The Church in Zimbabwe has “stood fast,” Pope Francis said on Monday, even in “years of overwhelming suffering” during which millions have emigrated and as many others have lost their lives.
The Holy Father made these remarks to the prelates of Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops Conference at the conclusion of their “ad limina” visit to Rome.
In the written address which was presented to the Zimbabwean bishops, the Pope told the prelates: “The Church in your country has stood fast with her people both before and after independence, now also in the years of overwhelming suffering as millions have left the country in frustration and desperation, as many lives have been lost, so many tears shed.”
Pope Francis wrote about the growth of the Church in the country, comparing it to a young, strong tree, full of life and bearing fruit, and mentioned that generations of Zimbabweans – including many political leaders – have been educated in Church schools.
He then went on to praise the prelates for the exercise of their prophetic ministry, in which they have given voice to all the struggling people of their country, especially to the downtrodden and refugees.
He referred to their 2007 Pastoral Letter, “God Hears the Cry of the Oppressed,” which describes “the origins of the spiritual and moral crisis, stretching from colonial times through the present moment”, and how the “structures of sin” embedded in the social order “are ultimately rooted in personal sin, requiring of all a profound personal conversion.”
“Christians find themselves on all sides of the conflict in Zimbabwe, and so I urge you to guide everyone with great tenderness towards unity and healing”, the Pope continued. “This is a people both black and white, some richer but most exceedingly poorer, of numerous tribes; the followers of Christ belong to all political parties, some in positions of authority, many not. But together as the one pilgrim People of God, they need conversion and healing, in order to become ever more fully 'one Body, one Spirit in Christ.' Through preaching and works of the apostolate, may your local Churches demonstrate that 'reconciliation is not an isolated act but a lengthy process by which all parties are re-established in love – a love that heals through the working of God’s word.'”
“While Zimbabweans’ faithfulness is already a balm on some of these national wounds, I know that many people have reached their human limit, and do not know where to turn. In the midst of all this, I ask you to encourage the faithful never to lose sight of the ways in which God is hearing their supplications and answering their prayers, for, as you have written, he cannot fail to hear the cry of the poor. In this Easter season, as the Church throughout the world celebrates the victory of Christ over the power of sin and death, the Gospel of the resurrection which you are entrusted to proclaim must be clearly preached and lived in Zimbabwe. Let us never forget the lesson of the resurrection: 'on razed land life breaks through, stubbornly yet invincibly. However dark things are, goodness always re-emerges and spreads.”
Pope Francis concluded by quoting from his Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium: “Each day in our world beauty is born anew, it rises transformed through the storms of history.”