Despite threats and ultimatum from the Ruling PF, the Catholic Diocese of Chipata has directed Catholic institutions, Parishes and Lay Apostolic Movements in the local Church NOT to access Church Empowerment Funds government is giving out through the Ministry of National Guidance and Religious Affairs.

Bishop of Chipata Diocese, Right Reverend George Lungu, says he has made the directive in the light of observations he has made as well as the decision the Zambia Conference of Catholic Bishops has made over the matter.

This is contained in a Circular Letter Bishop Lungu has written to Priests, religious men and women and the lay faithful issued on Good Friday, which fell last Friday, the 2nd of April 2021.

In the light of the stance taken by the Zambia Conference of Catholic Bishops – ZCCB – with regard to the Church Empowerment Fund, I have deemed it necessary to provide the context within which that decision was made, Bishop Lungu writes in the Circular Letter.
This is also in a bid to give some guidance to you in the Diocese concerning the same, the Bishop of Chipata adds, stating that on one hand, the Covid-19 pandemic has come with its own challenges.

We as a Church have not been spared, he says, explaining that with reduced spiritual activities and gatherings, income to run Church affairs has been adversely affected.
On the other, we are aware that government has come up with the Church Empowerment Fund to help churches as they struggle financially to make ends meet, Bishop Lungu further explains, saying, however, ZCCB has taken a stand of declining to receive or access these funds.
And Bishop Lungu of Chipata Diocese has given reasons why the Catholic Church in his Diocese has declined to access Church Empowerment Fund from government.

The Catholic Bishop of Chipata Diocese says the main reasons include principles of social justice and the preferential option for the poor, explaining that the Church prefers to see the same money being channelled to other needy areas such as retirees, recruitment of teachers and health workers who completed their courses.

We are equally aware that Zambia has a huge debt that needs to be serviced and the effect of this is seen in the many economic difficulties the country is currently facing, he adds, stating that in addition, there are many retirees in Zambia who have been desperately waiting for their hard-earned dues for many years and that some have even died.

Not only that, the Chipata City Council has had close to 9 months of unpaid salary arrears, Bishop Lungu, who is the ZCCB President, says, adding that indeed, in as much as the Catholic Church needs these funds to run its affairs, ZCCB is humbly asking government to consider the aforementioned as a form of empowerment that shall ease the burden of fellow citizens.

The Bishop of Chipata also says empowerment donations, which he says are followed by cameras and speeches and appearing either on the national broadcaster or indeed the private media, often with political overtones, should NOT be entertained in his Diocese.

In view of the above, and in the light of the ZCCB decision, I wish to direct that NO Catholic institution or organisation or Parish or Lay Movement in the Diocese of Chipata should access these funds through the Ministry of National Guidance and Religious Affairs or otherwise, Bishop Lungu directs.