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After Bishops’ Letter in Zimbabwe Draws Criticism, Catholic Professionals Show Solidarity

Logo Catholic Professional Network of Zimbabwe (CPNZ).

Members of the Catholic Professional Network of Zimbabwe (CPNZ) have expressed their solidarity with the Catholic Bishops in the country after their recent Pastoral Letter drew criticism from the Southern African nation’s leadership.

The Bishops’ August 14 collective statement as members of the Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops’ Conference (ZCBC) called on President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s Government to address economic and political challenges bedeviling the country.

In their Sunday, August 16 statement, CPNZ members “note with some dismay the statement issued by the Minister of Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services, Honourable Mrs. Monica Mutsvangwa on 15 August 2020.

“The statement appears to be an angry and rushed response to the temperate and clear call to government made via the Pastoral letter of 14 August 2020,” the members of CPNZ add in their statement published on their social media page.

They acknowledge receiving “with comfort and satisfaction the ZCBC pastoral letter of 14 August 2020” and explain that the Bishops’ letter “follows the long, proud, pre- and post-independence Catholic tradition of speaking out in support and defence of the large majority of Zimbabweans, many of whom are disadvantaged, marginalized and seemingly powerless.”

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Following the July 31 government crackdown on protesters, members of ZCBC issued a statement calling on the State to address the economic and political crisis in the country. 

In the August 14 collective statement, the Bishops in Zimbabwe note that “the call for demonstrations is the expression of growing frustration and aggravation caused by the conditions that the majority of Zimbabweans find themselves in.”

“Fear runs down the spine of many of our people today. The crackdown on dissent is unprecedented,” they say in reference to the government crackdown and probe, “is this the Zimbabwe we want?”

They continue, “Our Government automatically labels anyone thinking differently as an enemy of the country: that is an abuse.”

“We feel that the government is focused on things other than national democratic priorities. This amounts to dereliction of duty,” the Bishops add in their 5-page statement.

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They call on President Mnangagwa’s Government to adopt the Comprehensive National Settlement Framework (CNSF), which highlights issues that “the nation must resolve in order to extricate itself out of the current malaise.”

In reaction to the Bishops’ statement, Zimbabwe’s Minister of Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services, Mrs. Mutsvangwa blamed the leadership of the Catholic Church in the country, terming their message “shards of a Pastoral Letter issued under the misguided if evil-minded leadership of the Archbishop of Harare.”

“We vehemently object to and strongly condemn the Pastoral letter of Archbishop Christopher Ndlovu and his coterie of Catholics Bishop Prelates,” the Minister said August 16.

The Minister singled out the President of ZCBC saying, “Archbishop Ndlovu dons the robes of Archbishop Arthanase Seromba who was the chief spiritual ideologist and violent practitioner of the 1994 Hutu-Tutsi Genocide of Rwanda.”

“With nefarious cynicism to history, Archbishop Robert Christopher Ndlovu is inching to lead the Zimbabwe Catholic congregation into the darkest dungeons of Rwanda-type genocide,” the Minister lamented in her widely publicized statement

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In their August 16 statement, the Catholic Professionals “particularly and categorically condemn the very misplaced and unwarranted attack on the person of Archbishop Robert Ndlovu, whose ethnicity is needlessly brought to the fore and is singled out for a venomous attack as if the pastoral letter was his own initiative or creation. It simply is not.”

“ZCBC speaks collectively, and a President there for the time being, unlike perhaps a political party President, does not wield disproportionate power and authority over his brother Bishops, at all. They speak and act collegially and more importantly, their voice is the voice of the people. It is the voice of God,” the Catholic Professionals say in a show of solidarity with their Bishops.

Echoing their Bishops’ statement, CPNZ members call on President Mnangagwa’s Government to “embrace the Comprehensive National Settlement Framework Proposal to achieve National Convergence, Unity and Progress so that we, together, as Zimbabweans, mould the Zimbabwe We Want.”

They also urge the country’s leadership to “cease or desist from any and all retributive actions against ordinary citizens, journalists, political activists, political parties, civil society and the Church.”

Meanwhile, the Apostolic Nuncio in the southern Africa nation, Archbishop Paolo Rudelli, is reported to have paid a solidarity visit to the Archbishop Robert Christopher Ndlovu following the criticism. 

Other citizens’ groups including the National Movement of Catholic Students Zimbabwe (NMCS) have also expressed their solidarity with the Catholic Church Leaders.  

NMCS members have said in reference to the Bishops, “The letter that they wrote indeed speaks to the issues which we as the youth have been grappling with.”

“NMCS feels emboldened that our shepherds have sought to remind us that they are with us in this difficult time,” the leadership of the Catholic Students’ movement have added.