LUSAKA Catholic Archbishop Telesphore Mpundu yesterday charged that Frederick Chiluba's statement about Michael Sata's alleged affair with his sister Petronella was an attempt to get at the Catholic Church for which he harbours a pathological hatred.

And Archbishop Mpundu has said there has never been a marriage between his sister and Sata.

Briefing the press at Kapingila House in Lusaka, Archbishop Mpundu said it was very unfortunate that former president Chiluba, in the fight against his 'sworn political adversary', had made insinuations with regard to him personally and cast wild aspersions on the Catholic Church.

Archbishop Mpundu said the comments were unacceptable, in extremely bad taste and should be regarded with the disdain they merited.

"Mr Sata is a public figure whose family life cannot be hidden from the public eye for any length of time. Dr Frederick Chiluba was therefore not making any new revelation because what he said was common knowledge long before the birth of the Patriotic Front when Mr Sata was still side by side with him in the Movement for Multiparty Democracy (MMD)," Archbishop Mpundu said.

"The question I asked myself is: Why the so-called revelation which is two decades old at this particular time? Only Dr Frederick Chiluba can tell us but it cannot be denied that in his response to Mr Michael Sata, he has accomplished two objectives which seem dear to him, namely to get at the Catholic Church for which he seems to harbour an almost pathological hatred and has attempted to implicate a Catholic Bishop in what he terms a polygamous 'marriage' thereby bringing into ridicule both the credibility of leadership of the Catholic Church as well as its doctrine on marriage and the holy Eucharist."

Archbishop Mpundu said there was no marriage between Sata and his sister Petronella that he knew of.

"Dr Chiluba also spoke so much about an alleged marriage between my sister and Mr Sata. There was no such marriage, not that I know of. Like I said in the beginning, all that was a desperate attempt to link Archbishop Mpundu as his sister to the Patriotic Front. And in any case when did single parenting become an issue? We have so many of our mothers who are single parents. Even here where we are I believe there are single mothers. So Dr Chiluba's statement was carefully schemed to discredit the Catholic Church doctrine of the holy Eucharist," Archbishop Mpundu said.

He said the little that Chiluba said about the Catholic doctrine on marriage and the holy Eucharist exposed his total lack of knowledge about the subject.

He quoted late American civil rights activist Dr Martin Luther King Jr's saying that, "Nothing in the entire world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious impetuosity!"

Archbishop Mpundu said the Catholic Church believes in and teaches marriage between one man and one woman which once freely contracted and in accordance with all laid down procedures was indissoluble.

"The insinuation that because my sister is alleged to have "contracted marriage" or cohabited with Mr Sata, the Catholic Church condones or even "blesses" it is as speculative in the extreme as it is highly reprehensible.

In the Catholic Church, there isn't one set of laws, rules and regulations for the rich, famous and powerful and another set for the poor and weak non-entities," he said. "In the mid 16th Century, King Henry VIII of England wanted a set of rules especially for himself as King with regard to marriage but when the Pope said an emphatic no, the king broke away from the Church of Rome to form what is now called the Anglican Church. Dr Frederick Chiluba doesn't seem to know or appreciate this historical fact."

On Chiluba linking him to the Patriotic Front (PF), Archbishop Mpundu said it was a myth in the corridors of political power.

He said during the colonial era, especially the federal administration, the Catholic Church was regarded as "always sympathetic to and siding with the Natives, the black Africans."

He said in the one-party Second Republic, the situation continued and the Catholic Church was regarded as simply the opposition and subjected to horrendously hateful media editorials from the government-owned and only tabloids allowed.

Archbishop Mpundu said strangely, the same government-owned media to date had little if anything positive to say about the Catholic Church, unless it was said by a minister at a church function.

He reminded the MMD government of how much the UNIP administration accused the Catholic Church of supporting the then opposition political party in 1991.

"Today the MMD is in power and their song is, as one of the most prominent Catholics has put it: "The Catholic Bishops are always on the side of the opposition." The Catholic Church leadership is not on the side of the opposition but on the side of TRUTH.

