roodeport near
Johannesburg in South Africa. Then in 1986 we opened priories in
Zimbabwe and Gabon—for which we are celebrating the 25th
anniversary this year.
Lefebvre followed these foundations closely, but he paid special
attention to the mission in Gabon—the place where he himself began
his missionary life in 1932. He made an important journey there in
1985 to prepare the foundation of the mission. On that occasion he
met with the head of state, President Omar Bongo, several bishops
and key figures of the country, his former students from the
seminary and from the missions of Donguila, Kango and Lambarene.
Through his letters to Fr. Patrick Groche, founder of the St. Pius
X mission, he generously gave much advice as a former missionary
and demonstrated the care with which he followed the development
of this priory. He returned there one year before his death and
was very happy to see the magnificent development of this
Q. How many
priests do you currently have in the district in Africa?
A. Today 21
priests, 4 brothers, 5 sisters, and 2 oblates exercise their
apostolates in the 8 houses the Society possesses in Africa.
Q. How many
priories (permanent houses with a community of priests living a
common religious life) or other religious houses have been
established in Africa and in which countries are they located?
A. In South
Africa we have 3 houses (2 priories and a district house) which
serve 7 chapels. In Gabon we possess one priory and one school.
Kenya is rich with a priory and, very recently, a novitiate of
religious destined for the missions, the Missionary Sisters of
Jesus and Mary. Zimbabwe is the fourth country in which we have a
click images to
Lefebvre with Bishop Ndong visiting Gabonese
faithful in 1984
From left to
right, two SSPX missionary priests in Africa:
Frs. Obih and Martin de Clauzonne
mission church at Lavington, Nairobi in Kenya
but elegant interior
priests are not content with these countries. They are
spreading out elsewhere where the faithful call them asking
for the true Mass and the true Sacraments. Through missionary
travels that are more or less long and frequent, they support
groups of the faithful in Nigeria, Uganda, Zambia, Namibia,
Cameroon, Tanzania, Burundi, and Ghana, as well as in the
islands of Madagascar, Reunion, and Maurice.
Between those where we are based and those
where we visit, in total the Society is present in fifteen
countries in Africa. Nigeria and Uganda are the two countries
where we regularly visit which are the most developed. In Nigeria,
Fr. Obih, a priest who was formerly an Augustinian religious,
joined the Society a few years ago. He is preparing to come to the
Society here and will criss-cross the most populated countries of
Africa (150 million inhabitants). In Uganda, one of the faithful
who had been calling the Society for a long time has built a
chapel in her home and brought together Catholics who want to
preserve and strengthen their faith through prayer and good
sacraments. Our confreres in Kenya come there every month to
celebrate the Mass.
confreres understand this well and do everything in their power to
respect this golden rule of apostolic effectiveness that is life
in community. But we must also respond to the needs of the
faithful, hence the necessity of going to the missions—never for
too long—then coming back again to the priory so as to recharge
our physical and spiritual strength. The ideal would be that the
missions would be able to support several [priests], so as to
nurture the community life. For the moment, that is not possible.
Q. What is
the nature of the Society’s relations with the governments of the
countries in which it operates in Africa? Are they friendly or
we come into Africa, we try very hard to establish good relations
with the civil authorities―first in respecting the administrative
steps necessary for us to settle in and then in turning to our
work of the sanctification of the faithful. If they have had any
fears, the civil authorities rapidly perceive that our actions are
peaceful and beneficial. In Africa, as opposed to Europe, reality
often overrides ideology.
priest, in cassock, is respected. He rarely encounters hostility.
He often engages in conversations on religious subjects in the
offices of the administration. For example, this last Christmas, I
accompanied a priest from the school at Libreville to the mayor’s
office to ask that the police take charge of keeping order in the
street which leads to the school. The deputy mayor was absent, so
we discussed it with the secretaries and the conversation was
concluded. Then the secretaries, remembering the Christmases of
their childhood, started to sing at the top of their lungs,
bringing together little by little the other secretaries on the
floor. Another time, at the end of a meeting held near the person
responsible for the lots of the town in South Africa, the official
asked for the blessing of the priest and the recitation of a
prayer. So I gave the blessing and we recited the Pater Noster
in his office.
countries, there remain difficulties in obtaining authorization
for long term visas. These are long, very long bureaucratic
processes which have the impressive ability to teach patience,
kindness, courtesy, and, in a word, “self-control.” As we say
here: it is not unusual to find that after long hours waiting, the
person behind the counter returns to tell you that he lacks a
paper, or that your dossier is lost, or that closing time has
arrived. This is not hostility toward us—everyone goes through the
That is how
it is. That is Africa: the good school of patience!
about the diocesan bishops? Do you find them as hostile to the
Society as in Europe (in France, for example)?
relations with the dioceses are very much dependent on the bishop.
