HomeLocal NewsArchbishop Karlen dies

Archbishop Karlen dies


The Roman Catholic Church has lost one of its longest-serving priests Archbishop Henry Karlen who succumbed to abdominal complications at Mater Dei Hospital in Bulawayo on Sunday afternoon.

Report by Staff Reporter

He was 90.

Karlen is renowned for his deep interest in probing the 1980s Gukurahundi massacres where an estimated 20 000 people were reportedly killed by a crack army unit — the Fifth Brigade.

He also reportedly played an instrumental role in the establishment of the Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace (CCJP) to investigate the atrocities.

Provincial Superior of the Marrianhill Missionaries Father Peter Nkomazana told NewsDay yesterday Karlen died at the hospital where he had been admitted.

“He was finally admitted on Thursday complaining of abdominal pains. He had problems with his bowels,” Nkomazana said.
He said Karlen will be buried at Athlone Cemetery in Bulawayo on Friday morning.

“We will hold a Catholic mass at St Patricks’ Parish. Starting today (Monday) until Thursday. We will be holding masses at St Mary’s Cathedral at 5:30pm. On Thursday we will hold a vigil and his body will lie in state at the cathedral,” Nkomazana said.

He said Karlen was passionate about the Gukurahundi atrocities, the livelihoods of the poor and people living with HIV and Aids.

“Even in his last days, he still said it; that he could not understand why Africans were killing each other,” he said.
On February 14, 1983, armed with documentation secured from a missionary doctor in Lupane, Karlen reportedly met the then Vice-Prime Minister Simon Muzenda over the Gukurahundi atrocities.

In March of the same year, Karlen had a five- hour meeting with President Robert Mugabe who was then Prime Minister, apprising him of the atrocities and pleading with him to stop the massacres.
“(Archbishop) Karlen was making sure that the highest people in the land could not turn a blind eye to what was happening and could not deny on the international forum the atrocities being perpetrated,”
Nkomazana said.

Karlen wrote a book The way of The Cross of a Diocese chronicling the murders of missionaries and civilians during that time, which Mugabe described as a “moment of madness”.

Karlen was born on February 1, 1922 in Torbel, Wallis, Switzerland.
He was ordained as a priest on June 22, 1947 and Bishop of Umtata Diocese in South Africa in 1968.

He was appointed Bishop of Bulawayo on December 3, 1974 before retiring on February 25, 1998 when Pius Ncube took over as Archbishop of Bulawayo.

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