When the MMD was in opposition the Catholic Church, Fr Davolli Umberto in particular with his Ichengelo news magazine published in Chibemba, was their champion. Immediately the MMD came to power, the Catholic Church became the "opposition" and enemy number one. Fr Umberto became a "persona non grata" and now it is the turn of Fr Drevensek Miha to be a "persona non grata"! We Zambians have a very short memory indeed. The only reason why the Catholic Church is vilified by any government of the day, British or our "Liberators" who quickly turn into our oppressors is that in season and out of season, the Catholic Church continues to announce the truth."

Archbishop Mpundu called for a stop to constant attacks on the Catholic Church, saying he was sick and tired of the trend.

"We are sick and tired of listening to it and it is positively revolting. It is sickening because we have explained time and again that we as a church leadership are neither partisan nor interested in political power, not even by proxy," he said. "Using the words of my brother Bishop, Paul Duffy of Mongu Diocese: "It doesn't make sense, it is totally illogical." It is sickening because the accusation is a desperate but futile attempt to silence the Catholic Church on matters it has the right and duty to speak about."

He quoted the authoritative teaching of the Catholic Church which states that, "The joy and hope, the grief and anguish of the people of our time, especially of those who are poor or afflicted in any way, are the joy and hope, the grief and anguish of the followers of Christ as well. Nothing that is genuinely human fails to find an echo in their hearts of the followers of Christ, who, united in Christ and guided by the Holy Spirit, press onwards towards the kingdom of the Father and are bearers of a message of salvation intended for men and women. That is why Christians cherish a feeling of deep solidarity with the human race and its history" Vatican Council II, Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World known as "Gaudium Et Spes" paragraph 1."

Archbishop Mpundu said the church would continue to be perceived as being political because everything that affected humanity was political.

He said there was little that was not political.
"Everything is political: food security, health care, education of our children, social and economic justice for all. We have a right and duty to call the leaders we put in power to account and that doesn't mean we want political power.

The government should rejoice if people are interested in what they are doing. It is a very bad sign when people remain mute when decisions which affect their lives are made by those they put into office. It is a sign of a dead nation. It is sign of a dictatorship and an enslaved population," Archbishop Mpundu said.

He said the government of the people, by the people and for the people should and must engage citizens who put them into power in political debate at all times as a matter of right not concession.

Archbishop Mpundu said the electorate who put political leaders into power had the right and duty to hold the same leaders to account, not at the end of their term of office but from the word go.

He said only a very insecure government was afraid of its own shadows, its own people and was allergic to criticism.

Archbishop Mpundu said citizens had every right to comment and critique whatever the government did.

"It is our government and it is there for us not for itself. Every decision the government makes affects our lives in one way or another, for better or for worse. We will, therefore, not be bullied and intimidated into silence!

The accusation of involving in partisan politics is a very weak attempt and it won't work, it has never worked," he said. "The other attempts, for instance to discredit and/or eliminate individuals will not work either because the church is not just one individual but the Family of God with a mandate to proclaim the Good news. In this it is unstoppable."

He encouraged Christians to take part in the political process by joining political parties of their own choice.

"We as leadership of the Catholic faithful are not kingmakers who tell our faithful what party or individual to vote for but we do give guidelines as to what kind of leaders they should vote for in order to exercise their choice responsibly as a Christian duty.

We are proud of and cherish the diversity of political opinion and affiliation among the Catholic faithful and that is how it should be," he said. "We don't believe in the so-called "Christian" political parties because history shows that they have not worked and they don't work.

The Catholic Church is the hardest critic of these so-called Christian parties found in some European countries. It is wonderful to note that the Catholic Church, in spite of the diversity of political opinions and persuasions among its faithful, remains very much united notwithstanding constant attempts by the political powers-that-be to divide it."

Archbishop Mpundu also observed that in the MMD, a party to which Chiluba belonged and of which he had re-emerged as a very vocal spokesperson, the name of Archbishop Mpundu was sung even more than those of other bishops.

He said he Archbishop Mpundu was regarded as "PF Bishop" number one.

"This is, of course, preposterous but this is what the MMD believes and says. Dr Frederick Chiluba's successor in State House openly accused Archbishop Mpundu of being partisan at a meeting on the matter of the constitution with Catholic Bishops in State House in July 2007, just three weeks before the ordination of Bishop Alick Banda in Solwezi.