We have neither very frequent nor very close relations, but on
certain occasions we have been able to observe much goodwill from
them. For example, the bishop of Johannesburg permitted us to
venerate the remarkable relics of St. Theresa of the Child Jesus
at the Priory of Roodesport. This made for a beautiful day of
celebration, a source of grace, at of the beginning the priests’
retreat in October 2010. The bishop of Nairobi, Kenya gave his
written agreement for the installation of the Society in the
country—an authorization that is indispensable towards obtaining
an agreement with the government to open priories. Of further note
is the always amiable reception by the bishop of Oyem, Gabon. When
we made a stopover at his place while going to Cameroon, he
invited us to eat with him. The last time we were there we ate
lunch with the priests of the diocese who had come for a work
bishops and priests see well that we do serious work; that we are
fully Catholic. Of course, most do not understand our attitude, do
not know the true reasons for our resistance and our combat. They
are often very modern and filled with the false ideas spread
throughout the Church today, but rarely do we encounter open
Q. Do you
have any general observations on the state of the Church in Africa
at this time?
In fact, it
seems that in certain countries the conciliar reforms were put in
place slowly— such as in Nigeria where Communion in the hand was
not permitted until 2008.
seminaries appear to be full, but who knows what kind of formation
their future priests are receiving? A conciliar formation with its
teaching of all the errors that we are fighting? I very much fear
that tomorrow, the same causes will produce the same effects. As
has happened in Europe, the modernism taught by the badly formed
priests will drain the churches in Africa. One can make the
observation that the younger generations formed in this modernist
doctrine and perverted by materialism will lose their sense of God
little by little, desert the churches, and give in to all the
vices and artificial paradises that modern society proposes.
Q. Is the
Society’s work in Africa primarily bringing the Traditional Faith
and Sacraments to Catholics or missionary activity to
A. Our work
is multifaceted. It is addressed primarily to the Catholics who
have appealed to us, then, naturally, the souls coming to us. In
Kenya, one of the catechumens is the caretaker hired by the
Fathers to look after the mission, another arrived one day at the
church and asked to be baptized immediately, a third was brought
by a friend.... The Lord’s ways are many. In Gabon, we
administered nearly 6,000 baptisms over 25 years—from little
newborn babies to an old man on his deathbed in his plank board
house. He was an animist, then a Muslim. Several weeks before his
death, he had the grace to meet one of the faithful of the mission
and then after a few short catechetical lessons, the priest
baptized him and prepared him to die a Christian.
without doubt one of the great consolations of a missionary to see
how the Good Lord attracts souls of good will, leads them little
by little along the road to salvation, and permits them to
encounter a priest who goes on to conduct them to the doors of the
Church and make them become children of God through baptism.
But it is
also an occasion of great suffering to see certain ones who, after
having traversed so many difficulties and going over so many
obstacles so as to be regenerated by the waters of baptism, later
are taken by passions and temptations and who then incrementally
abandon the Christian life that they had begun with such great
Q. What are
the biggest challenges facing the Society’s work in Africa?
A. Africa is
an immense territory (3.3 times the area of the United States)
with a billion people. Unfortunately, there are only 145-150
million Catholics. One person in three is Moslem. Islam progresses
in the countries which do not know it, as in Gabon. (Islam arrived
there in the 1960s.) To this relentless enemy of Catholicism may
be added a strong push by the evangelical sects, often financed by
foreigners, who draw from the Catholic Church large numbers of the
faithful. To wit, an immense crowd that lies in the shadow of
“challenge” is laid before us. We must fight and give ourselves
entirely to our task so as to conquer this continent for Our
Savior. Jesus Christ must reign in the hearts of Africans. He must
reign in society. This is the condition for peace and prosperity.
For those who follow the news of this immense continent, it is
frightening to see how war and revolution reign almost everywhere;
how the moral corruption of the elite destroy the economic life;
how the most destitute suffer as victims of this disorder. If the
governments submitted to Our Savior and respected His
commandments, these magnificent countries which are overflowing
with riches, would become veritable havens of peace and wellbeing.
give way to despair—wanting to change the world, to convert all
these people. Is it not a ridiculous illusion, an insane idealism?
Is it not better to be content with our chapels, our priories, our
several thousands of faithful?
attitude is not Catholic. If the Apostles had held to such
reasoning, St. Thomas would never have gone deeply into India, and
today we would not be baptized!
We have the
grace of God which is all powerful and able to make sons of Israel
out of rocks. Even more so is it able to do such with men deceived
by false religions. We know our limits and that of ourselves we
can do nothing. But greater numbers of priests increase the good
that is accomplished. It is in this way that the intuition of our
venerable founder is so brilliant: to lead the crowds to Jesus
Christ, there must be priests who are sanctified by the Mass of
all time and always more of these priests from the four corners of
Think of all
the young men who will read this!
precise, the “challenge” of the Society of St. Pius X in Africa is
to form priests, to search for vocations, to make them grow, and
to lead these young men to the priesthood, to encourage an
increasingly growing number of priests to join us in this crusade
for the triumph of Our Lord, and to support those few rare priests
who remain faithful to the Mass of All Times.
Q. You mention vocations. Are the
fruits of your priests’ efforts bearing the fruit of new vocations
from the native population?
A. Before experiencing the joy of seeing every place being
developed, we must occupy ourselves with the vocations which are
asking to enter into the Society. The priesthood and all that
touches the priesthood remains the primary purpose of the Society.
One of our grand projects is the opening of a pre-seminary as a
place to receive candidates for the priesthood or the religious
life. This house will allow the young men selected by our priests
to study for their vocation, to receive a doctrinal formation, and
to learn the rudiments of Latin so as to more easily follow their
studies in the seminary. This is the necessary preliminary step
before opening a major seminary of the Society in Africa. We are
convinced that, in the face of the immense needs of the
apostolate, in order to present Africa to Our Lord Jesus Christ,
there must be African priests, African brothers, and African
religious. Today, we are not able to reach this objective without
the aid of “old Christianity.” The needs of the faithful are so
considerable and the vocations are so few that each country would
like to look after its own. Every year of his presence in Africa,
Archbishop Lefebvre worked on the formation of an African clergy.
He ordained priests and bishops and gave rise to African religious
as an acolyte during
a baptism in Libreville
event: the baptism
of four children from the same Gabonese family
adults in Nigeria
the same always
Here a lay catechist teaches
some children in Kenya
Faith can be fun as demonstrated by these boys
enjoying their coloring lesson
assistance of a
translator, the catechism is
taught to some youth
Bochkoltz teaching the Catholic Faith to children in a
a religion lesson with a pictorial aid
The Mass of
and for all nations
one of the SSPX's
could Remnant readers do to help support your work in
A. First, I
thank you for the honor you have given me in permitting me to
present the Priestly Society of St. Pius X in Africa to your
newspaper and I thank the readers of The Remnant for the
attention they have given to our interview. Next, I would like to
say that I know that they are already assailed by requests from
all the other works they support and by the fight for the triumph
of the Catholic Church in their own countries. I have a simple
request—that they in charity not forget the regions of the world
that are more neglected and more miserable and to pray for the
priests who work there to spread the reign of Our Lord Jesus
Christ, the only principle of peace.
if they are able to help us materially through their alms and
gifts, that would be wonderful.
Yes: this is a real
1 billion dollar note from the Zimbabwe bank,
which testifies to the severe inflation rate and poverty in this
that is our heart’s desire is the construction of a pre-seminary
which could also serve as a novitiate for the brothers. We have 16
acres of land outside of Libreville that is mostly cleared. The
roads have been laid out, a well has been dug, and electrical
lines have been brought in. We only lack $700,000, an amount which
would permit the construction of the house of formation for about
twenty young men. If St. Joseph could find us this amount through
the hands of some benefactors, that would be marvelous!
Be that as
it may, we express our gratitude to all who are able to bring
their little brick to this project. We pray a Rosary everyday for
their intentions. The Good Lord alone will know and repay them a
You can help
the SSPX's work in Africa:
for its temporal needs!
Or by check or money order:
Society of Saint Pius X
Regina Coeli House
11485 N. Farley Road
Platte City, MO 64079
Please mark on the check's memo line:
Thank you for your generosity and God bless.
Contributions to the SSPX are tax deductible and are recognized as such under
the IRS Code.
congregating at the SSPX's priory in Zimbabwe.
The prior, Fr. Nicolas Bely, is on the left.
Archbishop Lefebvre was the originator of the great encyclical of
Pope Pius XII, Fidei Donum (April 21, 1957), calling the
priests of old Christianity to come spend several years in Africa
so as to help in person with the magnificent development of this
young Christianity. From 1957 to 1981 nearly 950 French priests
responded to the appeal of the encyclical.