Mugabe heads for the Vatican

2011-04-30 10:01

Harare – Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe has left for Vatican City to attend Sunday’s beatification ceremony for the late pope John Paul II, local media said today.

“President Mugabe left Harare last night to attend the beatification – the last step before sainthood – of the late Pope John Paul tomorrow at the Vatican,” the Herald reported.

He was accompanied by his wife Grace and senior government officials, the newspaper said.

Mugabe, a Catholic who has been widely condemned for human rights abuses, also attended John Paul II’s funeral in 2005 despite the 2002 travel ban – a visit that drew controversy because Britain’s Prince Charles shook hands with him.

The Vatican earlier said Mugabe would attend the ceremony.

The 87-year-old has been barred from travelling to the European Union for the last decade under a ban imposed over concerns about vote rigging and human rights abuses.

The Vatican is a sovereign state that is not part of the European Union, although Mugabe would have to transit through the Italian capital of Rome.

Travelling under United Nations auspices, Mugabe also came to Rome in 2008 for a summit of the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation.

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