Edgar Lungu has said he will in the next few days meet all Catholic bishops on a yet-to-be known agenda.
An ethnic division emerged among Catholic bishops last month after a joint statement of the three Church mother bodies read by Archbishop Telesphore Mpundu called on the government to immediately release incarcerated UPND leader Hakainde Hichilema and his co-accused who have been in prison since April 10.
The Church mother bodies also declared Zambia a dictatorship as all opposition had been stifled by the PF government, creating a crisis in the country.
They said they had on several occasions made attempts to meet President Lungu but had been blocked by State House officials, forcing them to air their concerns publicly.
But Lungu angrily reacted to the statement and said the crisis the church leaders were talking about existed in their heads.
He also refused to meet with the Church leaders saying he was “very busy”.
After that, two Catholic bishops – Alick Banda of Ndola and Benjamin Phiri of Chipata – distanced themselves from the statement and said Archbishop Mpundu represented himself during the joint briefing and not the Zambia Conference of Catholic Bishops which he heads.
And during his visit to the Copperbelt a week ago, Lungu said the church leaders were confusing government because they were giving conflicting statements on how they felt his team was conducting the affairs of the country.
After his meeting with Apostolic Nuncio to Zambia and Malawi Archbishop Julio Murat today, Lungu, through his special assistant for press and public relations Amos Chanda, changed his earlier statement that he was too busy to meet the Church and announced that he would dialogue with the Catholic bishops in the next few days.
At the invitation of His Excellency Mr. Edgar Chagwa Lungu, President of the Republic of Zambia, the Apostolic Nuncio to Zambia and Malawi Archbishop Julio Murat attended a meeting at State House this morning. The meeting with the Apostolic Nuncio was open, cordial and fruitful. The President and Nuncio discussed a broad range of issues including the relationship between Church and State and the role of the Church in promoting dialogue and national unity. The Church has a spiritual role to play by counselling us whenever the need arises. In line with his continued dialogue with church, the President will in the coming days be meeting with Catholic bishops to continue on the steps he authorised the Vice-President to undertake this week, stated Chanda.
“On behalf of the Government and the people of the Republic of Zambia, we appreciate the Holy See’s commendation of government’s open door policy and the considerable access he has afforded the church since he ascended to power in 2015. We deeply appreciate the support that the Catholic Church renders to the Zambian Government and indeed the people of Zambia and we therefore want to see a united body of Christ so that unity can cascade down to all sections of the Zambian society,” Chanda quoted President Lungu as saying.