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Mugabe Attacks on Catholic Bishops Dash Hopes For Reconciliation

A prominent Roman Catholic priest in Zimbabwe said Monday that "vulgar" attacks by President Robert Mugabe on senior church officials had extinguished hopes for a reconciliation between Harare and the country's Catholic hierarchy.

During a consultative assembly of his ruling ZANU-PF party on Saturday in Harare, Mr. Mugabe criticized “some bishops” for “rallying behind the opposition MDC and openly supporting the Western backed regime-change lobby."

Earlier this year the country's nine Roman Catholic bishops issued a stinging rebuke to Mr. Mugabe in an Easter pastoral letter. The prelates reproached him for failing to meet the needs of the people, and urged him to resign or face a popular revolt.

In his remarks on Saturday, Mr. Mugabe accused church leaders of failing to practice democracy within their institutions and of straying from their vows of celibacy.

Roman Catholic Archbishop Pius Ncube of Bulawayo, one of Mr. Mugabe's toughest critics, last week urged Britain to invade Zimbabwe to remove him from power.

Father Oscar Wemter, a Harare-based theologian and writer, told reporter Carole Gombakomba of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that although different church leaders have taken different approaches to Mr. Mugabe, he has proven unrepentant.

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