Bishops tell the likes of Mugabe to repent or quit church

In an unusually strong final message, the bishops said Africa needs "saints" in government "who will clean the continent of corruption, work for the good of the people," and end the evils of war and poverty that are devastating the continent.

They cited the late Tanzanian president Julius Nyerere, the father of Tanzanian independence and a symbol of Africa’s hopes as it emerged from the shadow of colonial rule, who is being considered for possible beatification, as an example.

While praising other Catholic leaders who are doing their public service well, they accused others of having "fallen woefully short in their performance in office."

"The synod calls on such people to repent, or quit the public arena and stop causing havoc to the people and giving the Catholic Church a bad name," the bishops wrote at the end of their monthlong synod.

The bishops didn’t name names, but Zimbabwe’s authoritarian leader Robert Mugabe, who has been blamed for presiding over a politically repressive regime that led to the economic collapse of the country, and Angolan President Eduardo dos Santos, whose party swept elections last year that critics say were marred by fraud and corruption, are two well-known Catholic leaders.

The prelates, some 300 from Africa and other countries around the world, also condemned non-Catholic leaders and outside foreign interests for allowing their countries to fall into such devastation, saying "in most cases we are dealing with greed for power and wealth at the expense of the people and nation."

In particular they cited areas of conflict such as Somalia, the Great Lakes region, Sudan and Guinea.


"Whatever may be the responsibility of foreign interests, there is always the shameful and tragic collusion of the local leaders: politicians who betray and sell out their nations, dirty business people who collude with rapacious multinationals, African arms dealers and traffickers who thrive on small arms that cause great havoc on human lives, and local agents of some international organizations who get paid for peddling toxic ideologies that they don’t believe in" — a reference to NGOs and humanitarian groups that promote abortion rights.

The results, the bishops wrote, are visible for the world to see: poverty, misery and disease, refugees within Africa’s borders and beyond, brain drain, human trafficking, wars, child soldiers and violence against women.

"How can anybody be proud of ‘presiding’ over such chaos?" the bishops asked. "What has happened to our traditional African sense of shame? This synod proclaims it loud and clear: it is time to change habits, for the sake of present and future generations."

To be fair, the bishops said the Catholic Church had to get its house in order, too, saying it must serve as a model for good governance, transparency, good financial management and unity — a reference to the ethnic divisions that even mar relations between priests and bishops.

"Your example of living together in peace across tribal and racial lines can be a powerful witness to others," the bishops wrote to churchmen at home.

The message from the bishops is intended as their public statement at the end of their monthlong meeting on how the Church can help bring peace, justice and reconciliation to the continent.

On Saturday, the bishops will issue another document: a set of proposals to Pope Benedict XVI to use as he formulates a response to what the church should be doing in Africa.