CATHOLIC bishops have been divided by ethnic politics following the statement of three mother Church bodies which Archbishop Telesphore Mpundu read calling for the immediate release of Hakainde Hichilema.
The three mother Church bodies on Friday morning also said Zambia was now inarguably a dictatorship considering the political tension that had caused a crisis in the country.
But President Edgar Lungu on Friday evening said the crisis the Church was talking about existed in their heads.
And after that, Ndola Catholic diocese bishop Alick Banda said there was no crisis in the country and disowned the statement which Archbishop Mpundu read.
Then on Sunday, Chipata Catholic Auxiliary Bishop Benjamin Phiri said Archbishop Mpundu’s statement was not in consultation with other members of the Zambia Conference of Catholic Bishops.
He said the statement by Archbishop Mpundu, the president of the Zambia Conference of Catholic Bishops, was not reflective of the view of the entire Catholic Church. The three mother Church bodies, in a statement read by Archbishop Mpundu, stated last week that Zambia was now a dictatorship.
The mother Church bodies further stated there can never be press freedom in Zambia with the closure of The Post.
And now, Bishop Phiri claims that it was not appropriate to have a statement circulating as having been issued by Zambia Council of Catholic Bishops when the membership was not consulted.
Whatever was said and is inappropriate does not represent the official position of the Catholic Church in Zambia. Whatever was said there, we were not consulted…what is supposed to happen is that we are supposed to go to Lusaka, sit down if we want to issue a particular statement…That is the view of the one who issued the statement not the official position of the church, so I want this to be very clear,”
Bishop Phiri said.
He further alleged that a few people with a private agenda are using the Churches name and added that even the April statement by the ZCCB was not the position of the entire institution but an individual.
That too is not a position of the bishops, it was the position of an individual who issued the statement in the name of the institution or organisation. But it is not the correct position,
said Bishop Phiri.
Pope Francis recently intervened in an ethnic crisis involving the Nigerian town of Imo state , whose bishop, Peter Ebere Okpaleke, appointed by Benedict XVI in 2012, was not wanted by lay people and priests of the diocese.
Though Okpaleke is an Igbo from Anambra State, the Catholic leaders in Ahiara rejected him because he was not an Igbo man from Mbaise.
It was Benedict XVI who appointed Monsignor Okpaleke in 2012, only to meet a storm of opposition by the leaders and congregation. He was not even allowed to hold mass in the church.
His predecessor, late Victor Adibe Chikwe, came from Mbaise and was accepted by the worshippers, because he was son of the soil.
Pope Francis appointed John O. Onaiyekan apostolic administrator since July 2013, but the crisis has lingered on.
Since Okpaleke’s appointment in 2012, the priests and Catholic faithfuls from Mbaise had insisted they wanted a Bishop of Mbaise extraction.
Nonetheless, Okpaleke was ordained a Bishop on May 21, 2013 in Owerri, the mother Diocese to Ahiara Diocese.