The Archbishop of Canterbury met Monday with Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe and asked him to intervene to halt attacks on Anglicans in Zimbabwe by a breakaway sect led by the ex-communicated former Harare Bishop Nolbert Kunonga.
After his much-anticipated meeting with Mr. Mugabe, Dr. Rowan Williams said he gave the president a dossier on the persecution of Zimbabwean Anglicans of his church by the Kunonga faction and asked that he take action to end those abuses.
The archbishop said he had asked "in the clearest possible terms" that the president use his powers to put an end to all abusive and illegal behavior.
Kunonga loyalists have for years denied members of the official Anglican Church access to churches and other Harare diocese properties, but following a recent interim Supreme Court decision backing Kunonga have evicted many Anglican priests and nuns - including the staff of an orphanage, though the children remained.
Williams said that during his two-hour meeting with President Mugabe the head of state seemed receptive to the information he provided and expressed a willingness to help resolve the conflict dividing the country's Anglicans.
"I think that the scale of the intimidation documented ine dossier was something with which he was not entirely familiar, he expressed his concern at the damage the division was doing to communities generally in Zimbabwe, and his willingness to speak to Dr. Kunonga to raise the concerns that we had flagged up this afternoon," he said.
The issue of Western sanctions came up during the news conference. Williams said he could not speak to whether they have had an impact on Zimbabweans generally or only on those directly sanctioned, including President Mugabe and his inner circle.
Williams at one point responded to accusations by the Kunonga faction that the Anglican Church of the Province of Central Africa, of which the Harare diocese is a part, condoned same-sex marriage and the ordination of homosexuals as priests.
The archbishop said the Anglican communion did not approve same-sex marriage or the ordination of homosexual priests and on these points there were no differences.
Kunonga's break with the Anglican Church in 2007 had much to do with his support for President Mugabe, but the Harare bishop in resigning his post accused the Anglican Church of the Province of Central Africa of embracing homosexuality. Kunonga supporters launched similar charges at Williams during his brief visit to the country.
Earlier, Anglican church members loyal to Kunonga barred visiting Williams from entering St. John’s Cathedral in the eastern city of Mutare, where he had intended to pray.
Kunonga was ex-communicated by the Anglican Church but nonetheless has maintained his control over its properties based on court decisions and help from the police.
He stirred controversy ahead of Williams' visit calling Williams "a British civil servant” who was coming to Zimbabwe to "represent neo-colonialism."
He led protests on Sunday at the Anglican Cathedral in Harare against what he said was a trip intended to promote homosexuality in the country.
Reverend Douglas Machiridza, a Zimbabwean and Anglican theologian in Birmingham, England, said he believes Williams's visit will have a positive effect.