The Nuncio was responding to questions raised by The Catholic Church News about his experience in Zimbabwe.
By Archbishop Marek Zalewski,
If I had to describe my experience in one word, I would say “great”! Zimbabwe is a wonderful Country with a friendly people. Therefore, representing His Holiness Pope Francis here has been an honour and a pleasure for me for the past four years since 3 July 2014 to 4 July 2018 when I have to depart.The Catholic Church in Zimbabwe is still young but enthusiastic and full of hope for a better future.
At this point, I would like to remind all readers, Catholic or not, the beautiful words of St. John Paul II, who visited Zimbabwe in 1988 and met the faithful and the political leaders at that time. In a very prophetic way, he wrote: “Despite the mainly negative picture, which today characterizes numerous parts of Africa, and despite the sad situations being experienced in many countries, the Church has the duty to affirm vigorously that these difficulties can be overcome. She must strengthen in all Africans hope of genuine liberation. In the final analysis, this confidence is based on the Church’s awareness of God’s promise, which assures us that history is not closed in upon itself but is open to God’s Kingdom. This is why there is no justification for despair or pessimism when we think about the future of both Africa and any other part of the world” (John Paul II, Post-Synodal Exhortation “Ecclesia in Africa”, 1995).
I think that the Church in Zimbabwe has to grow, to be ‘chargeable’ for her own acts, decisions and, why not, for her mistakes. We have to improve in observing the liturgical norms, to respect them and apply them more rigorously in our celebrations, especially during the Holy Mass and the celebration of Sacraments. It is not just a matter of obeying some rules outwardly: indeed, by showing respect for Liturgy, we respect Christ, Our Lord. Obviously, in the Universal Church there is room for local traditions and liturgical norms approved by Bishops’ Conferences, nevertheless all these norms must comply with the general liturgical norms.
We should celebrate our Liturgy, “through which the work of our redemption is accomplished”, in a more dignifying way; we have to prepare well ourselves (spiritually and physically), we have to take care of our liturgical vestments and vessels. We must care about what we offer to Our Lord when we celebrate Eucharist (eg: we should use a real, good quality wine, made from grapes only, with no additions; and not any cheap drink called ‘wine’); we have to care much more about places where we gather to pray. If we do not celebrate the Eucharist, which is “source and summit of the life and mission of the Church” (Constitution on Sacred Liturgy, 1963), our Church will never grow! Everyone, especially priests, should be more available and always ready to serve others. Therefore, we need to be conscious of who we are and to take more seriously the fact that we belong to Jesus Christ. We are His Mystical Body!
I would not speak about ‘achievements’, rather of the possibility to render services to the local Church in Zimbabwe. In that sense, I consider myself very fortunate and blessed. In the last four years, in collaboration with the Bishops of Zimbabwe, the Holy Father appointed three new Bishops for our Church, Bishop Paul Horan for Mutare in 2016, Bishop Rudolf Nyandoro of Gokwe in 2017 and Bishop Raymond Mupandasekwa for Chinhoyi in 2018.
I am also grateful to the Lord for the successful and much needed reform of the Major Inter-Diocesan Seminary of Chishawasha and Mazowe. We should be very thankful for the gift of religious life, for many young men and women who have decided to follow Jesus Christ “with undivided heart”.
Before speaking about Singapore, where my residence will be, I want to specify that I will be traveling and working also in Vietnam, a huge country in Asia (almost 100 million people!). Actually, as pastoral and missionary work, Vietnam comes first, it is more important than Singapore. It requires a lot of time and attention.
In Singapore, also known as City State Garden, there is only one Catholic Archdiocese. Its territory includes all of Singapore only 639 km2, or 247 square miles. The current Archbishop of Singapore is the Most Reverend Monsignor William Goh Seng Chye, who took over the Archdiocese on 18 May 2013, after Pope Francis accepted the resignation of his predecessor Archbishop Nicholas Chia.
Being an ‘exempt Archdiocese’, the Archdiocese is not a part of an ecclesiastical province, but comes under the direct jurisdiction of the Holy See. The Archbishop of Singapore is a member of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei. The Church of the Good Shepherd is the cathedral Church of the Archdiocese of Singapore and Sts. Peter and Paul Church is the parish where the Apostolic Nunciature is located in Waterloo Street.
The total population of Singapore is about 6 million, but the Catholics are less than 180 000 (about 3,5% of total population). There are 30 parishes and some other churches and chapels, which are not parishes. Among Singaporean Catholics, about 75 percent attend Holy Mass every Sunday!
Thank you. May Almighty God bless you all!