President Robert Mugabe on Sunday attended the beatification ceremony for the late Pope John Paul II, a few days after lashing out at the Roman Catholic Church.
Just a few days before taking the plane to Rome, the octogenarian leader was breathing fire, attacking the church left, right and centre at a Zion Christian Church (ZCC) conference in Bikita.
“Often Catholic bishops expose that they are not their own men. They are mere puppets of Western countries. I grew up in the Catholic Church but now I am totally frustrated by how these so-called men of God lie. All Catholic bishops are liars, they demonise my party every day,” President Mugabe said.
Senior Catholic Jesuit priest Monsignor Kizito Mhembere on Sunday during Mass at the Roman Catholic Cathedral in Harare said President Mugabe had been invited to the beatification of the late Pope John Paul II because he extended a hand of reconciliation to his political opponents soon after independence in 1980.
“President Mugabe met with a lot of criticism when he extended the hand of reconciliation to his political opponents soon after independence,” said Mhembere. “His critics at that time even called for his excommunication from the Catholic Church, but Pope John Paul II refused to do so.”
Mhembere said the late Pope knew President Mugabe personally and prayed for Zimbabwe to maintain peace and reconciliation and so Zimbabweans should continue to maintain that same spirit.
President Mugabe attended Catholic Jesuit schools and has publicly acknowledged how during the liberation struggle, the Catholic Church gave him support.
Catholic priests in Zimbabwe, amongst them former Bulawayo Archbishop Pius Ncube, have been at the forefront of exposing alleged political injustices by the Mugabe regime.
Recently, a Catholic priest from Lupane, Father Marko Mnkandla, was arraigned before the courts in leg irons for conducting a Mass for Gukurahundi survivors and victims, which the police alleged was a political rally disguised as a church service.