“Africa will always be a part of me,”
Transferred Archbishop-elect Says
Archbishop-elect Luiz Fernando Lisboa who was recently transferred from Mozambique’s Diocese of Pemba to the Diocese of Cachoeiro do Itapemirim in Brazil has, in an interview, said he had always wanted to serve in Africa, which is now part of him.
“Africa will always be a part of me,” Archbishop-elect Lisboa has said in an interview with Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) International.
In the Thursday, February 25 interview report obtained by ACI Africa, the Archbishop-elect adds, “My time in the Diocese of Pemba was a great apprenticeship for me. I had always wanted to work in Africa as a missionary, and God granted me this grace. And in the end, I spent almost 20 years there.”
Pope Francis transferred the Brazilian-born member of the Congregation of the Passion of Jesus Christ (Passionists) from Pemba Diocese to Cachoeiro do Itapemirim earlier this month.
In the February 11 transfer, Pope Francis announced the elevation of the 65-year-old Prelate to “Archbishop ad personam,” a rank which the Holy Father confers on some Bishops who are not Local Ordinaries of Archdioceses. The title of Archbishop is conferred on them individually rather than on the Diocese they govern.
In the February 25 interview report, the Archbishop-elect who was at the helm of Pemba Diocese since his episcopal ordination in August 2013 recalls his ministry among the people of God in Mozambique saying, “I am quite sure that I have received much more than I have given.”
In Mozambique, Archbishop-elect Lisboa became the poster child of efforts to fight the insurgency that has rocked Cabo Delgado province, which fell under his pastoral care. He repeatedly denounced the violence taking place in his ecclesiastical jurisdiction and called on the international community to intervene.
He was keen to foster the interests of the people of God in Cabo Delgado, the Northernmost Province of the Southern African nation that has witnessed growing instability since October 2017 when an Islamist armed group known locally as Al-Sunna wa Jama’a (ASWJ) attacked a police station in Mocimboa da Praia district.
According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), an estimated 670,000 people have been displaced from their homes due to the crisis and a total of 1.3 million people are in urgent need of humanitarian assistance and protection in the Mozambican Province.
“It was an extremely searing experience, an experience of the cross, an experience of suffering,” the Archbishop-elect says in the February 25 interview report, making reference to the violence that rocked his jurisdiction.
He adds, “This war has helped me to learn many lessons. The most important of them is the greatness of these people, who are poor, but have a sense of profound solidarity.”
“I witnessed many things, I heard many personal stories and saw many different situations and I realized just how much, even in poverty, we can help, we can share,” he further says.
He highlights some of manifestations of solidarity among the poor saying, “Every family which wasn’t forced to flee took in one or two, or even three refugee families into their home, on the back porch, and shared the little they had with those who had nothing at all and had been wandering, desperate and directionless.”
“So now I believe that this experience of the people of Cabo Delgado will stay with me forever,” Archbishop-elect Lisboa reiterates in the interview with the Catholic pastoral charity, which envisions a world in which Christianity can thrive everywhere.
Regarding his transfer from Mozambique to Brazil, the Archbishop-elect says in reference to Pope Francis, “I accept and I thank him for all the support that he has given us, for all the commitment he has shown and all the concern he has felt and continues to feel for Cabo Delgado, because in addition to praying for them, he wishes to go on helping these people.”
The Passionist Prelate continues, “The mission is of God, it is not ours. We are simply the instruments of God. Within the Church, one of the characteristics of the missionary, and especially of the religious – for I myself am also a religious – is itinerancy.”
“We are never fixed in one place, but are transferred wherever the Church needs us, wherever God sends us, which is why we must always be ready to dismantle our tent and set it up again elsewhere,” he explains.
Looking toward his installation as the Local Ordinary of Cachoeiro de Itapemirim Diocese in Brazil, scheduled to take place on March 20, the Archbishop-elect says he is ready to “begin anew.”
“When we change our location, change our dwelling, we have to start learning again, to begin anew; we have to respect the people, the culture, the languages, the way of life – and all these things enrich us,” he says in the interview report by ACN.
ACI Africa was officially inaugurated on August 17, 2019 as a continental Catholic news agency at the service of the Church in Africa. Headquartered in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, this media apostolate will strive to facilitate the telling of Africa’s story by providing media coverage of Catholic events on the African continent, giving visibility to the activities of the Church across Africa where statistics show significant growth in numbers and the continent gradually becoming the axis of Catholicism. This is expected to contribute to an awareness of and appreciation for the significant role of the Church in Africa and over time, the realization of a realistic image of Africa that often receives negative media framing.
Father Don Bosco Onyalla
Editor-in-Chief, ACI Africa