Photo Credit: Julian Goldswain
The Archbishop of Cape Town, Thabo Makgoba, has been installed as Prior of the Order of St John in South Africa, by Prince Richard, the Duke of Gloucester, a grandson of King George V. The Order is a royal order of chivalry with historical roots to the first Crusade in 1099. It provided hospitality for the many pilgrimages arriving in Jerusalem. In its present form, it was constituted through a royal charter by Queen Victoria in 1888. It still has a presence in Jerusalem, through its eye hospital. It is also present throughout the Commonwealth of Nations, as well as the US, Hong Kong, and the Republic of Ireland. Its mission is “to prevent and relieve sickness and injury, and to act to enhance the health and well-being of people anywhere in the world”; and has around 25,000 members, throughout the world.
Within the Order, the Prior is the title given to regional leaders in the Priories of England and The Islands, Wales, Scotland, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, the United States, Kenya and Singapore. Queen Elizabeth II is the Sovereign Head of the Order and Prince Richard is the Grand Prior. He travelled to South Africa for the investiture, which was held on Friday (16 March) at Christ Church Constantia in Cape Town. At the same ceremony, Archbishop Thabo was invested as a Knight of Justice of the Order, committing himself to the care of the sick and injured in line with the mottoes of the Order “For the Faith’” and “in service of humanity” – Pro Fide and Pro Utilitate Hominum. Both appointments were personally sanctioned by the Queen.
The ceremony incorporates hundreds of years of tradition, displaying the processional symbols of the Cross of the Order, the Sword and numerous colourful banners. The ceremony had a distinctly South African flavour with volunteer St John Community Health Workers – typically known for taking health care services to young and old in communities such as Nyanga and Gugulethu – singing for the new Prior.
Volunteer members of the local St John Brigade, which provides emergency care services across the country, also played a role in the ceremony, leading processions and forming a guard of honour for the new Prior and assembled guests.
Archbishop Thabo succeeds Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu as Prior, who served as Prior from 2012 to 2017.
Within South Africa, the Order of St John has been active for more than 130 years. In its last financial year, it providing first aid training for over 16,000 people. Its 274 community health volunteers provided near 101,000 nursing and home visits in the past year, and treated more than 9,829 first aid cases. It operates 12 eye care clinics in major cities and towns throughout South Africa, providing professional eye testing and spectacle dispensing to underprivileged members of the community who are unable to afford commercial rates.