Ndola Diocese Bishop Benjamin Phiri has called upon the Catholic community to remain calm amidst perceived differences between the Catholic Church and the Zambian Government. The Bishop assured the congregation that the issue would be addressed by the Zambia Conference of Catholic Bishops (ZCCB) during their forthcoming meeting in Lusaka. In his address at the 10th Anniversary celebration of Holy Trinity Parish in Mulenga, Kitwe, Bishop Phiri emphasized the need for unity and urged the faithful to refrain from commenting on the matter, allowing the Bishops to handle it.
Bishop Phiri acknowledged that negative comments had been exchanged between some government officials and members of the Church in public. However, he reassured the congregation that there was no major quarrel or fight between the Catholic Church and the government. He emphasized that both entities were cooperators in serving the country and promoting development, particularly in education, health, and social services. The Bishop highlighted that the Church’s role was to complement the government’s efforts in these areas, as it was ultimately the responsibility of the government to provide such services.
“This message is not addressed to Holy Trinity – Mulenga Parish but rather to everyone in the diocese. In recent times there have been writings on social media and in some newspapers giving the impression that there is a very big quarrel and a big fight between the Catholic Church and the government. I would like to stand before you here to dispel that impression. We have been talking; there is no fight with the Government because the government and the church are cooperators in the service delivery in the country and in development. Especially in education and also in health and in social services. We compliment the effort of the government because it is the responsibility of the government to offer that service,” Bishop Phiri said.
“We are there to compliment the effort of the government. Therefore, there cannot be a situation where there is total breakdown and disorder so that now there is a situation of a cold war or verbal war, there is nothing like that. It is true that a few of our members and a few on the part of the government have exchanged some words which we think were unfortunate to be exchanged in the public sector. I am here to inform you that I received a message from our President (Archbishop Ignatius Chama), the President of the Zambia Conference of Catholic Bishops (ZCCB) to inform all of you that we are in the process by agreement with government we are in the process of sitting down to iron out whatever perceived differences are there. We have talked with the Government. Those of you who listened to the news I think you saw on the news that the government is doing the same that no one should stand and speaker in the name of the Church about the perceived fight going on, leave it in our hands, some things are too big for you to handle. So you are not adding value by just standing up and commenting which many times you only have a small picture of, you need to have the whole picture to be in a position to comment,” Bishop Phiri said.
Bishop Phiri stressed the importance of unity and peace, both within the Diocese of Ndola and the country as a whole. He urged the Catholic community to refrain from aggravating the situation and attempting to assert power over one another. The Bishop reiterated that the Church aimed to resolve the issue through dialogue and negotiation, and expressed confidence in finding an amicable resolution. He directed priests and religious to refrain from discussing the matter publicly, unless instructed to do so by the Bishops. Bishop Phiri emphasized that maintaining orderliness and peace, which are characteristic of the Catholic Church, was of utmost importance.