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A Statement of the Roman Catholic Bishops of Zimbabwe

A Statement of the Roman Catholic Bishops of Zimbabwe
17 April 1980

On the occasion of the independence of Zimbabwe, we the Roman Catholic Bishops of Zimbabwe are happy to congratulate all the citizens of this country and its new constitutionally-elected government. At the same time, we pledge our whole-hearted cooperation and support in the difficult but rewarding task of nation building that lies ahead.
In this statement we should, therefore, like to offer to all the citizens of Zimbabwe a few considerations on living our lives in a new State.
In our time, far-reaching social and political changes have influenced the life of the community of Zimbabwe [1] especially in regard to the rights and duties of the individual, and the relations between citizens and the State.
A keen awareness of human dignity has led to efforts in this country to establish an order in which personal rights, such as the right to vote, to free association, and to equality of treatment are safeguarded  This guarantee of the right of persons is essential if citizens are to take an active part in public affairs.
For many years, individuals, families, and groups have realized that they cannot live a fully human life in isolation. We all need a wider community in which everyone contributes to the common good.
This is the reason for setting up any political community. The common good of its people is the whole meaning of its existence. This is therefore the purpose, task and goal of Zimbabwe as a State.
While the State and the Church are independent and autonomous in their own spheres, both are at the service of man. Their duty to help man fulfil his personal and social vocation. The more they cooperate, the more effectively will they serve the good of all citizens. In this respect the Church and the State are at the service of the country.
In a plural society like Zimbabwe, it is important to have a clear view of the relationship between the Church and the State. The Church is not identified with any political community, nor is she bound to any political system. Rather, her function is to be the moral conscience of the nation, the sign and safeguard of the supreme value of the human person.
Everywhere and at all times, the Church. must be in a position to preach the faith. She must carry out her mission unhindered. She must be in a position to make moral judgements, even on political matters, when fundamental human. rights or the salvation of men require it.
Faithful to the Gospel, and fulfilling her mission in the world, the Church endeavours to uphold peace among men to the glory of God.[2]
We teach that the political community and authority of the State are derived from human nature, and so belong to God's design. The kind of government, however, and the appointment of rulers are left to the citizens.[3]
Of course, political authority must be exercised within the moral order and according to God's law and the just laws of the State. Therefore, those who govern are in a position of great responsibility and importance.
Citizens have a duty to supply material and personal services required by the nation for the good of all. Citizens, moreover, have the duty to obey lawfully constituted authority  [4]They should not, however, entrust the State with disproportionate power. Nor should they make exaggerated demands on the government for benefits, thereby lessening their own personal and social responsibility. As the late President of the United States of America, John F. Kennedy said: "Ask not what your country can do for you, but rather ask what you can do for your country.[5]
Christians should be aware of their special role within the political community. It is for them to set an example by their sense of responsibility and by serving as needed, in public affairs.
Today in Zimbabwe, after the war which brought to much suffering and anxiety, the citizenry, or better, the entire family of the country, is gradually coming together and is more conscious of its unity. Men realize that they can only undertake the task of building a nation, if they truly seek peace. Then the gospel message will take on a deeper meaning; the message which says: "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God."[6]
True peace cannot be achieved unless personal values are safeguarded, with men freely and confidently sharing their creative gifts. In building peace, respect for others and the determination to live as brothers are essential.
Through his cross, Christ reconciled all men with god, making one people and one body. Christ today can reconcile the black and the white, the rich and the poor, the powerful and the weak, the unbeliever and the believer.[7]
After His resurrection, Christ poured into the heart of men, the Spirit of love. For this reason, all Christians are urged to united with those who are truly peace loving, to work for peace, and to bring it about.[8]
Insofar as men are sinful, the thread of violence hangs over them; but insofar as men are united in love, they can and will overcome violence.
Thus the words will be fulfilled: "They shall beat their swords into plough-shares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more."[9]
In conclusion, we ask all to join us in prayer that the bright promise of the future in Zimbabwe will  be fully realized, and we invoke the blessing of Almighty God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, upon the new nation of Zimbabwe, its rulers and its citizens.
Patrick Chakaipa, Archbishop of Salisbury
Henry Karlen, CMM, Bishop of Bulawayo
Tobias Chiginya, Bishop of Gwelo
Patrick Mutume, Auxiliary Bishop of Umtali
Ignatius Prieto, SMI Bishop of Wankie
Helmut Reckter, SJ, Prefect Apostolic of Sinoia


[1]Cf. This is the Church in the World Today (Grail) . In this statement we make extensive use of the Vatican II document Gaudium et Spes.
[2] Cf. Luke, 2:14
[3] Cf. Romans, l3:1-5
[4] Cf. Romans, 13:5
[5] Inaugural Address, Washington, January 20, 1960
[6] Matthew, 5:9
[7] Cf. The Road to Peace (Mambo) , Chap, IV
[8] Cf. Ephesians, 4:15
[9] Isaiah, 2:4