WASHINGTON (April 16, 2007)— Bishop Thomas G. Wenski of Orlando, Fla., chairman of the U.S. bishops' international policy committee, has written a letter to the president of the Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops' Conference expressing solidarity with the bishops and people of Zimbabwe as they confront a growing humanitarian and governmental crisis.
In a recent pastoral letter entitled "God Hears the Cries of the Oppressed," posted as an Easter message in churches throughout the country, the Catholic bishops of Zimbabwe said further bloodshed and mass uprisings would only be prevented through democratic elections.
"We offer profound respect to you and our brother bishops in Zimbabwe for your brave and faithful pastoral ministry in these difficult days, and we acknowledge and accept the bishops' invitation to join with you in prayer for Zimbabwe," Bishop Wenski wrote in a letter to Bishop Robert Christopher Ndlovu, the Archbishop of Harare and the president of the Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops' Conference.
Bishop Wenski called the bishops' pastoral letter "a powerful testimony to the prophetic leadership of the bishops of Zimbabwe and to the tragic situation of the people in your country."
In Zimbabwe, pro-democracy advocates have been killed, jailed and tortured. The country is suffering an economic crisis, lacks adequate food supplies and has one of the world's lowest life expectancies. "As the suffering population becomes more insistent, generating more and more pressure through boycotts, strikes, demonstrations and uprisings, the state responds with ever harsher oppression through arrests, detentions, banning orders, beatings and torture," the bishops of Zimbabwe wrote in their pastoral letter.
Pope Benedict XVI made reference to Zimbabwe during his "Urbi et Orbi" Easter address, describing the country as "in the grip of a grievous crisis."
The complete text of Bishop Wenski's letter follows.
April 11, 2007
Most Reverend Robert Christopher Ndlovu, Archbishop of Harare
President, Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops' Conference
Africa Synod House
P.O. Box CY 738
Causeway, Harare, Zimbabwe
At this time of great suffering and uncertainty for the people of Zimbabwe, I write to express the solidarity of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops with the Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops' Conference. Your Conference's recent Pastoral Letter, "God Hears the Cry of the Oppressed," is a powerful testimony to the prophetic leadership of the bishops of Zimbabwe and to the tragic situation of the people in your country.
We were particularly moved by the description of suffering and the humanitarian situation of the people of Zimbabwe. The present situation has eroded the provision of shelter, health, and education as well as the foundations of what was once a diverse and vibrant economy.
Your Pastoral Letter describes the deep crisis facing your people—a crisis that is at once a crisis of governance, a crisis of moral leadership and a spiritual and moral crisis. The courageous and strong cry for justice and nonviolence at the conclusion of your Pastoral Letter deserves to be heeded by all involved:
We conclude our Pastoral Letter by affirming with a clear and unambiguous Yes our support of morally legitimate political authority. At the same time we say an equally clear and unambiguous No to power through violence, oppression and intimidation. We call on those who are responsible for the current crisis in our Country to repent and listen to the cry of their citizens. To the people of Zimbabwe we appeal for peace and restraint when expressing their justified grievances and demonstrating for their human rights.
We offer our profound respect to you and our brother bishops in Zimbabwe for your brave and faithful pastoral ministry in these difficult days, and we acknowledge and accept the bishops' invitation to join with you in prayer for Zimbabwe. In the challenging times that lie ahead for your nation and your people, I want to express and reaffirm our solidarity with you in action and prayer.
We are sharing your Pastoral Letter with officials of our government and are calling on our nation and the international community to build effective support for a process of genuine negotiation and reconciliation to bring an end to the political and economic crisis which undermines the dignity of all, especially the poor, in your suffering land.
May God bless you in your ministry as teachers and pastors as you faithfully proclaim the Gospel and seek to guide your nation into a future free of oppression.
Fraternally yours in Christ,
Most Reverend Thomas G. Wenski
Bishop of Orlando
Chairman, Committee on International Policy
United States Conference of Catholic Bishops