By Br. Alfonce Kugwa
The Apostolic Nuncio to Zimbabwe, Archbishop Paolo Rudelli has officially bade farewell to Zimbabwe after his transfer to Colombia by Pope Francis. Following a statement published on 19 July 2023 on the Daily Bulletin of the Holy See Press Office, Archbishop Paolo Rudelli, on 03 August 2023, officially announced his assignment to a new mission in Colombia.
He paid tribute to the government of Zimbabwe for hosting him, the local Church for the collaboration and support while he expressed gratitude to the diplomatic community for the fraternal cooperation.
In his address to representatives of the Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops’ Conference (ZCBC), the diplomatic community and government officials at the Nunciature in Harare, the Nuncio thanked the Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops for the warm welcome he received on his arrival and during his stay in the country.
“I am extremely grateful for the welcome I received from the very moment of my arrival in Harare in February 2020 as well as for the support given to my mission. During these three years, I had so many occasions of dialogue and of cooperation with the bishops, the Secretariat of the Zimbabwe Catholic Bishop Conference, with the Conference of Major Religious Superiors (CMRS) and with many leaders of the Catholic Church at all levels; priests, religious and lay people,” said the Nuncio.
He said in spite of the prolonged lockdown due to Covid-19, he was able to visit all the dioceses and will always remember the interaction he had with various Church institutions which include schools, hospitals and missions around the country witnessing the presence of the Church, especially in the most marginalised areas. Archbishop Rudelli said he was proud of the work and dedication of the Catholic Church to evangelization and to the promotion of the welfare and the common good in the country. He reiterated the word of Pope Francis that, “what we are living today is not only an era of change, but a change of an era.”
“Society is evolving rapidly and so are the conditions in which people live their faith. I am sure that the Church in Zimbabwe will be able to profit from its rich history and the faith, commitment, professionalism and zeal of so many priests, religious and lay people in order to face with creativity the new time that are ahead of us,” Archbishop Rudelli noted.
The Nuncio emphasized on the need to uphold synodality as a route to giving witness in the contemporary world. He highlighted the importance of the youth and their role in building the present and the future Church and appreciated the high representation of Zimbabwe’s Catholic youth at the 2023 World Youth Day in Portugal. The Papal Representative also stressed the need to support the youth, saying he introduced the Pope Francis Youth Award for faith and social transformation during his tenure so as to recognize the contribution of the youth to the Church and society.
Turning to the diplomatic community, Archbishop Rudelli said he was grateful for the fruitful exchange and for the opportunity to share in a more informal and friendly manner.
The Nuncio also appreciated the hard work of the Nunciature staff and acknowledged his predecessors for laying the foundation and for cultivating good relationships with the Church and the Government of Zimbabwe. He expressed special thanks to his secretary, Fr. Felipe Fabiane who will be the chargé d’affaires until the appointment of his successor.
Archbishop Rudelli said, moments of new assignments remind him that he is a pilgrim in this earthly life.
“This life of ours is a sort of pilgrimage whose destination we know by faith, but remains also a mystery. Our pilgrimage is marked of course by the many stages we travel and now as this Zimbabwean stage closes, I am ready to start a new one in Bogota, Colombia, where I will arrive on the first days of September. However, our pilgrimage, our life must be shaped by fellow travelers. This is the reason why I will not just say that I will not forget you. I want to express my gratitude today to all of you because you have been part of this pilgrimage of my life and you have marked and shaped it forever.”