Catholic leaders from England and Wales visit troubled Zimbabwe

By staff writers
January 31, 2008

As the political and economic crisis continues in Zimbabwe, two senior Catholic figures from England and Wales have been making a pastoral visit to the troubled country, offering support to churches and grassroots communities.

Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor and Bishop Crispian Hollis arrived in Zimbabwe earlier this week as guests of the Zimbabwean Catholic Bishops' Conference following a visit to South Africa.

Global media attention has switched to the post-election trauma in Kenya, east Africa, but human rights activists say that the running sore in Zimbabwe must not be ignored, with opposition to President Robert Mugabe's dictatorial regime growing within as well as without.

The two Catholic leaders have stressed the pastoral rather than the political nature of their trip, but it has been described as "timely".

As part of the regional visit, Cardinal Murphy O'Connor addressed the Southern Africa Catholic Bishops' Conference at their plenary meeting and celebrated Mass at Durban Cathedral, attended by three thousand refugees from across Central and Southern Africa.

In South Africa the Cardinal and Archbishop also visited a number of projects for people living with AIDS and HIV supported by the Pontifical Missionary Society.

During their visit to Zimbabwe the Cardinal and Archbishop have been meeting with Archbishop Ndlovu and other epsicopal figures, and celebrating Mass at Harare Cathedral. They also plan to visit community projects backed by the Church.

In London, human rights campaigners have been maintaining a regular vigil outside the Zimbabwean embassy calling for peaceful political change.

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