He cited "Intelligence sources" that had kept reporting to him that Archbishop Mpundu was a member of the Patriotic Front," Archbishop Mpundu said. "If this is the type of muck the "Intelligence sources" can come up with, then "Intelligence sources" is a phrase that covers a multitude of sins.

I shudder to think of what else they have manufactured in the past and what they can genetically engineer in future against the government's real or perceived enemies, particularly during the run-up to next year's elections."

He recalled that on September 15, 2007, there appeared the now famous article entitled "Mpundu laughs" in one of the private daily tabloids.

Archbishop Mpundu said the then president was visibly incensed by the story and he held a press conference dedicated precisely to him, offering a law lecture at State House.

However, he said people needed to understand the background to the president's fury.

Archbishop Mpundu said for late president Levy Mwanawasa, it was not a matter of input on the constitution-making process by Zambia Episcopal Conference (ZEC) as he Archbishop Mpundu explained when he served as the organisation's president.

He said president Mwanawasa saw it as a personal attack on himself as MMD leader and Republican president by a PF member and Catholic Archbishop Mpundu.

Archbishop Mpundu said it was a dramatic display of raw intimidation and acrimony, which led to hateful anti-Catholic utterances by politicians in the print and electronic media and even in the National Assembly debates.

"That is why on 22 October 2007 I called a press conference to reiterate and explain the ZEC stance on the National Constitutional Conference (NCC) and to decry the anti-Catholic rhetoric of the politicians. Our stand has been vindicated by the way this August body has conducted its affairs with regard to the constitution-making process," he said.

"In February 2008, the late president was to completely stun the Catholic Bishops when he told them at a meeting in State House, "Why do you hate me? I paid for two of you to go to the funeral of your Pope and you still don't like me?" The matter of the constitution is not a personal issue but a national project requiring all stakeholders to be brought on board."

He said when president Mwanawasa died, ZNBC television organised or was made to organise a live discussion on the legacy of the deceased president and ZEC president Bishop George Lungu requested him to take part.

He said he declined to do so because the late president saw him, a Catholic Archbishop, a supposedly paid-up PF member, as his enemy number one.

Archbishop Mpundu said it would have been hypocritical on his part to appear on ZNBC television to heap praise on someone who sincerely believed the Catholic bishops, and him particularly, hated him.

He said the so-called legacy was a figment of some people's fertile imagination, a creation of a clique of people with vested interests in retaining or ascending to political power.

He said the only legacy he knew was that once elected into power, the leaders become arrogant and intransigent.

"They want us to shut up, sit up and put up. It is on the wings and the ticket of such a non-existent legacy that they were ushered into power and today they are there. Exploiting and adding to the people's emotionally charged grief, they campaigned on "continuing the legacy" of Levy Mwanawasa. No wonder there is little, if any agreement at all among the architects of this fictitious legacy as to what this elusive "legacy" really means," he said.

Archbishop Mpundu said in the world today, it was widely agreed that the greatest threat to global peace was not poverty or nuclear arms but religious bigotry and fundamentalism.

He said a look at what was going on in the Middle East, the suicide bombings carried out in the belief that death in the process of killing or trying to kill an enemy one who is opposed to one's religion guarantees the crown of martyrdom.

Archbishop Mpundu said the relations between two neighbouring nuclear powers of India and Pakistan convinced one of how precarious the world stage was right now.

He said the African continent had examples of religious extremism and its lethal consequences in countries like Algeria, Nigeria, Somalia, Kenya, Uganda, and Sudan.

Archbishop Mpundu said should some religious radicals get hold of weapons of mass destruction, then only God could protect people from an Armageddon.

He said only some months ago, the nation listened in bewilderment as a minister of religion who also happened to be the information minister Lieutenant General Ronnie Shikapwasha on the floor of the National Assembly, departed from his allotted task of telling the nation the root cause of political cadre violence and how to arrest the situation.

