Zimba Demands Evidence On Milingo's Condition

WE demand evidence and not mere undercover diplomatic denials on Archbishop Emmanuel Milingo's conditions, demanded information minister Newstead Zimba yesterday.

Zimba said the onus was on the Vatican to prove with tangible evidence allegations of Milingo being kept in a secluded place and chained. He demanded that the Vatican must tell Zambia the state and conditions of Archbishop Emmanuel Milingo now and not later.

"Our concerns call on the Vatican to once and for all clear this issue as to the state and conditions of Archbishop Milingo. Now that the media within Italy, close to the source, can publish that our citizen is ill-treated we have every reason to feel concerned and demand for a prompt answer," Zimba said.

"I would suggest the Vatican lets Milingo talk to the international media in Rome for us to know what is said is true or not. The onus is on Vatican to prove those allegations with evidence not mere undercover diplomatic denials."

Zimba said the Vatican had a representative in Zambia who equally should not feel inhibited to talk to the press over the issue because the nation needed to know.

"Yes we heard the Church will only comment later but we suggest it does so now for the good of everybody," Zimba said. "If the Pope has an answer through their representative we should learn."

Zimba said the Catholic Church as one of the biggest religious groupings in the world had a code of conduct on how it exerted discipline but human rights should be respected.

He said the United Nations conventions were clear that every human being, no matter his status, position or religious beliefs, must be treated within the confines of human rights laws. He said the Catholic Church should understand that Archbishop Milingo was a citizen of Zambia and the government, by its nature, had a duty to trace its citizens wherever they were and know how they were treated.

"Milingo is a citizen of this country. We respect his choice of religion and occupation but the Catholic Church in exerting excesses on an individual who fails to comply with doctrines must respect at all times that such people belong to a country," he said.

Zimba said Milingo at the age of 73 decided to renounce celibacy and this was a decision he made and directed by conscience.

He also said Milingo's departure from Zambia was equally a controversial one as such it was time the Church opened up on the Archbishop.

Zimba said at this time there had been no contact from the Vatican regarding the recent allegations and promised to inform the nation once an explanation was received.

But Lusaka Catholic Archbishop Merdado Mazombwe has denied reports that Archbishop Emmanuel Milingo was in prison. Addressing a Catholic men's Insaka at Thorn Park Catholic Church, Archbishop Mazombwe asked Catholic believers to dismiss media reports that Archbishop Milingo was in custody. He disclosed that Archbishop Milingo recently met Pope John Paul and requested to go for an eight month long retreat at the Vatican.

He urged the Catholic believers to reach out to the communities to explain the correct position of Archbishop Milingo. Archbishop Mazombwe said it was wrong for other churches to demonstrate against the Vatican on a matter which had nothing to do with their religion.

He was reacting to threats by some youth organisations that they would get to the streets if Vatican did not release Archbishop Milingo.