September 18, 2003

Concerns over Bishop De Jong's death

Concolences from every quarter of the society were received over the death of Ndola Diocese Bishop Dennis de Jong who passed away two days ago, aged 72 years.

Zambia Episcopal Conference secretary for communication Fr. Paul Samasumo said Bishop de Jong's concern for the poor was unparalleled. The many awards that Bishop de Jong received over the years evidenced his concern for the poor. "Bishop de Jong was fearless but gentle in his criticism of government policies that did not have the interest of the majority at heart," he said. Fr. Samasumo said many Zambians and Catholics would sadly miss Bishop de Jong. One of the prestigious awards of recent times that Bishop de Jong received was the Africa Prize for Leadership for the Sustainable end of Hunger awarded to him by the Hunger Project in 2001.

From the political side, Stats President Levy Mwanawasa prayed for the Catholics over the death of the bishop stating that the late Bishop contributed tremendously to the development of the country. The late Bishop spearheaded the establishment of a lot of projects, especially for the youths in his diocese, Mwanawasa added.

Similar messages were received from Zambian Vice-President Nevers Mumba, the President of the Forum for Democracy and Development (FDD), Lt. Gen. Christon Tembo, and a number of other institutions and NGOs. Women for Change (WfC) executive director Emily Sikazwe described the late Bishop de Jong as a pillar of society. She said the late Bishop de Jong was a unifying factor in Zambia. "We will definitely miss him in the struggle for better life of humanity," Sikazwe said. She urged the Church and Zambians to emulate the late Bishop de Jong's love for the voiceless.

Bishop de Jong was born on May 2, 1931 and received his primary education at Chipata and his secondary school in Harare, formerly Salisbury. He studied for priesthood in Rome, Italy from 1952 to 1958. Bishop de Jong was ordained priest on December 20, 1958 in Rome. In 1959, he went to London where he followed a course in higher education. On his return in 1960, he was appointed teacher and later rector of Francisdale Minor Seminary in Ndola. Dennis de Jong was appointed Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Ndola on July 10, 1975. Up to the time of his death, he was also ZEC director of communications, and between 1978 and 1984 presided over the Conference. (The Post, Lusaka)

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