Singing, altar boys resplendent in white robes and the whole paraphernalia of Catholic pageantry was on show today as the Mangochi Diocese welcomed Montfort Stima as its new bishop.
But beneath the colour and splendour of religion lay the not-so-subtle subtext of politics as the full gamut of political stripes was there—perhaps to stake a claim to the right to rule not only in Mangochi, but beyond Sitima’s domain.
The strong political footprints were the marks of President Joyce Banda, DPP torch bearer on May 20 Peter Mutharika, UDF presidential candidate Atupele Muluzi, PPM’s Mark Katsonga and MCP running mate Richard Msowoya.
Mutharika’s presence at the function today was a rare moment, given that he scarcely attends events where he has to share the stage with President Banda.
Even PP castaway Khumbo Kachali, who is still floating in the political waters and is yet to recover his feet after being ignored as Banda’s partner on May 20, summoned some energy to travel to the occasion.
It was supposed to be Sitima’s show, and so it was.
But its political dimension could not be ignored as the Tripartite Elections loom large and cast the unmistakable shadow over parties only too keen to capitalise on any occasion to show their benign sides and leadership credentials.
Perhaps it was only fitting that such a highly choreographed occasion should not escape the grip of politics for the Catholic Church itself is a theatre for politics given its role in fighting for national causes.
Inevitably, Sitima, a successor to Bishop Alessandro Pagani who has retired after serving since 2007, will find himself in the glare of the power holders as he exercises the church’s prophetic role as the light of the dark world where politics is the main game in town.
The new bishop of Mangochi was ordained priest on August 3 1986 at Limbe Cathedral. He comes from Khomera Village, Traditional Authority (T/A) Dambe in Neno.