LUSAKA, Zambia — Archbishop Telesphore Mpundu told Catholic nuns from eastern and central Africa they deserve a commendation for doing a difficult and challenging job for the marginalized.

Archbishop Mpundu, president of the Zambian bishops' conference, celebrated Mass Aug.19 for delegates to the Association of Consecrated Women in Eastern and Central Africa, meeting in the Zambian capital.

"You can imagine a church without women religious, it wouldn't be there. You are found where not even a bishop can be," he told them. "You die on your feet. When a sister goes to bed or is sick, she must be really sick."

He said bishops were at times called to quell disagreements that arose between parishioners and nuns, but he described such things as issues that happen within the family of God.

"We give thanks to God for your presence, your charisma," Archbishop Mpundu said. "You do a tremendous job that really your work is being appreciated by God's people ... please forgive our shortcomings, which are many.

"We are at the service of the people, and this is better fulfilled through the religious, especially you, the women religious," he said.