- May 27, 2020
At a Roman Catholic cathedral where Robert Mugabe used to attend Mass, a priest on Sunday opened the church service by paying tribute to the former ruler and asking congregants to forgive him.
Robert Mugabe, who led Zimbabwe to independence from Britain in 1980 and then crushed his opposition during nearly four decades of rule, always liked to be seen as a devout Catholic. Mugabe, 95, died Sept. 6 in Singapore, where he has often received medical treatment in recent years.
For most of his 37 years in power, Robert Mugabe had been the target of severe criticism from the country’s Catholic bishops. But his removal from power by the military on November 14-15 has allowed the bishops to strike a more conciliatory tone. In a statement issued on Sunday, the Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops’ Conference said it has forgiven Mugabe for his “transgressions” in office.
Zimbabwe’s political upheaval over the past week is a historic moment that could lead to a better future, according to the papal representative to the country. Polish Archbishop Marek Zalewski said after President Robert Mugabe resigned on Tuesday, following pressure from the military, the people of the capital celebrated into the next morning.
At long last, Zimbabwe seems to be on the brink of moving past rule by 93-year-old Robert Mugabe. Although Catholics are only 10 percent of the country’s population, there may be a ‘Catholic moment’ in Zimbabwe in which inspired leadership could make a dramatic difference in determining where things go from here, in part because Mugabe himself “speaks Catholic” and has Catholic interlocutors.
Amidst political turmoil in Zimbabwe, the country’s bishops called political leaders “to maintain the best interests of the nation as a priority and continue to work tirelessly for a peaceful end to the crisis and to speedy return to normalcy and Constitutional order.”