Mother of Mercy Shrine in the Archdiocese of Johannesburg in South Africa. (Credit: Mother of Mercy Shrine.)

YAOUNDÉ, Cameroon – Back in 2016, Archbishop Buti Tlhagale of Johannesburg revealed a visionary blueprint: The creation of a shrine devoted to Our Lady, the Mother of Mercy. Now, as it officially opened its doors on April 27, 2024, during a year designated as the Year of Prayer by Pope Francis, Magaliesburg Marian Shrine stands as a powerful symbol.

This hallowed ground addresses the pressing needs of evangelization, pushing back against a society that often elevates material prosperity above the core Gospel tenets of repentance, confession, and the life-transforming grace of Divine Mercy

“A shrine is relevant to the prevailing demands of evangelization, “said Father Stan Muyebe, Director at Justice and peace Commission for Catholic Bishops Southern Africa.

“We have a society that now over-emphasizes the gospel of prosperity and gives little regard to the Gospel message of repentance, sacrament of confession and the return to the power of Divine Mercy as a path to eternal life,” he told Crux.

“I therefore feel the shrine of our Lady of Mercy is a reminder to the local church and our society that we need to return to the grace of Divine Mercy and our Lady has made herself available to accompany us in this journey of return to Divine Mercy, “he said. “The Shrine shall be for the local church a site for deepening our reconciliation with God through the intercession of our Lady.”

Muyebe told Crux that the Our Lady of Mercy’s shrine stands as “a poignant reminder to both the local church and society at large- it beckons us to return to the wellspring of Divine Mercy, inviting us on a transformative journey. Through her intercession, we seek reconciliation with God, deepening our spiritual connection.”

“As Pope Francis designates 2024 as the Year of Prayer, the Mother of Mercy Shrine is poised to become a hallowed school of prayer, nurturing souls not only this year but for generations to come,” the priest said.

The Shrine was officially opened April 27 – which is the date 30 years ago when the country held their first democratic election and announced the official end to racial discrimination.

Among those present was notable anti-apartheid activist Sophia Theresa Williams-de Bruyn. Like thousands of other Catholics who turned out at the Magaliesburg Marian Shrine, she felt it was her “bound duty “to be there.

“Because I am Catholic, it made me really delighted to be part of the opening of the Shrine. I was really excited to come and be a part of such an important occasion, and also it is in the month of Easter. It is all of that together with my own faith that I felt that it is my duty to come and to be inspired by the Shrine of The Blessed Mary, mother of God,” she said.

She said she was duty bound to be there because it is Mary who will intercede for her so Christ can forgive her sins.

Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma – South Africa’s Minister in the Presidency for Women, Youth, and People with Disabilities – decided to spend her Freedom Day at the Shrine.

“The Shrine is going to be a place where you come and find peace, where you can come and pray, where you can come and link yourself with the Lord,” she said.

Addressing the thousands of pilgrims who turned out for the event, Tlhagale declared that the Shrine would evolve into a sacred space for reconciliation where pilgrims can bask in the “unconditional love” bestowed by Mother Mary.

“For many of us who will make it a habit to visit this Shrine of Magaliesburg, the purpose will be to experience a heavenly mother’s unconditional love again – even if we ourselves are old and our earthly mothers are elsewhere,” the archbishop said.

Tlhagale envisions the shrine as a welcoming refuge, shielding souls from a world marred by discrimination, hatred, and jealousy—a world where human hearts often grow cold.

In the wake of Pope Francis’s proclamation of 2024 as the Year of Prayer, the Magaliesburg Marian Shrine assumes even greater significance. The pope emphasized that during this year, each diocese should erect a tangible symbol—a perpetual reminder of divine mercy.

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