Zimbabwe: Church says late archbishop did not support violent land-grabs

 The Catholic Church in Zimbabwe has clarified that the late Archbishop of Harare, Most Rev Patrick Fani Chakaipa did not approve of the violent seizures of white-owned farms in the country. Archbishop Chakaipa, Zimbabwe's first indigenous bishop, died at the age of 71 on April 8, 2003, after two years battling cancer. In his condolence message, President Robert Mugabe claimed that the late Archbishop had "unambiguously" supported the land re-distribution exercise of his government. Many broadcasting channels repeated that message the next 24 hours, Fr Oskar Wermter SJ of Harare told the Catholic Information Service Africa (CISA) But the Archbishop of Bulawayo, Most Rev Pius Ncube, and Fr Walter Nyatsanza, Secretary General of the Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops' Conference, stated that while the late Archbishop had wanted the grassroots people to have access to more land, he did not approve of the violence used in the process, Fr Wermter said. The same day that Zimbabwe's Catholics gathered to bury their bishop of 27 years, he said, the state-owned HERALD daily paper demanded that Chakaipa be declared a hero. "But he was buried on Chishawasha Cemetery, like his predecessor and many other priests and religious, not on Heroes' Acre, where 'national heroes', an honour given by the ruling party, ZANU-PF [Zimbabwe African National Union -Patriotic Front], not government, are buried," Fr Wermter told CISA. The application by the party's provincial chairman Philip Chi-yangwa to the politburo to have the late primate buried at the national shrine was turned turned down by the bishops and the Chakaipa family, arguing that it was improper to politicise Chakaipa's funeral. The opposition DAILY NEWS of the same day of the funeral carried a front-page report on the Catholic Bishops' condemnation of corruption in their Lenten Pastoral letter, the last joint statement signed by the late Archbishop. During the Requiem Mass held at the Harare Sports Centre, President Mugabe used the opportunity to address the huge congregation. He launched a veiled attack against Archbishop Pius Ncube of Bulawayo who was present "for siding with the enemy" - with the farmers and the British. Source: CISA

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