A former director of Zimbabwe's Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace, Mike Auret, has asked Pope John Paul II to excommunicate President Mugabe. Mr Auret said that while Mugabe is an 'ostentatious Catholic' he has also been condoning violence and the breakdown of law and order. One of Zimbabwe's leading Catholic laymen, Mike Auret resigned from the Justice and Peace Commission last September when the country's bishops refused to publish a major report documenting more than 7,000 cases of murder, torture and violence. Mike Auret now supports an opposition party. With just two weeks to go before the country's general election on June 24 and 25, his statements come at a very sensitive time. Few Zimbabwean Catholics have commented publicly on the current situation. But there was one notable exception last month when Archbishop Pius Ncube of Buluwayo said in Zimbabwe's Independent Daily News: "We call on people to have hope and courage. We ask people not to be intimidated. Even if out of fear you comply with men of violence vote according to your conscience." And a week ago a joint statement was brought out by the Catholic hierarchy in Zimbabwe calling on the government to take a lead in stopping the violence.
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