"He went on to attack the Catholic Church, not just in Rwanda but all over the world, accusing it of masterminding the genocide in Rwanda, telling the world that our faithful are Catholic but not Christian! He ridiculed the Catholic Church and made the Catholic faithful in this country, objects of scorn and hatred for the rest of the Zambian population," he said.

Archbishop Mpundu said the Catholic faithful were still apprehensive and very angry.

He said some of them feared for their lives and were afraid of being assaulted by those who may have been led to think that the Catholic Church was "murder incorporated" as Dan Brown's notorious The Da Vinci Code insinuates.

Archbishop Mpundu said many wanted to stage a peaceful countrywide demonstration but were persuaded not to resort to such action.

He said it would have been playing into the hands of the government who would have deployed soldiers with orders to shoot and later blame the demonstrators as having provoked the shooting.

"To date this man, a reverend pastor, the preacher of hatred in the National Assembly against four million Zambian Catholics, remains unrepentant and in his privileged government position. During Dr Chiluba's administration, one of his senior ministers called the Catholic Bishops liars after they published a Pastoral Letter," he said.

"We demanded an apology from him but we never got it. Only Dr Chiluba apologised on his behalf in private but the apology was never published.

There are many Catholics in the MMD and many Catholics voted for the present government and the President but the government they voted for has remained silent in the face of their humiliation and vilification. To date, we have not heard any word from the highest authorities in the land about this deplorable affair."

Archbishop Mpundu said last week, the country was witness to Chiluba's utterances.

"Isn't he a preacher of some standing and in high demand to preach at services in some churches? Wasn't he anointed as soon as he went into State House? Didn't he stun everyone by waking up one day and declaring Zambia a "Christian" nation?

Evangelical, Council of Churches in Zambia or Catholic Christianity? And making sure that the declaration was put in the Constitution Preamble? He, from a vantage point, poured scorn on Catholic doctrine and the most sacred of practices, maligned its leaders and got away with it," he said.

"We Catholics don't go about burning cars, destroying buildings and property or threatening death to those who publicly disparage our beliefs. Our faithful feel humiliated and once again are very angry.

They are even angrier because we don't seem to have the machinery and financial muscle of our aggressors with their command of the mass media to swiftly counter such spiteful attacks. I urge them to remain focused and not to allow themselves to be disturbed by statements meant to mislead and discourage them. They know what we believe in and what our faith asks of us so they should not be worried."

He said Chiluba's remarks concerning Catholic marriage, the holy Eucharist and the insinuations were not just a casual and off the cuff stuff.

Archbishop Mpundu said the remarks were a carefully planned and craftily accomplished phase of an orchestrated campaign against the Catholic Church which was wrongly perceived as the obstacle to certain people's ascendancy to or retention of political power.

"In a way we are quite flattered to be attributed such tremendous power which we don't have and certainly which we don't want to have. Jesus rejected all power and yet it is in His powerlessness that He redeemed the world," he said.

He said Chiluba's unwarranted remarks were a political strategy to attempt to silence the Catholic Church by discrediting it and thereby eroding its credibility.

However, Archbishop Mpundu said it was a futile exercise because it would not work.

"Our Catholic faithful and many people of Zambia can see through this very clearly and I dare say that they are not at all amused. The campaign for the 2011 general and presidential elections started with the demise of the previous president. It should not be surprising if similar or even worse attacks come our way in the run-up to 2011 elections," Archbishop Mpundu said.

"Our faithful should not be afraid because the church's weapon is the greatest and deadliest, namely the truth. Truth is another name for Jesus Christ who said He was The Way, The Truth and The Life. The truth will set us free. It is this weapon that our antagonists are afraid of and they don't want us to proclaim it, but woe to us if we don't proclaim the good news."

He said two weeks ago, the church entered the Holy Season of Lent which was a special time of grace in which they examined their lives and turn to God for forgiveness.

"We repeat together time and again the words of our Lord in the prayer of "Our Father" which He gave us: "Lord forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us." On Good Friday we shall hear once again the words of Jesus on the Cross as He breathes his last: "Lord, forgive them, for they know not what they are doing."

This is our prayer and in it lies at the foundation of our Christian life of faith, hope and love," said Archbishop Mpundu.