1. Right in the centre of the shield, the crest is dominated by the ‘Diaz cross’ or Padrao. It represents the earliest known contact of Christianity with this Southern part of Africa. It recalls the Portuguese explorer Bartholomew Diaz who landed just east of Algoa Bay at Kwaaihoek in March 1488 and planted the Padrao cross on African soil in honour of the Christian faith. The 1st Mass may have been celebrated as well.
2. In the upper left-hand quarter (as we look at it on the page) is the Star of the Sea representing the Blessed Virgin Mary, the principal Patroness of the Diocese, invoked under the title of ‘Our Lady of the Flight into Egypt’ which is traditionally celebrated every year in February. We pay homage to God and honour the memory of many missionaries who came on our beautiful sea shores to bring Christ to local people and joy of the Gospel.
3. In the left-hand quarter below is a setting of an African home along the coast, surrounded by hills and green pastures, with a wide country road leading straight home. The home represents African values of family, such as, love, joy, celebration, compassion, respect, inter-generational solidarity, hospitality, warmth, identity, belonging, reconciliation etc. encapsulated in the belief system of “Ubuntu” (‘humane-ness’). A home is a sacred place where our first encounter with God is realized in the heart of the family. The Catholic Church sees itself as ‘Family of God in Africa’ where people of different languages and cultures are made to ‘feel at home’.
4. In the right-hand quarter below is a golden harp representative of the faith of the Irish missionaries who came to our land, Diocesan and Religious, as well as male and female. Their spiritual, human and material contribution in the life of the local Church is immense. It is by no coincidence that the second Patron of the Diocese after the Blessed Virgin Mary is St Patrick. They are a constant reminder that the Church is by nature missionary, that is the purpose for which it was founded and the reason for which it continues to exist. It is here to evangelise.
5. In the upper right-hand quarter is a Bishop’s golden staff, the crosier, recalling his principal ministry as shepherd. He must know his sheep so well that he “has the smell of their odour” as Pope Francis said on one occasion. The open book represents the Word of God, which is the source of life and the highest authority of the Church and the diocese.
6. All these old and new Christian traditions and symbols representing the rich cultural and linguistic diversity of the territory of the Diocese find their meaning, integration and unity in the life of God revealed by Jesus as the Divine Family of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. The interwoven ‘Celtic rings’ in the centre of the crest represent the Most Holy Trinity, the founding principle of our Christian faith.
7. The Bishop’s motto: “ut unum sint” (Latin), “may they be one in us” (English), “eenwees in ons” (Afrikaans) and “mababe banye kuthi” (Xhosa), is taken from what has become known as the priestly prayer of Jesus recorded in the Gospel of John Chapter 17 verse 21. Jesus is filled and moved by the Holy Spirit and prays to God the Father for the unity of his disciples and all believers. The Bishop was informed of his pending appointment by the Holy Father during the last week of praying for Christian unity on the 22nd of January. It was officially made public on the 2nd of February, Feast of the Presentation of the Lord in the Temple in Jerusalem.
8. The crest was designed by ‘Design at Bay’, and presented as a gift to the new Bishop and to the Catholic Diocese of Port Elizabeth by Mrs Dipti Varghese, her family and their dedicated staff. The Bishop and the Diocese extend their most sincere gratitude to Mrs Varghese, the family and to the artists for this inspiring masterpiece.
Mary is honoured as the Chief Patron of our Diocese of Port Elizabeth. In accordance with the official liturgical Pastoral Guide it is therefore elevated to a solemnity (big feast) for the local church and celebrated on the Sunday that occurs on 4th February or between the 4th and 10th February each year.