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FAITH, REASON AND REGENSBURG
A YEAR ON FROM THE POPE’S CONTROVERSIAL LECTURE P9
TRISTRAM HUNT: THE PROTESTANT LEGACY PAGE 10
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Zimbabwean bishops denounce Ncube ‘character assassination’
ZIMBABWE’S Catholic bishops have rallied to the defence of Archbishop Pius Ncube of Bulawayo, accusing their government of orchestrating an “outrageous and utterly deplorable” smear campaign against him. “Hate propaganda” and “character assassination” were being used as an attempt to divert attention from the catastrophe that Zimbabwe has become, the bishops’ conference said in a statement from the capital, Harare. State-controlled media has been providing continuous coverage of allegations that Archbishop Ncube committed adultery with his secretary, Rosemary Sibanda. But his supporters say the charges have been manufactured to distract attention from the 60-year-old archbishop’s complaints against President Robert Mugabe’s government. The archbishop told a British newspaper that the regime was so evil it should be toppled by force. “It would be justified for Britain to raid Zimbabwe and remove Mugabe,” he said. “We should do it ourselves but there is too much fear.” The allegations of sexual misconduct against Archbishop Ncube emerged just weeks later. These involved the release of eight DVDs allegedly showing him having intercourse with different women, including two teenage girls. They have been circulated by President Mugabe’s Central Intelligence Organisation. A former spy has also collected
photographs said to have been taken by hidden cameras which have led to the archbishop being sued for £80,000 by Onesimus Sibanda, the ex-husband of his alleged mistress. “The recent attacks by some politicians and the state media on the person of Archbishop Ncube, who is being sued for adultery, constitute an assault on the Catholic Church, to which we take strong exception,” said the Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops’ Conference in its statement. In a paid advertisement in Harare’s Heraldnewspaper, they said the archbishop was being attacked in an effort to undermine his moral leadership. “We support him fully in his present painful personal situation and ask all our faithful to remember him in their prayers,” the bishops said. The bishops listed a litany of problems in Zimbabwe. “Freedom and fundamental human rights are violated daily with impunity, the shelves of the shops and supermarkets are empty, our currency has become worthless, the public health service has collapsed, the country’s main roads are lined with tens of thousands of citizens waiting for public transport, corruption is rampant and young people are risking their lives daily and in growing numbers to escape the catastrophe that our country has become,” they said. The bishops added that the attempt to divert attention from these events by creating “hate propaganda and character assassination” against those Zimbabweans who,
like Archbishop Ncube, have spoken out in defence of the oppressed, has not deceived ordinary Zimbabweans. “Archbishop Ncube has courageously and with moral authority advocated social justice and political action to overcome the grievous crisis facing our country,” they said. “The Catholic Church has never been and is not an enemy of Zimbabwe,” the bishops went on, noting that the Church’s service to Zimbabweans includes running 60 hospitals, 174 schools and many orphanages. “Our record during the years of the liberation struggle speaks for itself.” The bishops pointed out that the archbishop’s case was before the High Court of Zimbabwe in Bulawayo and should not be discussed in public until a verdict has been delivered. “The constitution of Zimbabwe clearly defends the presumption of innocence of an accused person as a legal safeguard for a fair hearing before an impartial tribunal,” they said. “In complete disregard of these universally respected conventions, the state media had obtained and publicised in the news media for days on end video and photographic material which violated the most fundamental personal rights of Archbishop Ncube and were utterly offensive to the public.” Fr Nigel Johnson, a British Jesuit who works in the archbishop’s diocese, said that the Zimbabwe government’s tactics were typical of its aggressive reactions when
ever it was criticised. “When the government was heavily criticised by the leader of the opposition, Morgan Tsvangirai, two years ago, he was charged with treason. The result was that he was forced to expend all his energies fighting the charges instead of criticising the regime. When at long last the case came to court, he was acquitted but he had been effectively silenced for a long period of time.” He added: “Several priests were also arrested after Easter services after they read out the contents of a pastoral letter issued by the bishops’ conference which was highly critical of the regime.” The harassment also extended to obstructions being placed on the renewal of work permits for priests, Fr Johnson said. Zimbabwe is crippled by the highest rate of inflation in the world, unemployment of more than 80 per cent, and shortages of foreign currency and fuel. Food shortages are acute, large numbers of people are migrating to the neighbouring countries of South Africa and Botswana, and, with elections scheduled for March, political violence has intensified. Archbishop Ncube has for long been a critic of President Mugabe’s government. He has claimed, for instance, that people were dying of starvation and disease –including Aids –at a higher rate in Zimbabwe than were being killed in the war in Iraq or the conflict in Darfur.
