THE Catholic Church in Zambia has celebrated the first anniversary of the election of Pope Francis, with the Vatican Ambassador to Zambia Julio Murat expressing happiness at Government’s willingness to dialogue over Statutory Instrument (SI) number 103 of 2013.
Finance Minister Alexander Chikwanda recently signed SI 103 of 2013, which brought into effect the Customs and Excise amendment thereby lifting tax exemptions for public benefit organisations and Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs).
Vice-President Guy Scott was among prominent Government officials and other individuals who attended the anniversary at Archbishop Murat’s residence in Lusaka on Wednesday.
Archbishop Murat said SI 103 of 2013 had made the work of the Catholic Church difficult.
“The Catholic Church is also happy to hear that the Government is ready to dialogue about the Statutory Instrument No. 103 of 2013. This Statutory Instrument has made the work of the church difficult.
“I thank the Government for its readiness to dialogue and I hope that a just solution on this issue will be found,” Archbishop Murat said.
He said the Vatican was also grateful to President Michael Sata for publicly declaring his appreciation for the contribution the Catholic Church in Zambia was making, especially in the health and education sectors.
He said the Catholic Church in Zambia had undoubtedly contributed to the country through health and educational services without ethnic and religious distinction and would continue to do so.
The Archbishop also paid tribute to the first Republican President Kenneth Kaunda for working hard for an independent, free, united, strong and peaceful country for 50 years.
Archbishop Murat said Pope Francis had been guiding the Catholic Church to be more faithful to the Lord’s mission of proclaiming the “Good News” of peace and fraternity during his first year of service.
He said it had been a joyful task for the Catholic Church in Zambia to carry out the mission of proclaiming the “Good News” for more than a century and that it had offered its contribution of defending the rights of all Zambians.
“This contribution to the development and peaceful unity is still the objective of the Catholic Church in Zambia.
“The Church is for unity and works for unity, she does not like division and where there are differences, she does nothing other than invite for dialogue. Dialogue and patience construct love and peace even among those people with different ideas,” he said.
Chiefs and Traditional Affairs Deputy Minister Berina Kawandami said the first anniversary was not only significant to the Catholic Church but to all Christians and it also presented an opportunity to reflect on the friendship and cooperation at bilateral and multilateral levels.
“At the bilateral level, my Government recognises and appreciates the personal efforts of the Holy Father in contributing to the socio-economic development in Zambia. The Holy See has contributed to Zambia’s development agenda,” she said.
Ms Kawandami said the Vatican’s constant appeals for debt cancellation and uncompromising stand on poverty in third world countries had increased awareness of the many challenges that developing nations like Zambia faced.
She said at multilateral level, Zambia stood ready to continue working closely with the Vatican on international initiatives aimed at peaceful resolution of conflicts and socio-economic agenda.
Among other prominent figures present were Information and Broadcasting Services Minister Joseph Katema, Education Minister John Phiri, Health Deputy Minister Chitalu Chilufya and diplomats accredited to Zambia.
Times of Zambia
Picture by CHUSA SICHONE