by Innocent Mujeri
The pastoral letter by the Catholic Bishops to the Government of Zimbabwe has divided the Roman Catholic church as some clergymen who are against the letter have started to mobilise for the signing of a petition directed to the Vatican distancing themselves from the letter.
Some priests who spoke to this publication on condition of anonymity said the letter does not represent the view of the Catholic Bishops or the Catholic church.
“That letter does not represent the views of the Bishops of the Catholic Church. The Bishops who appended their signatures to that document were representing themselves and opinions contained in that letter are purely theirs. The language used in that letter was not the Church’s language, hence we have distanced ourselves from the letter,” said one Harare priest
One of the Catholic priest, who spoke on condition of anonymity said that, the pastoral letter of the Bishops seems to have been written from a political pulpit not a pastoral one.
“By calling people to rally behind the #ZimbabweanLivesMatter,our Bishops exposed themselves as political players and preachers of the Word of God. The letter was riddled with opposition lingo and one wonders if our Bishops have become active political players. That`s why we are writing to the Vatican so that they can reign in our Bishops who are slowly becoming rogue and political,” said the priest.
Another Roman Catholic priest from the Catholic Church’s Chinhoyi Diocese said this is a difficult time to be a Catholic priest as most people now view the church as in direct opposition to the Government and a purveyor of falsehoods.
“By insinuating that the poor have no one to defend them and they don’t seem on the national agenda, our Bishops exposed themselves as liars. Everyone knows that the current Government has people at heart. We have seen programmes such as, COVID-19 relief funds and Basic Education Assistance Module (BEAM) all being introduced to assist the poor. Maybe our Bishops are not well versed with what is happening in the country. "There is no crisis, political or otherwise. It seems the Bishops have joined the groups of those who manufacture crises,” said the Chinhoyi Diocese priest.
One Vicar General who also spoke to this publication on condition of anonymity said the Bishops letter was an attack, a veiled attack on President Emmerson Mnangagwa and was also against the dictates of the Word of God, which teaches not to rebuke someone harshly. “the bible teaches to respect our leaders because they were ordained by God, but our Bishops seemed to have lost the call,’ said the Vicar.
“1 Timothy 5.1 says ‘Never speak harshly to an older man, but appeal to him as if he were your father’. Our Bishops were supposed to seek audience with the President or Government officials and air out their grievances instead of making a fool of themselves. I don’t think the President would have denied a chance to meet with the Bishops. That was surely an error of judgement on the part of the Bishops driven by hate and political emotions,” said the Vicar General.
On 14 August 2020,the Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops released a document they titled “The March is not Ended” and they insinuated that the country was suffering from "a multi-layered crisis", including economic collapse, deepening poverty, corruption and human rights abuses.
The Government immediately responded to the Bishops letter, which they said was full of generalized accusations and urged the Catholic Congregation and the people of Zimbabwe to ignore the specious Pastoral Letter.