In collaboration with the Denis Hurley Centre, the Local History Museums has installed a new permanent exhibition on the life and career of Archbishop Denis Hurley at the centre named in his honour alongside the Emmanuel Cathedral. The exhibition will be officially opened to the public on 11 February 2017, as part of annual commemorations of the archbishop’s death which occurred on 13 February 2004. The exhibition also forms part of the Liberation Heritage Route project currently being implemented by the Local History Museums of eThekwini Municipality. The presentation provides background information on the towering figure of Hurley, who was not only leader of the Roman Catholic community of Durban for several decades, but also vocally opposed the policies of apartheid and used his position to call for social justice in South Africa.

The exhibition, which is entitled “Denis Hurley: The Guardian of the Light” has been created around seven thematic topics which illustrate some of the important ways in which Hurley contributed to the life of his church in the city, as well as the anti-apartheid struggle. On 19 March 1947 Hurley was consecrated as bishop in Durban’s cathedral aged only 31, making him the youngest bishop of the Catholic Church at that time. Themes in the exhibition include a focus on his decades-long association with Emmanuel Cathedral, and where he was buried in 2004, to the way in which he reached out to leaders of other faiths at a time when this was frowned upon by the Catholic hierarchy and the simple expression of social justice he phrased as “community serving humanity.” During the 1960s Hurley also participated actively in the Second Vatican Council, where he made a number of important speeches and drafted some of the documents that defined that very significant event in church history.

Panel Vatican II English liturgy

The large colourful panels of the exhibition are illustrated with iconic images from the various stages of Hurley’s career. The archbishop’s long life is also documented in a timeline that starts with his childhood on Robben Island, where his father was the lighthouse keeper, until his final years as parish priest at the Cathedral. In addition to the text and images contained on the seven exhibition panels, a number of personal items belonging to Archbishop Hurley have been donated to the Centre for use in the exhibition, and are displayed as part of the installation. The legacy of Hurley’s calls for social justice and his personal contribution as an activist are continued in the work of the Denis Hurley Centre, which places a strong emphasis on inter-church and inter-faith cooperation in the work of community development.

The exhibition opening will take place during the Annual General Meeting of the Denis Hurley Centre at 14h00 on Saturday 11 February 2017, and anyone who would like to attend should request an invitation from Steven Kotze at the Local History Museums by writing to him at the following email address: steven.kotze@durban.gov.za

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