Bishop of the Catholic Diocese in Mangochi, Right Reverend Montfort Stima has asked the faithful to share God’s mercy with people in difficult situations in order to make the Year of Mercy as set out by Pope Francis.
Stima was speaking recently when he led members of St. Augustine Parish during mass and visit to inmates at Mangochi Prison where parishioners also donated various items and served the prisoners to a luncheon.
He said Jesus Christ tells people not to judge others because judgment was supposed to be left to God the creator alone.
Stima said the visit by the church was meant to underscore the point that God alone loves all humankind.
The prelate observed that the faithful were only fulfilling the mandate given by Christ whereby he commissions people to provide water to the thirsty, food to the hungry and shelter to the homeless as one way of continuing with his mission.
Stima, however, said it remained a mystery that while people talk about God’s love others were still suffering in prisons while others were living in dire poverty when a few others had wealth without sharing with the less privileged.
“In the Year of Mercy, therefore, the Holy Father is urging all of us to show love and reach out to others that God is ever merciful,” Stima said. “In fact, what that means is that others should feel the love of God through our actions, deeds and everything that we do in life.”
Stima comforted the inmates not to feel rejected by being in incarceration, saying at the end of this earthly life there would be only one high table in heaven where God, Jesus Christ and Mother Mary would sit and rest in one common place.
“Whenever I visit people in prison, I always share the Biblical story of Saul whose mission to Damascus was to persecute Christians only to be converted later to become Paul. The same is true of St. Augustine whose life was deep rooted in sin but later became an advocate of Christ,” he said in his sermon.
Stima further said the word of God clearly says in Luke 4:16 – 22 that Christ came on earth to set free those in bondage, saying what was important was to accept wrong – doing and repent since freedom of the heart was important.
“My expectation is that whether these inmates were rightly or wrongly imprisoned they will spare sometime to reflect on their lives to be different upon being released…we will not stigmatise them instead we will welcome them to be part and parcel of our community,” he added.
Mangochi Prison Officer In–Charge, Jonas Chimoto said management of the facility were delighted with the gesture from parishioners of St. Augustine Parish, noting that prisons were mostly least considered to be visited.
“It is an honour that you chose to come here, we’re appreciative because apart from the food donation and other basic necessities, you’ve also given us and the inmates food for our souls (prayers),” Chimoto said.
Chimoto said prisons were no longer punitive places in the democratic dispensation but reformatory as such churches were supposed to complement on such correction initiatives by conducting regular visits to the facility.
In his remarks, St. Augustine Church Council vice chairperson, Beston Mukota said the visit to the prison was a continuation of the church’s programme where it also carried out a similar activity at the district hospital during the Lenten period by cheering and serving sumptuous meals and material supplies to all patients.
Mukota thanked management of the reformatory facility for accommodating the Christians in their programme. He assured that the church would consider conducting the activity on annual basis.
The visit was characterized by prayers through a holy mass said by Bishop Stima, luncheon and distribution of plates, soap and medical supplies.
There were at least 303 prisoners at the facility at the time of the visit, a figure, which authorities said was higher than recommended.
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