ZAMBIA Conference of Catholic Bishops (ZCCB) secretary general Father Cleophas Lungu says politicians must desist from abusing the Church by offering gifts of cash donations ahead of next year’s general election because it is immoral.

In an interview, Fr Lungu said donating cash to entice members of the Church to vote for an individual politician was immoral, adding that the Church remained non-partisan during campaign season.

“We remain non-partisan when it comes to politics and we are very much aware that as we draw near to the 2021 election, our churches are going to be frequented by a number politicians from the ruling party, but also even from the opposition and there will be offers of gifts in terms of money and in-kind. But the Church is very committed to ensure that our esteemed political leaders do not abuse the Church and draw it into partisan politics. We do no not support one candidate over another; we believe in the tenets of democracy that guarantees that individual members of churches are free to participate in the governance process of their country by supporting the candidate of their choice. And as pastors of God’s flock, we are not there to tell our members to belong to this political party. Our members must be left free to elect candidates of their choice,” Fr Lungu said.

“We do not support any calculations to draw the Church into partisan politics, even by being offered gifts of one kind or another. Donations are always welcome. For example, the Catholic Church runs a lot of hospitals, orphanages as well as social service. We would rather that the politicians give and donate directly to those charitable causes rather than giving the Church leadership. They are welcome in terms of responding to very visible and relevant needs like the orphans and vulnerable. If someone donates in order to look after the sick, morally speaking, there is nothing wrong, but not to give to a church so that members vote for a person, that is immoral.”

Fr Lungu stressed that Catholic priests that endorsed political leaders did not represent the position of the Church.

“Whenever you hear of a Catholic priest that is endorsing a political candidate over the other that means that that person is surely speaking in his own opinion and not the position of the Church. All Catholic priests remember that our principal training obliges us not to declare our personal inclinations in public in any way at all. We leaders in church must be non-partisan, must be embracing because in the same community, the Catholic Church, you will find members from all the political parties and we should be there to provide pastoral guidance. We should be there to provide ethical guidance and we should all be there to provide guidance for them to do the right thing. That is to engage in politics of development, politics that are democratic and politics that enhance the national cause of transformation. I will be utterly surprised to hear of a Catholic priest or father endorsing one candidate over the other. That is un-Catholic, that is uncalled for and should be taken as personal not as the official position of the church,” said Fr Lungu.