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Bishops invite the lapsed to return to Sunday Mass
CARDINAL CORMAC MurphyO’Connor has urged parishes throughout England and Wales to reach out to the hundreds of thousands of people living among them who have given up attending Mass. The Archbishop of Westminster called on parishioners to help with a national initiative that will be launched on Home Mission Sunday, on September 16, with the aim of raising awareness among practising Catholics of the integral role that each person plays in inviting their friends and family back to church. “All of us know someone who no longer attends Mass,” said the Cardinal. “This is a great sorrow for so many of us. In a non-judgmental way, as the Body of Christ, let’s go out to the lost sheep with a message of love, acceptance, welcome and reconciliation.” “Where Are They Now?” is the work of the Catholic Agency to Support Evangelisation (CASE), an agency of the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales. Resource packs have been distributed to every parish and religious house. The materials include a “leaflet for the lapsed”, which
lists a number of reasons why people drift away from the Church, such as finding the Mass “boring and irrelevant” as a teenager; experiencing something that “made you feel unworthy or ashamed” of which, you felt, the Church disapproved; or feeling distressed as a result of “something said or done by someone at Church” which “you may still feel very angry about”. “Whatever your reasons or situation,” the leaflet continues, “we would like to invite you to take a fresh look and give it another go.” The lapsed are advised to try prayer, getting to know Catholics who could introduce them to the local priest or take them to parish events, attending church with a friend and going to Confession before receiving the Eucharist again. An estimated two in three Catholics no longer go to church or take an active part in their faith and, as one CASE booklet says, the Catholic Church is thought to be one of the fastest declining religious communities in Britain. “This fact is sometimes obscured by the large number of new Catholics who come to England and Wales, but the reality is that most Catholics don’t practise their faith,” the booklet says. However, there are signs of hope. One of the largest surveys of churchgoing in Britain, by the Christian charity Tearfund in April, found that three million non-practising Christians claim that they would attend church if they
received the right invitation. Mgr Keith Barltrop, director of CASE, explained that the initiative aimed to encourage Catholics to listen “respectfully and lovingly” to people’s reasons for lapsing and to invite them back to church. “A simple invitation could make all the difference in the world.” he said. And one of CASE’s leaflets, targeting Catholic parishioners, says that “research suggests that if you invite seven people to a parish event, it is probable that one person will attend”. “The reality of a large number of non church-going Catholics is not a new part of Catholic culture,” said Mgr Barltrop. “There have always been a significant number of Catholics who rarely attend church... our initiative is therefore trying to address and respond positively to a longstanding part of Catholic culture.” On Home Mission Sunday Catholics will be invited to pray for and support evangelisation in England and Wales, and collections will be taken to fund the work of CASE. In addition, parishes have been provided with a number of materials, including bidding prayers, homily notes and “welcome home” booklets. The initiative will climax at the beginning of Advent when a national media campaign will be launched entitled “Come Home For Christmas”, which will encourage parishioners to offer “a seasonal welcome” to the lapsed.
Latin Mass at Westminster Cathedral
AMASS in the extraordinary form is to be held at Westminster Cathedral next month to celebrate Pope Benedict XVI’s recent motu proprio. The Latin Mass Society (LMS) has thanked Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor and Mgr Mark Langham, the Cathedral administrator, for agreeing to hold the Mass. John Medlin, general manager of the LMS, said: “This will not be a triumphalist event but a heartfelt thanksgiving for the Holy Father’s wisdom in issuing his motu proprio.” The Pope’s motu proprio, Summorum Pontificum, freed the traditional Mass – now known as the extraordinary form of the Mass – from restrictions which had been placed on it since the Second Vatican Council. The LMS agreed with the late Cardinal Basil Hume to hold monthly Low Masses and two High Masses a year in the extraordinary form at Westminster Cathedral. Mr Medlin added: “Presumably, the motu proprio now supersedes this arrangement and we will probably ask for more permissions, but we will wait and see how things settle down.” The Votive High Mass of the Holy Trinity will be celebrated on Saturday, October 6, by Fr Antony Conlon, the LMS’s national chaplain, who will also give the homily.
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