Royal visit honours the archbishop

* The whos who of the Order of St John in South Africa pose in the grounds of Christ Church Constantia. Archbishop Thabo Makgoba and the Duke of Gloucester are seated in the middle of the front row.

Christ Church Constantia rolled out the red carpet for royalty and the Archbishop of Cape Town on Friday March 16.

Prince Richard, the Duke of Gloucester, who is a cousin of Queen Elizabeth, came to invest the Most Rev Dr Thabo Makgoba as the Prior for the Priory of South Africa of The Most Venerable Order of the Hospital of St John of Jerusalem.

It was a glittering occasion of flags, trumpets, robes, uniforms, medals and cultural dress, with the star of St John prominent throughout.

The Duke, who is the Grand Prior of St John, entered the church to a fanfare from trumpeters of the SA Army Band and the ceremony got under way in a church packed with dignitaries, knights of St John, officers and cadets.

The archbishop was duly made a knight of the order and installed as the prior.

In his addres, the sub-prelate of the Order of St John, the Rt Rev David Bannerman, said: “We know how we do things: in clinics, on sports fields, at events, in homes – the work we are doing; the service to mankind but what about the why?

“We do it because we see the face of Jesus in the sick, the wounded, the suffering…” He went on to say: “The white cross of St John shines like a star. It stands for compassion, love, forgiveness, hope and sacrifice. Faithful service to humanity; this is the spirit of St John.”

After the service there was ululating from St John volunteers for the archbishop who joined in the dancing and singing in the church grounds.

This was followed by group photographs, in the Garden of Remembrance, of the St John officers from all over South Africa, with the duke and the archbishop seated in the middle of the front row.

Poignantly, behind them was the sculpted figure of Christ on the Cross – a reminder of the pending Holy Week.

Security was tight for the event. Pre-publicity was forbidden and attendance was by invitation only. Teams flew down from Johannesburg twice over the past couple of weeks to check out the buildings and facilities at Christ Church. It was stipulated that an ambulance was to be on standby.

It seems that nothing was left to chance. Rehearsals for the ceremony took place the day before and on the morning of the big day. The Order of St John was established by Benedictine monks in 1080. It has organisations in 40 countries.