REPUBLICAN Vice President Guy Scott yesterday was among hundreds of mourners who thronged Chipata Airport to witness the arrival of the remains of the first indigenous Zambian Catholic Cardinal Merdado Joseph Mazombwe.
The Zambia Airforce Plane carrying the late cardinal’s casket touched down at the airport at 12:30 hours while accompanied by Chipata Catholic Bishop George Lungu, former Chief Justice Enerst Sakala, catholic nuns, priests and few family members.
The Vice President who also touched down at the airport few minutes later witnessed the arrival of the body.
Also on hand to receive the body was Chipata Catholic Diocese Auxiliary Bishop Benjamin Phiri, Eastern Province Minister Malozo Sichone, Provincial Permanent Secretary Bert Mushala, former Chipata Member of Parliament (MP) Lameck Mangani, catholic priests, nuns from different congregations as well as Christians from all walks of life.
However, sombre mood characterized the airport including the streets of Chipata as the body of the late cardinal was being ferried from the airport to St Annes Cathedral Parish where the requiem mass was conducted by Bishop Lungu.
The mourners who dressed in black attire , lined up from in the street to catch up a glimpsed on the casket of the late cardinal as a convoy meander through 15 kilometres (KM) stretch of the road.
As the casket was passing through the town centre, some people joined in the long procession to the cathedral parish as others wailed uncontrollably.
The late Cardinal Mazombwe was ordained in 1960 and was appointed Chipata Catholic Diocese Bishop in 1970.
He was then taken to Lusaka as Archdiocese Bishop in 1996 before retirement ten years later.
He was then conferred as cardinality in 2007 by then Pope Benedict XVI. During the homily, Bishop Phiri described the late cardinal as a beacon of wisdom.
He told hundreds of Christians who included Vubwi MP Dr Eustarckio Kazonga and Anglican Diocese of Eastern Zambia Bishop William Muchombo that the catholic fraternity had lost someone who was humble, courageous and a good advisor.
“He (Cardinal Mazombwe) was a beacon of hope who advised whenever there were problems or disputes in the church. It is sad that even in homes, the most reliable and dependable members of the family are the ones who die first and this brings a number of questions as to why God allows such things to happen,” he said.
Bishop Phiri said that on many occasions, Christians forget that life was a journey which was supposed to prepare them to be received by God.
He urged the church to remain united during the time of mourning. Bishop Phiri said the late bishop suffered for a long time saying it was his time to go through death.
He said despite his death, the late cardinal left a good legacy to both the catholic and non catholic in the country.
Meanwhile, a book of condolences has been opened at bishop residence in Chipata diocese with a number of prominent people describing the late cardinal as a unifying factor in the church and the nation.
Mr Mangani who is former Home Affarirs Minister described the late cardinal as a great leader saying he believed in developments.
He said the late cardinal was keen in the advancement of education in the country.
“A great tree indeed has been fallen which will be very difficult to replace.God almighty receive his soul,”Mr Mangani said.
St Monicas Girls High School headteacher Arthur Sakala said the school was deeply affected with the untimely death of Cardinal Mazombwe Mr Sakala said the contribution of late Cardinal Mazombwe was great.
Radio Maria Zambia Programmes Director Fr Bernard Zulu said the late cardinal being the founder of the catholic run radio station would be greatly missed by the volunteers and staff.
The body which lied in state was expected to be flown back to Lusaka today and readiness to be interred at the Cathedral of the Child Jesus.
Cardinal Mazombwe died on Thursday after a long spinal cold complication illness.