Catholic bishops have condemned the recent attack on Pope Francis at the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) rally in Blantyre, saying politicians should desist from dragging the head of the Roman Catholic church in petty party politics.
DPP’s deputy director of youth Hophmally Makande attacked the Pope at a party rally in Blantyre recently when he attacked critics who argue that President Peter Mutharika, 79, should retire due to old age and pave the way for younger leaders. He said if Mutharika is old and not fit to lead, the same should apply to the Pope who is 82.
The party and Makande already apologised for the attacks after widespread condemnation of the remarks on social media.
A political analyst Eddie Kalonga of the African University in Lilongwe dismissed Makande’s apology as insincere, arguing it was prompted by the need to pacify the Catholic faithful.
But in a statement, the bishops, through the influential Episcopal Conference of Malawi, said the attack on the Holy Father is an attack on the whole Church that is, one Holy Catholic and Apostolic.
“We call upon all political leaders, those governing and those in opposition to desist from dragging the name of the Holy Father into petty party politics,” reads the statement signed by all Catholic bishops in Malawi.
The statement, dated September 13 2018 and made available to Nyasa Times, is signed by all Catholic bishops, including Bishop Thomas Msusa, chairperson of the Episcopal Conference of Malawi (ECM) and Archbishop for Blantyre Diocese; his vice Martin Mtumbuka of Karonga Diocese, Tarcisius Ziyaye of Lilongwe Archdiocese, George Tambala of Zomba Diocese; Peter Musikuwa of Chikwawa Diocese, John Ryan of Mzuzu Diocese; Montfort Stima, Bishop of Mangochi Diocese and Very Reverend John Chithonje Diocesan Administrator of Dedza.
The Catholic bishop also condemn the DPP recent attacks on the Catholic church and its members for “cheap political gain”
Reads the statement: “We, the Catholic bishops, ever aware of our duty to foster unity and charity among individuals have collaborated with all religious mother bodies in Malawi in pursuit of interfaith dialogue, promotion of the common good and rule of law, respect for human rights and human dignity.”
The statement says that any form of religious intolerance and provocative sentiments should not be condoned and called for mutual respect and understanding, tolerance and peaceful co-existence among people of different religions in the country.
The Catholic church has reiterated that it encourages its faithful to take an active role in politics and seeking political power at all levels of the national governance structure, insisting that the church shall not support or endorse any particular politician or political party.
The bishops have also written against the spreading of “fake news” through social media with the aim of provoking others and damaging the reputation of those with different political views.