By Sr. Jecinter Antoinette Okoth, FSSA*
Church leaders in Africa and Madagascar have expressed their sorrow following the death of the Malawian Archbishop Tarcisius Gervazio Ziyaye which occurred on Monday, December 14 and mourned the Prelate as a “true man of God” who was committed in his service to the Church in Africa and the surrounding Island.
Speaking on behalf of members of the Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar (SECAM), the President of SECAM Philippe Nakellentuba Cardinal Ouédraogo noted in a statement that Archbishop Ziyaye who has been a member of SECAM for the last 29 years from the time of his Episcopal Ordination till his death was a true ‘man of God’ and “profoundly loyal to the Church.”
The late Archbishop who once served in SECAM standing committee as a representative of the Association of Member Episcopal Conferences in Eastern Africa (AMECEA), one of the eight regional conferences that form SECAM, will be remembered for his “commitment to the service of God and profound spiritual care for the people,” reads the statement dated Tuesday, December 15.
The death of Archbishop Ziyaye who until his demise was the Local Ordinary of Malawi’s Lilongwe Archdiocese, is “a sad moment for all those who have known him, particularly the clergy, Religious, lay faithful, family members and all other people in Lilongwe Archdiocese and Malawi as a whole,” Cardinal Ouédraogo of Burkina Faso’s Ouagadougou Archdiocese expressed adding that, “He will be prominently missed by the Church-Family of God in Africa and Madagascar.”
Expressing heart-felt condolences on behalf of SECAM members to the President of Episcopal Conference of Malawi (ECM), Archbishop Thomas Luke Msusa of Blantyre Archdiocese and all members of the Church-Family of God in Malawi, Cardinal Ouédraogo said referencing the Scriptures, “Be consoled by the Christian belief in the resurrection that those who have died with Christ, shall be raised with him. For “We believe that Jesus died and rose again, and that it will be the same for those who have died in Jesus: God will bring them with him.”
He added, “May Archbishop Ziyaye be a fervent intercessor for the Church-Family of God in Lilongwe, Malawi, Africa and Madagascar; the Church he loved so quite selflessly, devotedly and generously. May his gentle soul rest in perfect peace.”
Meanwhile in another statement, the Chairman of AMECEA Rt. Rev. Charles Sampa Kasonde eulogized the late Prelate as a man who will be remembered “with warmth, love and respect as a committed servant who loved God and his Church with singlemindedness.”
The late Archbishop’s “outstanding humility, spiritual life and discipline leave no doubt in our hearts that Most Rev. has left a big gap that cannot be filled with any other person,” adds Bishop Kasonde who is the Local Ordinary of Zambia’s Solwezi Diocese about Archbishop Ziyaye who served as Chairman of AMECEA and Chancellor of the Catholic University of Eastern Africa (CUEA) from 2008 to 2014.
Addressing Archbishop Msusa the Chairman of ECM in a statement signed Monday, December 14, together with the entire Catholic family in Malawi, the priests, Religious and lay faithful of the Archdiocese of Lilongwe, relatives and friends Bishop Kasonde said, “When death comes so suddenly to take from us a person we have grown to treasure, it leaves us devastated and empty. However, we are comforted by the word of God in the book of Prophet Isaiah that “Good people pass away but the godly die before their time…No one seems to understand that God is protecting them from the evil to come. For those who follow godly paths will rest in peace when they die.”
Until his death, Archbishop Ziyaye has been the Chairman for Board of Trustees for CUEA, an institute founded by AMECEA.
On behalf of Catholic Bishops Conference of Ethiopia, His Eminence Cardinal Berhaneyesus Souraphiel also wrote on Friday, December 18, “During our Assembly which we held here in Addis Ababa from 14th to 18th December we have prayed for the repose of his soul. We would like to send our deepest condolences to the Episcopal Conference of Malawi, his immediate family members, clergy, Religious men and women, all lay Catholic faithful of the Archdiocese of Lilongwe Lilongwe. May God comfort the Church in Malawi.”
In his condolences message to CUEA Chancellor Bishop Kasonde and the Chairman of ECM Archbishop Msusa, the Vice Chancellor of CUEA Very Rev. Prof Stephen Mbugua Ngari noted that during the late Archbishop’s six years tenure as Chancellor of the University, CUEA “underwent extensive infrastructural expansion.”
“Under his Chairmanship, the Trustees, together with the University Council lead the drive in implementing CUEA’s transformation strategy; implementation of this strategy is at an advanced stage,” Prof. Mbugua who is also the Rector of the university disclosed.
Archbishop Ziyaye who died at age 71, in Namibia while receiving medical attention, served as Bishop for Dedza and Metropolitan Archbishop for Blantyre and Lilongwe respectively. He was buried Saturday at Maula Cathedral in Lilongwe.
May the soul of Archbishop Ziyaye rest in eternal peace. — Amecea