By Chikumbi Katebe, Rome,Italy
PRESIDENT Edgar Lungu’s visit to the Vatican demystifies the perception created by some people that there is a fracture in the relationship between the Catholic Church and the Zambian Government, says Foreign Affairs Minister Harry Kalaba.
Mr Kalaba said the Zambian Government, as did President Lungu, recognized the influence the Catholic Church had in the lives of many Zambian people through the various social projects across the country.
He said the President’s visit to the Vatican was meant to cement the already existing good relations with the Catholic Church and the Pontificate in particular.
“Historically, President Lungu becomes the third Zambian President to visit the Vatican after first president Dr (Kenneth) Kaunda in the 1980s, and president Levy Mwanawasa during his tenure.
“This visit actually demystifies the perceptions that has been created that there has been a rift in the relations between the Government of Zambia and the Catholic Church,” Mr Kalaba said.
He explained that Zambia had very strong relations which had been strengthened over the last 51 years in which the Catholic Church had contributed to the education and health services through the numerous schools and hospitals they operated in Zambia.
He said the church was also taking care of vulnerable members of the community including the orphans and the aged.
Mr Kalaba said President Lungu arrives in Italy Rome today, following an invitation from the Holy See delivered to him at the 50 years Zambia/Vatican relations’ celebrations last year, and was scheduled to meet Pope Francis tomorrow to discuss various issues including strengthening of bilateral relations between the two countries.
He said President Lungu had taken the visit to the Vatican very seriously in his continued search for wisdom and in talking care of the many Zambians.
And Mr Kalaba said President Lungu would also meet the directors of the Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) and the International Fund for Industrial Development (IFAD) in high level discussions on the impact of climate change on the national food security, as well as promotion and support for agro-diversification as a strategy in mitigating global change.
And Mr Kalaba said Energy minister Dora Siliya and her Commerce counterpart Margret Manakatwe were re scheduled to join the President in France to attend an organized business forum to engage potential investors in various sectors especially the development of alternative energy supply and agro diversification.