Pope Benedict XVI officially erected a new diocese in the African nation of Malawi on Wednesday. According to the bishop who has overseen the area until now, the announcement represents a "moment of grace."
The Diocese of Karonga, in northern Malawi, was created from a third of the land previously contained within borders of the Diocese of Mzuzu. It separates 61,000 people in five parishes from what was the Diocese of Mzuzu's Catholic population of 400,000.
Along with the announcement of the new diocese came the appointment of its bishop. Fr. Martin Anwel Mtumbuka, who will soon be ordained to lead the faithful of the diocese.
Bishop Joseph Mukasa Zuza, who currently heads the Diocese of Mzuzu, told CNA on Wednesday that creation of the new diocese and the appointment of the bishop-elect "means quite a lot" to the area.
He explained that the addition was "necessary, because it is quite taxing to travel to some places from headquarters." The bishop described difficult travel on poor roads in all-terrain vehicles to parishes as far as 250 miles (400 kilometers) away.
This announcement, he said, "is a moment of grace," adding that "the care of the parishioners will be easier because the bishops will not have to move as far.
"We will be more available," he said in the phone interview.
Details of the new diocese will take some time to come into place, Bishop Zuza explained, but things should be ironed out within the next two to four months, depending on when Church leaders, such as the Apostolic Nuncio to Malawi and the new bishop, can meet to discuss the details. At that point, he added, they will also decide which priests will serve in the new diocese and set a date for the ordination of the bishop-elect.
Bishop-elect Mtumbuka has been the serving as the Vice Chancellor for academics at the Catholic University of Malawi.