Paul Samasumo –Vatican City
Pope Francis announced the Extraordinary Missionary Month October 2019 to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Pope Benedict XV’s Apostolic Letter, Maximum Illud.
Taking into consideration the country-wide presence of priests, the religious and laity gathered in Lusaka’s Cathedral of the Child Jesus, Bishop of Chipata Diocese and Zambia Conference of Catholic Bishops (ZCCB) President, George Zumaile Lungu, used the occasion to also officially welcome the new Apostolic Nuncio to Zambia, Archbishop Gianfranco Gallone.
Pope Francis calls for a Church in Mission and leads by example.
Speaking during the weekend launch, Jesus Bishop Lungu said that the Church in Zambia was not surprised by Pope Francis’ wish to commemorate the centenary of the Apostolic Letter, Maximum Illud of Pope Benedict XV (1919) with the theme: “Baptised and Sent.”
“This inspired initiative by the Holy Father did not come to us as a surprise because what will undoubtedly mark his pontificate is the Passion he has for Mission. Indeed, we cannot but remember his Apostolic Exhortation, “The Joy of the Gospel” (Evangelii Gaudium) … Pope Francis leads by example. It was unthinkable that the Holy Father could make a pastoral visit to the United Arab Emirates, have an open-air Mass attended by thousands of people and sign a peace accord with the Emir of that country. We also remember his leaving the comfort zone of the Vatican City and the Apostolic Palace and reach out to the marginalised communities of immigrants and celebrating Mass with them; entering the prison walls to celebrate Mass with the inmates, washing and kissing their feet; In all these acts, the Holy Father denounces complacency and self-centeredness in the Church today. He challenges us to go out and be ‘bruised and soiled’ in the streets of society,” said the Zambian prelate in the presence of other Zambian Bishops as well as the Apostolic Nuncio.
Bishop Lungu said Pope Francis’ vision of the Church is one that is fundamentally missionary and not one preoccupied with ‘self-preservation.’
ZCCB President calls for the realisation of Pope St Paul VI’s vision of a missionary African Church
The ZCCB President further recalled the landmark statement of Pope St Paul VI precisely fifty years ago when the Pope visited Uganda in 1969. In a historic speech, Pope St Paul VI called upon Africans to be missionaries to themselves
“(Pope) St Paul VI, visiting Africa after the canonisation of the Uganda Martyrs (in Rome), challenged the Church in Africa: “Be Missionaries to yourselves.” That challenge is still valid today,” said Bishop Lungu.
The ZCCB President said time had come for Zambia to become a fully-fledged missionary Church giving not necessarily out of abundance but of generosity. His dream, he said, was of a Zambian Church that gave openhandedly of its priests, religious sisters and even of the laity for the Mission of the Church both within the country and elsewhere.
Welcome to the new Apostolic Nuncio to Zambia
Bishop Lungu extended a warm welcome to Archbishop Gianfranco Gallone, the new Apostolic Nuncio to Zambia and Malawi.
“Your Excellency, we are indeed delighted to welcome you to Zambia. Rest assured of our prayers for the success of your Mission, especially that of promoting unity and reconciliation within and outside the Church,” Bishop Lungu said.
Bishops thank the Faithful for generosity with Cyclone Idai collection
Among other matters, Bishop Lungu thanked and praised the Catholic Faithful in Zambia for responding generously in parishes to the appeal of the Zambian Bishops for the victims of Cyclone Idai in Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe.
Zambians urged not to give-in to divisive politics
Lastly, Bishop Lungu also spent time urging Zambians not to give in to the divisive strategies of some Zambian politicians who he said were diminishing Zambia’s reputation as a stable and strong democracy. He assured that the Catholic Bishops would always exercise their prophetic voice because they only desire to see a “reconciled and peaceful Zambia where all citizens freely participate in governance within a thriving social and economic environment.”