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Bishop Paul Duffy, OMI: 1932-2011
27/08/2011 Zambia

The first Bishop of Mongu, Zambia, Bishop Paul DUFFY, died on August 23, 2011, at the Oblates’ Madonna Residence in San Antonio, Texas, where he was receiving treatment for cancer. He came to the United States just a few days after the ordination of his successor, Bishop Evans CHENYEMBA, who was ordained on May 28, 2011.

Born in 1932 in the State of Massachusetts (USA), Bishop Duffy professed his first vows as an Oblate in 1952. He was ordained a priest in 1962 and a bishop in 1997.

In 1984 Bishop Duffy was one of the first four Oblates from the former Southern Province of the United States to serve in Zambia. Fighting for the rights of the people in the Western Province, Bishop Duffy became a champion of the poor, and was branded an enemy by politicians and corrupt businessmen.

In his homily delivered during the episcopal ordination of Bishop Chinyemba, Archbishop Nicola Girasoli, Apostolic Nuncio in Zambia, advised the new bishop to be the voice of the voiceless: “In Mongu, in this diocese, you succeed a great Bishop. Try to imitate and continue the apostolic pastoral ministry of Bishop Paul Duffy. Be faithful to his pastoral legacy. Dear Bishop Evans, try to be close to the needs of your people, be the voice of the voiceless and the voice of the poor.”

Bishop Duffy was indeed that “voice of the voiceless.” He “left nothing undared” in speaking up for the poor. When he criticized members of the government for not fulfilling promises to help the poor in Western Province, Zambia, their negative reaction was swift. They angrily rebuked Bishop Duffy’s statements. A group affiliated with the ruling party petitioned the Vatican’s representative. In September, 2010, an independent newspaper in Zambia reported that the information secretary of the ruling party had threatened to mobilize ruffians to travel to Mongu to manhandle Bishop Duffy if he continued to speak negatively about the party and the president.

Western Province of Zambia suffers more than any other province from high poverty levels, low economic production and a neglected infrastructure. The majority of children are unable to obtain basic nutritional needs. Most women are highly disadvantaged and live in extreme poverty, vulnerable to HIV/AIDS as they are forced to engage in risky behaviors for economic survival.

The Diocese of Mongu, established in 1997, covers some 87,000 square kilometres in western Zambia, with a population of over 620,000; of these, approximately 10% are Catholics.

After a memorial Mass in San Antonio with his brother Oblates, family and friends, Bishop Duffy’s body was returned to Zambia for burial in the diocese he had founded.