Appeal by 130 African priests in support of Father Viateur who has been deported by the Zambian government for preaching in favour of the poor-GIACOMOGALEAZZI-VATICANCITY-“Freedom of speech” has been violated in the heart of Africa.
In the Dark Continent, defined by Benedict XVI as the “spiritual lung” of the world during his apostolic visit to Benin, the stage is being help by an event, which is beginning to look like a diplomatic incident. Through the Vatican press agency ‘Fides’ 130 priests have been calling for the revocation of Fr. Viateur Banyangandora deportation. Ten days ago the government of Zambia deported the Rwandan Catholic priest for encouraging violence after a sermon in which he had declared that the poor were getting poorer while the rich got richer.
The decision made official by the Lusaka Ministry of Foreign Affairs immediately sparked worries in the Vatican and among the local bishops. "A Rwandese priest based at Lundazi parish identified as Father Viateur Banyangandora, aged 40, has been deported to his country of origin for violating the laws of this country," Home Affairs Minister Edgar Lungu said in a statement. A parishioner from Lundazi, an eastern town near the border with Malawi, said that Fr. Banyangandora, during the last Sunday service, had declared that poor people were becoming poorer while the rich were getting richer, a move which according to the priest was tantamount to injustice which the Catholic Church detests.
Lungu said the clergy had violated the country's immigration laws as his "conduct was found to be a danger to peace and good order in Zambia". Now the clergy in Zambia and the Holy See have urged the government to reconsider Fr. Viateur Banyangandora’s deportation. 130 diocesan priests called for a revocation in a statement released in occasion of the National Conference of the Association of Zambian Diocesan Catholic Clergy (AZADCC).
In the document, sent to Fides Agency, the diocesan priests agreed with what was written by Mgr. George Cosmas Zumaire Lungu, bishop of Chipata, in a message that will be read in all parishes of the diocese on Sunday, August the 12th. The declaration states: "Fr. Viateur was ordained in 2004, in the diocese of Chipata in which he served. Many of us have studied, lived and worked with him. We know he is a good priest and a man of peace and integrity ".
The priests claimed to be "surprised and not satisfied" by the reasons presented by the government to justify Fr. Viateur’s deportation and revealed that they have received "an official statement from the diocese Ruhengeri in Rwanda, that Fr. Viateur should not respond to any inquiry by the government of that Country. "
The message also called for the government to reconsider the priest’s deportation and to clearly explain the reasons behind it. Moreover, the priests asked the authorities to join the Church to promote harmony in the Church-State relations and launched an appeal so that they face the real problems affecting the poor, such as the price of corn, cotton and other agricultural products.
Fr. Viateur was expelled after a sermon in which he tackled the problem of the very low price of cotton, which threatens the ability of farmers to obtain a minimum income for subsistence.
"We implore the Catholic community and the priests of the diocese of Chipata, and all people of good will, to remain calm, peaceful and to pray during this time of waiting for Fr. Viateur’s return. May the good Lord bless us and guide us through the intercession of Mary our Mother," the statement concluded.
At the beginning of the 00s, the former archbishop of Lusaka, capital city of Zambia, Emmanuel Milingo was banned by the episcopal conference of Zambia for marrying a Korean woman, Maria Sung and thus breaking with the Vatican. Since then, his religious and charitable activities in Zambia (hospitals, schools, women’s congregations) have been seized by local bishops.