Catholic church back Bishop Zuza

Catholic clergy in Malawi  have lend their support to  head of their influential church in the country, His Grace Bishop Jopeh Zuza  for his straight-talking sermon  during the National Day of Prayers delivered on August 16 at Comesa Hall which riled Malawi’s President Bingu wa Mutharika.

Priests and the faithful from three Catholic bodies the Association of Diocesan Catholic Clergy of Malawi, the Association of Religious (Women) Institutes of Malawi, and the Association of Religious (Men) Institutes of Malawi said they were in agreement with what Bishop Zuza said in his homily.

“We are aware that the tirades of public outbursts from some quarters of society against Bishop Zuza. Some people are insinuating that the Rt. Rev. Bishop Zuza ‘was motivated by elements from the opposition’, while others are saying he was attacking the State President, and some are taking it personally,” the associations said in a statement released on Thursday.

Bishop Zuza: Attacking him, is attacking the Catholic church

Mutharika on 25 August, 2011 during the National Agriculture Fair, attacked Bishop Zuza, saying the bishop called him a fool in his homily during the prayers.  The President said if it were during the MCP single party administration Zuza would not have walked out of the Comesa Hall in Blantyre after insulting a head of state.

Ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) campaign director Ken Zikhale Ng’oma  was the first to  call  Bishop Zuza an “agent of the opposition”, remarks which DPPs publicity secretary Hetherwick Ntaba said didn’t reflect the party’s position.

But the the members of the Catholic Church said in their statement that under Cannon Law, church leaders don’t play an active role in political parties unless – in the judgment of the competent ecclesiastical authority – this is required to defend the rights of the Church or to promote the common good.

“We would like to remind those in political leadership positions that Bishops, as leaders of the Church, do not enter the field of mere politics. As such, the Bishop’s office or the Catholic Church should not be identified with any political party or type of government,” the statement made available to Nyasa Times said.

“It is therefore unwarranted for politicians to insinuate that the Chairperson of the Episcopal Conference of Malawi was inspired by some opposition elements.” reads the statement.

“The Bishop was addressing everybody present, and throughout Malawi. As part to the solutions to the problems that the country is facing, the Bishop pleaded for the involvement of all members of the Society,” the statement added.

Mutharika also declared war on his critics if they are not ready for dialogue.

But the Catholic members said “the culture of reacting negatively to serious things like the Homily of the Bishop Chair without the discernment it deserves concerns us so too the threat of war is a major concern especially coming from the Head of State.”

The Catholic associations expressed concern that religious leaders were being harassed and warned that attacking the clergy who were doing nothing but fulfilling their prophetic role is tantamount to an attack on the Church.

Zuza invoked the president’s ire when he told Mutharika that he should stop gagging Malawi’s civil society, media and the faith community, noting that they have a role to play in safeguarding the rule of law.

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