Zimbabwe: new archbishop criticises government at first Mass

 The new Roman Catholic Archbishop of Harare publicly criticised the Zimbabwean government's poor human rights record at his installation Mass on Saturday. President Mugabe and his wife Grace were among the 6,000-strong crowd that heard Archbishop Robert Ndlovu's speak in Harare's City Sports Stadium. The archbishop said: "The role of a bishop and of the church in general is to stand up for human dignity, and from human dignity flow human rights." He said that free expression, association and assembly were rights the church supported. After the Mass, Mugabe, who had received Communion with his wife, made an impromptu speech, attacking unnamed religious leaders who "joined hands with erstwhile colonial masters to peddle lies about the state of affairs and demonize Zimbabwe". He said he had recently sought a meeting with Archbishop Pius Ncube of Bulawayo and that he waited for an hour but the Archbishop did not turn up. Archbishop Ncube responded quickly saying he had only been informed of the proposed meeting when it was too late. He added that meetings between the president and him would not solve anything unless the President used his position as Head of State and First Secretary and President of Zanu PF to end political violence. Archbishop Ncube said: "In fact, four Catholic bishops met Mugabe in October last year, expressing their concern about violence but nothing came out of that meeting. The problem with Mugabe is that he can be a very charming and sweet person when you discuss some of these problems and you would think that he also has similar concerns. The problem is that he never seems to tell his supporters to stop beating up people they think are their rivals and this means people will continue to be beaten and killed in politically-motivated violence." The new Archbishop, Robert Christopher Ndlovu, was the former bishop of Hwange - a city in northwestern Zimbabwe where up to 20, 000 suspected opposition supporters were killed by Mugabe's security forces in the 1980s. News of Ndlovu's appointment drew sharp criticism from Zimbabwe's state-controlled media last month. Like Pius Ncube the new archbishop is from the minority Ndebele tribe. Born in Lupane, in 1955, Archbishop Ndlovu attended Tshongogwe primary school and the Dete Marist Brothers secondary school before studying theology and philosophy at Chishawasha Seminary. He gained a Masters in Biblical Theology at the Catholic University in Nairobi, Kenya, and was appointed Archbishop of Harare by Pope John Paul II on 21 May this year. In his acceptance speech, Archbishop Ndlovu praised his predecessor, the late Archbishop Patrick Chakaipa, saying: "I feel humbled by the great missionary work done by my predecessor. I ask for your prayers that God can help us carry the heavy loads together and that he will guide His people though difficult times."

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