By Paul Samasumo
Zambia’s President, Edgar Lungu, has addressed Bishops of Zambia, Malawi and Zimbabwe who are meeting in Lusaka for their first-ever ‘Sub-Regional Consultative Meeting of Catholic Bishops.’
President Lungu expressed his appreciation for the work of the Catholic Church when he addressed the Bishops in Lusaka.
The Zambian President, on Monday, paid a courtesy call on the Bishops of Zambia, Malawi and Zimbabwe meeting under the auspices of the Sub-Regional Consultative Meeting of Catholic Bishops for the first time.
President Lungu said the Catholic Church was “a dependable partner for the government in social service delivery, advocacy for development, inclusive governance, as well as respect for human rights and democracy.”
Referring specifically to the Zambian situation, the President said his government was grateful for the social services the Catholic Church was providing in the country.
“In fact, the Church has also been a proponent of peace and unity among its congregants, and the entire nation. The Church has made significant strides by reaching out to all of this country, addressing the needs of our people in a holistic approach. The evidence is there for all to see. One can, thus, go to any corner of this country, both in rural and urban areas and witness the commendable work the Church is doing in addressing the needs of our people. There are not many areas where one would not find a school or health facility run by the Catholic Church. Therefore, my government is deeply grateful and appreciative of the positive role that the Catholic Church has been playing to complement government’s efforts in national development,” the President said.
The Bishops of Zambia, Malawi and Zimbabwe are meeting for three days under the theme, “Enhancing Pastoral Collaboration of the Church in the Sub-Region.” The idea is to chart a strategic path for increased levels of pastoral collaboration among the three countries.
In his homily at the opening ceremony Mass, in the Lusaka’s Cathedral of the Child Jesus, Zambia’s Apostolic Nuncio to Zambia and Malawi, Archbishop Gianfranco Gallone said the gathering of Bishops from the three countries was a sign of God visiting his people.
“Today, this divine visit takes place here in Lusaka where He sees us gathered for a more dynamic action of evangelisation and for a better pastoral and missionary collaboration in Zambia, Malawi and Zimbabwe.” The Nuncio said all this was being done bearing in mind what Pope Francis said his document, Evangelii Gaudium, where the Bishop is always urged to foster missionary communion.
In a Lumen TV television interview, with Mwenya Mukuka, Zambia Conference of Catholic Bishops Secretary General, Fr. Cleophas Lungu said the three countries felt drawn to each other because they have a lot in common – historically, culturally and ecclesiastically.
“We must acknowledge three factors. Fundamentally, we have strong historical links; we have a lot in common in terms of culture … This meeting is coming as fruition of interaction that has been going on at a smaller scale. Third, we have realised that our three countries share more or less similar challenges economically, politically as well as pastoral challenges,” Fr. Lungu said.
Fr. Lungu further said, the three-day consultative meeting was a way of mapping-out future collaboration among the three countries.
“How can the Church in the region become more become effective in terms of pastoral activities? How can people of this region become more united; how can we be more and more in solidarity with each other – not just in the Church but also in our societies?” These are the questions that the Bishops will be are reflecting upon, Fr. Lungu said. He added, “These (geographical) borders necessary as they maybe do not inhibit the opportunity of coming together as one family –the family of God. They do not stop us from sharing our challenges and seeking solutions together,” Fr. Lungu explained.
In general, every day parlance, the neighbouring countries of Zambia Malawi and Zimbabwe are considered Southern African countries.