, 19 August, 2020 / 10:30 PM
Pope Francis on Wednesday, August 19 made a phone call to the Bishop of Mozambique’s Pemba Diocese, Luiz Fernando Lisboa expressing his closeness to him and the people of God under his care amid reported jihadist crisis in Cabo Delgado Province, which is within the Diocese of Pemba.
“Today, August 19, 2020 at 11, to my surprise and joy, I received a call from His Holiness, Pope Francis who comforted me greatly,” Bishop Lisboa said in a message published on his diocese’s Facebook Page, Wednesday, August 19.
He added referencing the Holy Father, “He said he is very close to me and all the people of Cabo Delgado and monitors the situation experienced in our province with great concern and has prayed for us.”
Cabo Delgado, the Northernmost Province in Mozambique 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.
Since then, the group has reportedly carried out more than 350 attacks, killing at least 1,500 people and leaving over 200,000 others displaced and in need of humanitarian support.
In their latest attack, the insurgents on August 12 attacked and seized the port of Mocimboa da Praia in the region, a strategic logistical point for cargo deliveries to ongoing gas projects worth US$60 billion.
Bishop Lisboa has repeatedly denounced the violence taking place in his ecclesiastical jurisdiction and called on the international community to intervene.
In the August 19 phone call with the Holy Father, the Brazilian-born Prelate thanked Pope Francis for “mentioning the humanitarian crisis in Cabo Delgado Province” during the Urbi et Orbi blessing he pronounced on Easter day, April 12.
“I told him that after his mention of Cabo Delgado, there was much more interest from everyone (countries, dioceses from various parts of the world, religious congregations, international organizations, individuals) both inside and outside Mozambique and that, from there, Cabo Delgado went back to the map because it seemed like it was gone,” Bishop Lisboa said in his message.
The 64-year-old Prelate says he informed the Holy Father of the “difficult situation of Praia Mocimboa, which is currently taken by the insurgents and that two Religious people from the Congregation of San Jose de Chamberry working there have not been in contact with the Diocese for a week.”
The Pope promised to pray for that intention, Bishop Lisboa who is a member of the Congregation of the Passion of Jesus Christ (Passionists – CP) noted in his message.
According to the Prelate, Pope Francis recalled his 2019 visit to Mozambique “very well” during the conversation and expressed his concerns over the Cabo Delgado crisis, offering to help, adding that the Holy Father gave assurance of his care and concern.
“Whatever we need, we can forward it to Cardinal Czerny, the Dicastery of Human and Integral Development,” Bishop Lisboa recalled in reference to the message of Pope Francis during the phone conversation.
He added referencing the Holy Father, “He said he is with us and encouraged us: Adelante!, which means Forward!, Keep going!”
“To close our conversation, he sent his apostolic blessing to all the people of Cabo Delgado and Mozambique,” Bishop Lisboa said in recollection.
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