Fr Damaseke Francis and Gabriel Kamlomo
A sea of the faithful and people of good-will in ceremonially coloured facemasks converged at Bembeke Cathedral grounds to witness the consecration of Fr. Peter Adrian Chifukwa as bishop of the diocese of Dedza Diocese.
Appointed by Pope Francis on May , 2021, the new shepherd for the Catholic Diocese of Dedza, Bishop Peter Adrian Chifukwa assumes office three years after his predecessor, Bishop Emmanuel Cosmas Kanyama died on February 17th, 2018.
“I am the way the truth and the life” is the episcopal motto which Bishop Chifukwa has chosen as his guide taken from John 14:6.
The Bishop-elect presented himself in priestly garment before Archbishop Luke Msusa the ordaining bishop to make the required promises on assumption of the office of bishop.
Bishop Chifukwa comes is as the fifth bishop of the Diocese of Dedza since it was elevated from status of Apostolic Vicariate to diocese on April 25, 1959. Rt. Rev. Cornelius Chitsulo was the first bishop of Dedza until his death on February 28, 1984. He was succeeded by Bishop Gervasio Moses Chisendera (June 25, 1984- June 7, 2000 followed by Bishop Remi Joseph Sainte-Marie (September 7, 2000 – February 18, 2006; followed by Rt. Rev. Emmanuel Cosmas Kanyama who led the died from July 4, 2007 until his death on February 17, 2018.
According to 2020 statistics, the Diocese of Dedza has 17 parishes with three deaneries, 355 out-churches 1,714 Small Christian Communities (SCC) with a population of Catholic of 0ver 356,000 accounting for over 63% of the total population. It has 56 priests of which 11 a Religious; 18 male Religious and 115 women Religions
At exactly 9:33am, a joyful procession begun led by Archbishop Thomas Luke Msusa and the Apostolic Nuncio to Malawi and Zambia, His Excellency Archbishop Gianfranco Gallone.
Consecrator, Archbishop Thomas Luke Msusa, called on all the faithful to pray with joy as “in his time, God makes all things beautiful and possible”.
In his homily Archbishop Msusa reminded the congregation that “We have all the reasons to thank God. First and foremost, we thank God for showing us love and mercy in giving us a new Shepherd in the Church, in particular Dedza, after the seat was vacant see for three years.”
Archbishop Msusa encouraged the congregation not to forget praying for the eternal repose of late Bishop Emmanuel Kanyama who, he said, was a selfless servant of the Church in Dedza until his death.
And turning to the new bishop, Archbishop Msusa said: “… Do not be afraid. Be courageous and count on God’s help in your new role as bishop. A good leader in the Church is the one who recognizes God’s holiness and his own unworthiness.”
He urged the Bishop-elect to teach the truth, give hope to all, help all to attain holiness and get salvation and also advance peace, unity and integral development which the Church has preached in the vicissitudes of time.
” Your appointment is a responsibility not simply power. You are a Shepherd of all,” he said.
The homily ended by thanking all who had played a pivotal role for the Bishop-elect to be where he is today.
Speaking for the first time as bishop, Rt. Rev. Chifukwa expressed his bewilderedness at why he, of the many priests he had been picked to lead the diocese. But he quickly reminded the Congregation of John 15:16: “You did not choose me; I chose you.”
He thanked the Holy Father Pope Francis through the Apostolic Nuncio to Malawi Archbishop Gianfranco Gallone for entrusting him with such a huge responsibility.
Composed but with a fatherly voice, he outlined unity, self-reliance, charity, promotion of vocations, contact and dialogue as his priority tasks in office.
On his part, Archbishop Msusa who is also the President of the Episcopal Conference of Malawi, thanked the people of Dedza for patiently waiting for their Shepherd. And addressing the State President Dr. Lazarus Chakwera who was in attendance, Archbishop Thomas Msusa also expressed gratitude to him for honouring the invitation to grace the occasion.
“Limba mtima M’bale wanga” which literary translates to ‘Courage my brother’) was the catch phrase in the speech of the Apostolic Nuncio to Malawi Most Rev. Gianfranco Gallone. “Bishop Chifukwa, do not be afraid. God is with you,”
Quoting words of the Holy Father Pope Francis, the Nuncio reminded the new bishop that “Our only strength, is the strength of the good Shepherd. Closeness to God is the living source of the Bishop”
Like Archbishop Msusa, the Apostolic Nuncio also thanked the Vicar General Fr John Chithonje for the job well done during the past three years.
On his part, President Chakwera addressed the joyous congregation saying, “Today’s celebration is a wiping of our tears which we have had over the past three years for losing Bishop Kanyama.”
To Bishop Chifuwa, the State President had simple words,“Khalani olimba mtima” meaning ‘Be courageous’. Do not move to the right or to the left.”