Lusaka — ZAMBIAN Catholic Bishops yesterday commenced a six-day official audience with Pope Benedict XVI in Rome for the first time since the excommunication of former Lusaka Archbishop Emmanuel Milingo from the Church.
Zambia Episcopal Conference (ZEC) spokesperson Fr Paul Samasumo stated in a press release that the Catholic Bishops, who collectively form ZEC, left for Rome last Saturday for the official audience with the Holy Father.
"This visit which takes place every five years is officially known as the Ad limina visit," Fr Paul stated. "The Bishops will be in Rome as guests of the Holy Father from Monday October 9 to October 14." He revealed that while at the Vatican, the Bishops would each have a private audience with Pope Benedict.
"During the course of the week, the Bishops will also take time to visit the various departments of the Holy See and exchange ideas with several Vatican officials," stated Fr Paul.
ZEC president Telesphore Mpundu and Kasama Archbishop James Spaita left the country ahead of the other prelates. Pope Benedict had a similar audience with Catholic Bishops from Malawi, where he urged them to continue advocating truth and fight for the social welfare of the faithful.
The Vatican excommunicated archbishop Milingo on September 26 after he ordained four married men as Bishops without approval from the Vatican recently.
But archbishop Milingo said he did not recognise his excommunication.
Archbishop Milingo, who caused a stir in 2001 when he married Maria Sung of the Moonies Sect at a mass wedding in New York but was accepted back into the church by late Pope John Paul II, recently disappeared from his residence in Rome only to resurface in the US where he started making statements against the vow of celibacy. He called on the Vatican to allow priests to marry.
He has also denied media speculations that he has formed an alliance with controversial author of The Da Vinci Code Dan Brown. Responding to questions from journalists over ZEC's position on the controversies surrounding Archbishop Milingo, Archbishop Mpundu said last June the issue was purely a matter for the Vatican. He said the only information that ZEC had on the controversial stance taken by Archbishop Milingo at the time was not in any way different from what was being reported in the media.