"There have been rumors in various sections of our community of the possibility of xenophobic attacks once the World Cup is over," noted the conference president, Archbishop Buti Tlhagale, in a statement released Thursday.
The international soccer championship, which began June 11, will hold its final game on Sunday.
"Immediately after such a successful hosting of the World Cup, where South Africans demonstrated to the world and to each other what can be achieved when we all work together, we call on the government, employers and citizens to listen with renewed vigor to these voices expressing legitimate grievance and act for our common good," the prelate continued.
Speaking on behalf of the entire conference, he stated, "We, the Catholic Bishops of Southern Africa, join our voices to those of South Africans everywhere, asking that those tempted to violence for whatever reason find other means of expressing their grievances."
The archbishop continued: "We call on government and communities at all levels to confront the issue of violence in a proactive and productive manner that will make for peace and tolerance.
"Let us all use the goodwill shown during the World Cup to build a better country."
"South Africa, as a whole, needs to find positive and constructive ways to raise and debate issues as one community," he asserted.
Archbishop Tlhagale pointed out that "Catholic social teaching encourages the right and responsibility of all sections of a community, including the poorest, to find a voice in the public domain in order to express their legitimate needs and grievances."
He expressed particular concern that the "xenophobic attacks" would target "foreigners," or those people from other countries now living legally in South Africa.
The prelate reminded the people that "current evidence suggests that the foreign born are no more likely to be involved in crime as any other part of the population and that they are generally more likely to create employment opportunities rather than take away employment."
He urged the government to "manage the legal flow of people in and out of the country" to "ensure that legitimate migrants are provided with proper documentation and the ability to settle peacefully into the South African community having gone through the proper application processes."
The archbishop added: "It is equally proper that our government, as part of its international responsibilities, open our borders to those who are fleeing persecution and the breakdown of the economy of their own countries through no fault of their own.
"South Africa's own recent history clearly demonstrates how such movement can be of long-term benefit to all the countries and people involved."
He praised the efforts of the authorities to police the World Cup with "professionalism and dedication," but added a request that the same commitment would be shown to prevent "crimes associated with xenophobic violence."
"Violence against foreigners and their businesses should not be seen as tool to elicit local political or economic advantage," Archbishop Tlhagale asserted.
He affirmed, "A combination of tolerance from our communities and resolute action on the part of government can help ensure that the positive experiences of so many visitors to South Africa in recent months can continue to be replicated in our local communities."
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Full text: http://www.sacbc.org.za/