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Zimbabwe's Mugabe Answers Broadside From Roman Catholic Bishops

Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe has dismissed as "political nonsense" a recent pastoral letter from the country's nine Roman Catholic Bishops that criticized his rule, saying the bishops have “decided to turn political" and would be treated accordingly.

Mr Mugabe was quoted in the London-based New African magazine as warning the bishops that “this is quite a dangerous path they have chosen for themselves."

Mr. Mugabe singled out Archbishop Pius Ncube of Bulawayo, long a vocal critic of the president. “He thinks he is close to God, that’s why he says he is praying for me to die. But unfortunately God has not listened to him for all this duration,” Mr. Mugabe said.

The April 5 pastoral letter, entitled "God Hears the Cries of the Oppressed", warned President Mugabe that he risked a popular uprising unless free and fair elections were held. It deplored what it said were “state arrests, detentions, banning orders, beatings and torture, and vote rigging," and urged him to step down for Zimbabwe's good.

Mr. Mugabe, who is Catholic, has expressed interest in meeting the bishops.

Theologian and writer Father Oskar Wermter of the Catholic Communications Secretariat in Harare told reporter Blessing Zulu of VOA’s Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that the bishops could meet Mr. Mugabe - but would not retract their words.

More reports from VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe..