Catholics and in indeed many Malawians will remember the late Archbishop Tarcizio Ziyaye in many different ways. He was a shepherd who encouraged believers to have faith in God and serve Him selflessly.
He was also as leader who urged his flock to be good as God. On the other hand, he was a leader that wanted high degree of discipline among his priests and in the church as a whole.
Among priests, he was described as a disciplinarian. He did not tolerate nonsense or irresponsibility among his priests. He wanted priests to dress appropriately and do right things at the right time.
His disciplinarian leadership was felt among priests of the Blantyre Archdiocese when he was appointed Archbishop of Blantyre in 2001 to take over from the late Archbishop James Chiona. Ziyaye brought a different leadership style which was far from Chiona’s.
He brought new rules: No priest should visit him without booking an appointment. Any priest visiting him should not wear jeans trousers.
This was contrary to Chiona’s free leadership style which allowed priests to go to the bishop’s house at any time and eat whatever they could find at the table. During Chiona’s reign, priests did not have any dress code when visiting the bishop.
No wonder priests in the Archdiocese of Blantyre cried foul during one of the Eucharistic celebrations where the then chairperson of the Association of Diocesan Clergy of Malawi for Blantyre Fr. Dasiano Muhime praised the late Chiona and described his leadership as one that gave them freedom unlike Ziyaye’s. That was in the presence of Ziyaye.
Ziyaye was a leader who did not hesitate to discipline a priest who misbehaved. There are priests in both Blantyre and Lilongwe that he suspended and are still in passive ministry.
For example in Blantyre, he suspended Reverend Fathers Felix Kalawe, Raphael Malupo and Harry Mpira and in Lilongwe Fr. Maxmian Khisi. Ziyaye suspended Khisi for reporting him to Vatican for practicing nepotism. In his report, Fr Khisi accused Ziyaye of appointing all his advisors from his home district of Mchinji as if Lilongwe archdiocese has no other capable priests from the other districts.
Ziyaye, who seldom smiled, used to urge his flock to serve God and others selflessly. He used to encourage Catholics to love prayer. He used to advise his priests to serve their parishioners as leaders of faith and that in return the parishioners would love them and serve them with joy.
“These Christians are good. If you serve them well, they will give you whatever you need in your service,” he used to advise.
What are some Catholics saying about Ziyaye on social media?
- A person who never lowered standards. A disciplinarian in matters of church. A charismatic leader with a commanding voice
- We have lost a selfless servant. We shall miss him.
- He was a disciplinarian who gave the Holy Eucharist the dignity it deserves.
Ziyaye died at a hospital in Namibia.
Despite his shortfalls, Ziyaye loved the Catholic Church and did his best to protect it.
May His Soul Rest in Peace.
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