Zambia Gets Its First Cardinal

Archbishop Medardo Mazombwe Knows Africa

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By Nieves San Martin

ROME, OCT. 26, 2010 ( Cardinal-designate Medardo Mazombwe, the retired archbishop of Lusaka, Zambia, will be the first one from his country to wear a red hat.

Last week, Benedict XVI announced the names of 24 prelates who will be created cardinals, 20 of whom qualify as electors (under 80 years old) in the case of a conclave for a Papal election. Cardinal-designate Mazombwe will turn 80 next Sept. 24.

In a statement published Thursday by the Zambian Episcopal Conference, spokesman Paul Samasuno said the cardinal-designate, who recently celebrated the 50th anniversary of his priesthood, was an ardent defender of the cancellation of Zambia’s foreign debt in the mid 1980s, during the campaign of the Jubilee movement. At present, he is involved in several new development projects in different parts of Zambia.

He, along with the other 24 prelates, will be created cardinals in a consistory on Nov. 20, the eve of the Solemnity of Christ the King.


Born Sept. 24, 1931, in Chipata, Eastern province, Medardo Mazombwe was ordained a priest in 1960, when Zambia still did not have a native diocese or Church.
Missionaries took the Good News to this region of Africa, but Zambia did not exist as an independent country. Together with neighboring Zimbabwe, the land was part of what was known as Northern and Southern Rhodesia.

There was a prefecture that was raised to an apostolic vicariate, which then became a diocese on April 25, 1959, on the eve of the country’s independence.
After Zambia’s independence, the diocese’s name, Fort Jameson, was changed to Chipata. Father Medardo Mazombwe was appointed bishop of Chipata on Nov. 11, 1970.

On Nov. 30, 1996, he was appointed archbishop of Lusaka, succeeding the city’s controversial Archbishop Emmanuel Milingo, who returned to the lay state in 2009.

Archbishop Mazombwe retired in 2006. Today, at age 79, he continues to be active in the service of the local Church.


The history of the Church in Zambia is linked to the missions. In 1879, the Holy See erected the Zambesi Mission (in the territory occupied today by Zimbabwe, Malawi, Zambia and Botswana) entrusting it to the Jesuits who arrived in 1879.

The White Fathers, the Society of the Missionaries of Africa, followed the Jesuits and many others came after them, thus making the Church in Zambia a multi-cultural entity.
The English-speaking country of Zambia is located in the south of Africa. It has 12.5 million inhabitants and a life-expectancy of 42 years. The country is often mentioned among the 24 African countries most vulnerable to famine, together with Burkina Faso, Comoros, Guinea Bissau, Rwanda, Mozambique, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Tanzania, Sudan, Togo and Zimbabwe.

Thus Cardinal-designate Mazombwe shares his experience of the poor of Africa and of the world.

The country continues to be isolated to a great extent as it does not have an outlet to the sea. In September of this year the government of Zimbabwe signed an agreement with a consortium for the construction of a new railroad line that will connect the north of the country with Zambia. Once the construction is over, northern Zimbabwe will be connected directly with the city of Kafue, an important road and railroad link in Zambia.

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