Vastness, Sects, Multiple Languages among Challenges of Angola’s Sumbe Catholic Diocese

Bishop Firmino David of the Catholic Diocese of Sumbe in Angola. Credit: ACI Africa

Bishop Firmino David of the Catholic Diocese of Sumbe in Angola has identified the vastness of his Episcopal See, the mushrooming of Christian sects in his jurisdiction, and multiple languages among the people of God under his pastoral care as some of the challenges he grapples with. 

In an interview with ACI Africa on Friday, March 1, Bishop Firmino said that he is also facing the challenge of a limited number of pastoral agents to attend to the needs of the faithful.

“This is a Diocese that forces us to travel long distances to meet the local communities,” he said about the Diocese that measures 58,698 square kilometres with a population of 1,941,500, Catholics numbering 649,022, according to 2020 statistics.  

To illustrate the vastness of his Episcopal See, the Angolan Catholic Bishop said, “If I want to go to Quibala, for example, where the Major Theological Seminary is, I must go 360 kilometers round trip; if I have to go a little further, to Calulo, for example, I'll get close to 400 kilometers; if I’ve to go to Mussende, I'll go 315 kilometers.”

During these visits, he said, pastoral agents in Sumbe Diocese strive to make “the flock more united, promoting social gatherings and training so that people are really up to the task of defending the Church in their respective communities.”


Bishop Firmino emphasized the place of Priestly studies and formation in Episcopal Ministry, saying having candidates for a lifelong commitment to evangelization ensures “the continuity of a good wealth for our four Seminaries.”

On the challenge of Christian sects in his Episcopal See, the 61-year-old Angolan Catholic Bishop, who started his Episcopal Ministry on 23 July 2023 following his appointment on 4 May 2023 said the Catholic Church is “very much under siege”.

Those at the helm of these sects see the Catholic Church as a “rival”, he observed, and added, “These sects try to feed more on the side of prosperity preaching to attract those who are not yet committedly part of the churches or communities and unfortunately, because of (spiritual) poverty, many go running to these sects.”

As a way forward, Bishop Firmino said that the formation of Catechists has been prioritized. 

“There have been some formation meetings for Catechists so that they too can be refreshed, so that they can master certain themes and so that they can also easily defend the Church,” he said. 

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The Catholic Church leader went on to share about the limited number of Priests in his Diocese as a challenge to the evangelization ministry, with the administering of Sacraments negatively affected. 

“I have five Vicariates in the Diocese of Sumbe,” he said, and listed the Northern Vicariate, the Central Vicariate, the Southern Vicariate, the Coastal Vicariate and one more as the subdivisions of the pastoral units of his Diocese, handled by seven Vicars, two of whom oversee the Pastoral Vicariate and the Vicariate of Liturgy. 

The Angolan Catholic Diocese is served by 61 Priests and six Deacons who, the Local Ordinary said, “assist in the pastoral care of the Diocese in 25 parishes and other mission stations.”

To meet this challenge of few pastoral agents, Bishop Firmino told ACI Africa that he has scheduled two sessions for their training, in view of making the local church grow quantitatively and qualitatively.

“One is the formation of Priests and Seminarians, and the other is the formation of staff, especially Catechists, who are the pillars of the Church,” he said, and added, “The other formation is for the Laity because they are the whole Church and who thus take the lead in proclaiming the Gospel to all the communities.”


The training of pastoral agents will provide personnel for the planned initiative of opening new mission centers, bringing “pastoral services closer to the communities, so that we can easily get to know the problems that are being experienced, because it's one thing to go to a place once in a while and another thing to be in permanent contact with the communities,” he said.

Regarding the challenge of multiple languages in his Episcopal See, Bishop Firmino described Sumbe Diocese as “very complex” because of the reality of “many ethnic groups, each with its own language, its own dialect.”

“Sometimes this also affects communication,” he said, adding that pastoral agents are urged to learn local languages to help them serve the people of God under their pastoral care.

João Vissesse is an Angolan Journalist with a passion and rich experience in Catholic Church Communication and Media Apostolate.