Use Gospel to restore hope in Zimbabwe, pope says


Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Everyone in Zimbabwe — rich, poor, black, white — needs God’s gift of conversion and healing, Pope Francis told the nation’s bishops.

“Fearlessly proclaim this Gospel of hope, bringing the Lord’s message into the brokenness of our time, tirelessly preaching forgiveness and the mercy of God,” the pope said in a message to the bishops.

Meeting bishops from Zimbabwe June 2, Pope Francis recognized the “overwhelming suffering” the southern African country has endured “as millions have left the country in frustration and desperation, as many lives have been lost, so many tears shed.”

As the bishops noted, the crises in Zimbabwe are “both spiritual and moral, stretching from colonial times through the present moment,” the pope said.

The “structures of sin embedded in the social order are ultimately rooted in personal sin, requiring of all a profound personal conversion and a renewed moral sense enlightened by the Gospel,” he said.

In December, Zimbabwe’s bishops said there were “no visible prospects for improvement in the spheres of life in Zimbabwe.”

The country urgently needs to create “viable platforms to address effectively” the restoration of the public services sector, including “health, education, water, sanitation, transport and energy,” the country’s nine bishops said in a Dec. 3 pastoral letter.

Progress has been made when the country, political parties included, work together, they said. But elections last year, which resulted in the re-election of 89-year-old President Robert Mugabe, “have left Zimbabweans more polarized than they were” after the disputed 2008 elections, the bishops said.

Meeting each of the bishops, who were in Rome for their “ad limina” visits to report on the status of their dioceses, Pope Francis said that Christians in Zimbabwe “find themselves on all sides of the conflict.”

The pope urged the bishops to “guide everyone with great tenderness toward unity and healing: this is a people both black and white, some richer but most exceedingly poorer, of numerous tribes; the followers of Christ belong to all political parties, some in positions of authority, many not.”

“But together as the one pilgrim people of God, they need conversion and healing, in order to become ever more fully one body, one spirit in Christ,” he said.

Reconciliation is a long process that needs to touch all segments of society, helping everyone be “re-established in love,” which heals when it is rooted in God’s word, he said.

The pope said he understood many people “have reached their human limit and do not know where to turn,” but he asked the bishops to help people realize that God does hear their cries. They also must preach clearly and firmly the Gospel of resurrection, that life and goodness always break through and emerge, “stubbornly and invincibly,” even on the most barren land.

Pope Francis also reminded the bishops that “the future of the church in Zimbabwe and Africa as a whole greatly depends on the formation of the faithful,” which in turn depends on holy priests and “zealous, well-formed catechists.”