Zim: Anglican leader visits displaced flock

2011-10-10 13:21

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Harare - The Archbishop of Canterbury on Monday visited Anglicans booted from their cathedral by a breakaway bishop, as he waited to meet President Robert Mugabe about the "godless" assaults on his followers.

Rowan Williams, the spiritual leader of Anglicans worldwide, has for weeks sought a meeting with the 87-year-old president about the politically charged split within the Anglican Church, led by an excommunicated bishop aligned with Mugabe.

The president has yet to indicate if the meeting will be granted, with Williams set to travel on Tuesday to Zambia, the last stop on his African tour.

Williams on Monday travelled to the town of Rusape, 150km  southeast of Harare, where followers of the breakaway bishop Nolbert Kunonga have seized the local cathedral.

Rusape's bishop Elson Jakazi has joined Kunonga's faction. The Anglican Church excommunicated Jakazi as well, but he has claimed the Church's property and forced the faithful to worship in an old municipal hall.

"He will go to the cathedral which has been locked by Jakazi's followers," said Precious Shumba, spokesperson for the Church in Harare.

"The visit is to show solidarity with Anglicans who are suffering in the same way as their colleagues in the Harare diocese," he said.


Kunonga in August won legal backing for his claim to all of the Anglican Church's property in Harare, and he has moved to take control of 3 800 properties around Zimbabwe and in neighbouring countries.

His followers have chased worshippers from churches and run teachers and nurses from schools, clinics and orphanages, with the evictions sometimes degenerating into clashes.

While in Rusape, Williams was set to visit St Augustine's mission, where the Church runs a project caring for people with Aids and children orphaned by the disease.

He will return to Harare in the afternoon in hopes of meeting Mugabe, Shumba said.

Williams is in Zimbabwe as part of a three-nation tour that began in Malawi to mark the Church's 150th anniversary in that country.

Mugabe and Kunonga have used the visit to condemn the Anglicans' stand on homosexuality and to rant against the travel ban and asset freeze imposed by western nations on both the men, in protest at a decade of violently flawed elections.

Mugabe is renowned for his anti-gay stance and has described gays and lesbians as "worse than pigs and dogs".

Openly gay bishops

"Rowan Williams erred by accepting homosexuality and that has broken up the Church all over," Kunonga said in the state-run Herald newspaper on Monday.

"It's sad, they should repent, it needs Williams himself to repent. He is the one who has divided the Church," he said.

Williams has struggled to maintain unity in the Anglican communion amid disagreements over the ordination of female bishops in Britain, and of openly gay bishops in the United States.

At his first stop in Malawi last week, Williams reiterated the Church's stand on gays, opposing violence and prejudice, but not supporting same-sex marriage or ordination of gay priests.

The Church of England said in July that it was reviewing its approach to same-sex relationships, an issue that has threatened to tear the Church apart - particularly in Africa where many leaders are more conservative than their European counterparts.


Read more on:    robert mugabe  |  nolbert kunonga  |  rowan williams  |  zimbabwe  |  southern africa


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