ESARBICA Journal: Journal of the Eastern and Southern Africa Regional Branch of the International Council on Archives

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The archives of the Catholic Church in South Africa

Philippe Denis


Roman Catholics have been present on the South African soil since the early 16th century and they have performed public worship since 1805. Today the Catholic Church is implanted throughout the country. Records documenting the activities of the church are kept in diocesan chanceries, religious congregations, university libraries and national and provincial archives repositories. This paper pursues two aims. The first is to give an overview of the Catholic archives currently available to researchers. Special attention will be given to the provenance of the records and their location.  The second aim of the paper is to assess the policies governing archival management in the Catholic Church of South Africa and make recommendations on how to respond to the challenges Catholic archivists are facing. The paper argues that the dioceses and religious congregations would gain from entering into an agreement with university libraries, following the example of the Anglican, Methodist, Presbyterian and Congregational churches, for the preservation, cataloguing and public display of their archival collections. Alternatively, it may explore the idea of establishing one or several professionally managed central Catholic archives repositories.

AJOL African Journals Online