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Cardinal offers a message of hope for the people of Zimbabwe and Southern Africa

posted on 05 February 2008

Cardinal Cormac Murphy-OConnor has called for all to join in prayer and solidarity with the people of Zimbabwe as they seek justice and peace in their country.  

The Cardinal was on a pastoral visit to Southern Africa, accompanied by Bishop Crispian Hollis (chair of the Catholic Bishops Conference international affairs department), during which there were meetings with Bishops from across Southern Africa and visits to a number of projects run by the local Church (and part-funded by Cafod, Caritas Internationalis and the Pontifical Mission Society), primarily focused on caring for those living with HIV/AIDs.

 I have been profoundly moved by the past week in Southern Africa and particularly in Zimbabwe; by the suffering and anguish of those living in terrible poverty and living with HIV/AIDs but also by the compassion and strength of those in the Church working with the most vulnerable.

I have seen a united Church working with and among the poor and the sick. It is when caring for the poor, sick and most vulnerable to bring them hope that the Church is at its finest. It has been a profound blessing for us to come and experience the love of all those working here and also the belief of those Zimbabweans who live amidst the crisis their country is undergoing.

 As the Bishops of Zimbabwe have already stated in their pastoral letter of last April there is a crisis of governance in the country, a crisis of spiritual and moral leadership and a collapse of civic society. But there are no simple, quick answers. We were told that there must be a better way to run the country, but the crisis in which Zimbabweans are currently living will take years to put right. Material assistance is essential, but above all what the Church can offer is our sense of prayer and solidarity through which hope grows. Walking in solidarity with the Bishops and people of Zimbabwe and across Southern Africa is what we are all called to do at their time of need. 

Zimbabwe situation

In Zimbabwe, the Cardinal and Bishop Hollis met with Archbishop Robert Ndlovu, the Archbishop of Harare and others from the Zimbabwean Bishops Conference where they were informed about the current situation and the Churchs work, which is assisted by the Pontifical Mission Society.

There followed visits to a parish in Mbare, a township in the South of Harare where poverty and illness are endemic; outbreaks of cholera were reported in some of the shanty towns around Harare. The collapse of the formal economy and extreme food shortages have created a desperate situation, with groups lying outside the parish hoping for some food hand-outs. The previous week, five tonnes of maize was distributed by the Jesuits who run the parish to the needy and went in three days.

 At Mashambanzou (dawn of a new day), the Cardinal and Bishop Hollis were told of the work of the HIV/AIDs charity, supported by Cafod and Caritas Internationalis among other international aid agencies. Sister Margaret McAllen, who has been directing the project since 1989, told of their work caring for over 3,500 families in the community and bringing in the most sick into residential care until they are strong enough to return to the community. Dealing with death and the dying on a daily basis required emotional and spiritual support, said Sister McAllen

 We get our spiritual energy from people like you coming here. This is vital to our work. We are all channels of Gods grace and by knowing that you are with us is important as it gives us strength in our mission. We need this support, said Sister McAllen.

Archbishop Ndlovu thanked the Cardinal and Bishop Hollis at a public mass at Harare Cathedral for their visit and their message of hope. The mass, during which the Cardinal preached, was celebrated in a packed Harare Cathedral. The Cardinals homily focused on hope: the hope for a better future for the people of Zimbabwe.

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posted on 05 February 2008

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