By Br. Alfonce Kugwa
The Catholic Church in Zimbabwe was recently hailed for championing development processes in the country at a function held on 12 April 2023 to commemorate Pope Francis’s 10th anniversary in Harare. The Catholic Church was said to be leading in education, health and humanitarian work with 120 primary and secondary schools and 50 health institutions.
In congratulating Pope Francis and the Catholic Church, the Minister of Higher and Tertiary Innovation Science and Technology Development, who is also the Acting Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Trade, Professor Amon Murwira acknowledged the role being played by the Church in advancing the civilization of the local people.
“Our country’s socio-political, economic and spiritual development cannot be fully understood without mentioning the important mediatory and accompanying role the Catholic Church has played at different stages of the country’s history. Let me take this opportunity to reassure you that the government of Zimbabwe greatly values the presence of the Holy See and of the Catholic Church, and desires to strengthen and deepen this relationship,” said Professor Murwira.
Professor Murwira said the Catholic Church plays a pivotal role in education and health sectors.
“In noting the contribution of the Catholic Church to the country’s development, we wish to recognise its immense multi-level support in the education and health sectors. There are more than 120 Catholic primary and secondary schools and it is very likely that some amongst us here were educated at these institutions, as well as more than 50 Catholic health centres around the country. In addition, we have witnessed the establishment of Catholic Church-run tertiary institutions,” he said.
Professor Murwira highlighted that the Church has also provided the much needed humanitarian assistance which has gone a long way in solidifying the education sector, providing quality and yet affordable health care, and has contributed to poverty alleviation through the uplifting of vulnerable groups of our society and the transformation of our communities as a whole.
The Papal representative to Zimbabwe, Archbishop Paolo Rudelli thanked the Government of Zimbabwe for closely working with the Church. He said the Holy See is and will be an engaged partner in friendship to Zimbabwe, ready to support efforts that build a more equitable global economic system and promote relationships among peoples founded on the pillars of equal dignity and mutual trust.
Archbishop Rudelli elaborated Pope Francis vision emphasising that he called the Catholic Church to a missionary conversion, a path of renewal and reform that focuses on the Church’s mission towards the world.
“Since his election on 13 March 2013, Pope Francis has called the Catholic Church to a missionary conversion, a path of renewal and reform that focuses on the Church’s mission towards the world. His Holiness has insisted from the very beginning that the best way to deepen our identity and mission as a Church is to look beyond ourselves and to concentrate on those to whom the Gospel is primarily addressed, namely the poor and those suffering any kind of distress, be it spiritual or material,” said the Nuncio.
Archbishop Rudelli said that during the ten years of his Pontificate, Pope Francis has called consistently for a universal and authentic fraternity.
He highlighted: “At a historical juncture marked by the re-emergence of conflicts, wars and an alarming increase in inequalities, the Supreme Pontiff reminds us that beyond any differences in culture, beliefs and economic status, we are all part of the one human family, our future as individuals and communities is intertwined and we share a mutual responsibility for one another and for the survival of our common home, Planet Earth.”
The Nuncio pointed out that throughout his pontificate, Pope Francis has led the way as a pilgrim of peace especially in areas of the world that are in need of reconciliation citing his visit to the Democratic Republic of Congo and to South Sudan.
He said, on that occasion, Pope Francis delivered a powerful message to three different groups of listeners. To the international community he said in simple and plain language: “Hands off Africa; stop choking Africa, Africa it is not a mine to be stripped or a terrain to be plundered”. To political authorities he said: “Power is meaningful only if it becomes a form of service”, and he invited them to work with absolute transparency, to avoid the darkness of injustice and corruption, to promote the participation of the marginalized and to assure free and credible elections. Finally, he sent a message to the Churches in Africa: “walk with your peoples, be a sign of God’s promise to open new paths in the midst of our deserts. Show to your peoples God’s compassion, have the courage to step out into the middle, to intercede for them and to promote paths of reconciliation and peace in the midst of a world marked by violence and war”.
The Apostolic Nuncio also said the level of cooperation with the Zimbabwe is reflected in sums spent in development projects in the country as well as through human capital provided by the Church.
“In this respect, I am proud to say that, over and above the amount of projects financed in this country by many international Catholic Charities, and by the Holy See itself, the impact of our cooperation for the future of Zimbabwe lies in the hundreds of priests, religious brothers and sisters who have committed their lives entirely and devotedly to the service of their people, as well as the many thousands of lay faithful who are engaged in the different activities of, justice, peace, the environment, to name but a few,” the Nuncio said.