Paul Samasumo - Vatican City
The Holy See’s Apostolic Nuncio to Zimbabwe, Archbishop Paolo Rudelli, Sunday morning, paid a solidarity visit on the Archbishop of Harare, Robert Christopher Ndlovu. The Archbishop of Harare has been singled out for a scorching personal attack by the Zimbabwe Government. The Apostolic Nuncio’s visit was also a symbolic act of solidarity with all the Bishops of Zimbabwe.
Pastoral Letter asked Government to avoid suppression of citizens
It all started with a Pastoral Letter published Friday by the Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops Conference (ZCBC). The Bishops’ Pastoral Letter called on the Government to address the economic and political crisis in the country without resorting to the violent suppression of citizens. The Letter followed a brutal police and military crackdown of 31 July protests, in Zimbabwe. Several activists and journalists are still under detention, in Harare -the capital city.
Personal attack on Archbishop Ndlovu
In reaction to the Bishops’ Pastoral Letter, Zimbabwe’s Minister of Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services, Monica Mutsvangwa issued a statement attacking the Catholic Church leadership. The Statement was read in its entirety on national television and other government media on Saturday evening.
Although all Catholic Bishops in Zimbabwe signed the Pastoral Letter, the Information Minister chose to isolate and target Archbishop Ndlovu for a personal attack in the Statement she released. Archbishop Ndlovu is the current President of the Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops Conference.
Government avoided content of the Pastoral Letter
The Government’s attack on Archbishop Ndlovu and other Bishops referred to their Letter as, “shards of a Pastoral Letter issued under the misguided if (not) evil-minded leadership of the Archbishop of Harare.” Minister Mutsvangwa’s Statement, however, avoided responding to the gist of issues raised by the Bishops. In many ways, most of the contents of the Pastoral Letter have been raised before by Zimbabwe’s lawyers, medical personnel and rights activists. Observers in Zimbabwe also noted that the Government’ Statement sought to misinform Zimbabweans. It portrayed Archbishop Ndlovu and other Catholic Bishops of acting contrary to the wishes and positions held by Pope Francis.
Catholics and non-Catholics stand with the Bishops
For their part, Catholics and non-Catholics in Zimbabwe took to social media to express solidarity with the Bishops. They particularly reminded Catholic Ministers and ZANU Party officials to remember that Bishops were Shepherds who have no political ambitions. The Bishops, they said, could not remain silent in the face of so much suffering, COVID-19 and growing poverty.