Council of Churches pays tribute to priest Albert Nolan, who warned about excessive wealth

22 October 2022 - 16:00
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Albert Nolan.
Albert Nolan.
Image: Supplied

Stalwart priest and social justice activist Albert Nolan has died, the South African Council of Churches said on Saturday. Nolan, who was 88, was an outspoken critic of structural inequality in South Africa who advocated for a more caring society. 

SACC general secretary Bishop Malusi Mpumlwana paid tribute to Nolan as “a giant of radical love and radical freedom”. 

“Nolan leaves us with a stern warning on the effects of the social and economic inequalities of our society,” Mpumlwana said.

Nolan wrote: “There are no limits to what any one person or corporation can accumulate while others have nothing and are starving to death. The system is so structured that one person can legally own a thousand times more than he or she will ever need, while it is illegal for a poor person to steal a loaf of bread. That is unjust — structurally unjust.”

“He has left us a challenge to recognise unjust structures for what they are and to change them, because, in his words, 'social justice work today is structural change', where the existing and dominant 'structures of sin' are replaced with the 'cultures and structures of the common good', where the common good is the 'opposite of the unjust pursuit of selfish ends'. The pursuit of 'what is best for everyone rather than what is perceived to be best for the individual or the few',” Mpumlwana said.  

He said the SACC would honour Nolan’s contribution by calling for an alternative economic architecture “that will deliberately and persistently include into the productive economy, the excluded majority of South Africans”.

“An economic transformation in response to Albert Nolan, that will deliberately and systematically enhance human dignity and the quality of life, by preserving not only the environmental sustainability of our planet, but also by enabling the participation in the productive economy, of poor citizens and the disadvantaged majority, with a process that progressively engenders wealth redistribution,” Mpumlwana said.

According to Wikipedia, Nolan is well-known for his book, Jesus Before Christianity, first published in 1972. It has sold more than 150,000 copies.  


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