The Papal Nuncio for South Africa James Green said the deteriorating situation in Zimbabwe was embarrassing because Mugabe “pretends to be” a practicing Catholic.
“Mugabe carries around a rosary, which he pulls out and shows people,” a cable released by Wikileaks says.
Green, who is an American, was commenting on whether the Pope, the head of the Catholic Church, should intervene in Zimbabwe or not.
A papal nuncio is a permanent diplomatic representative or head of diplomatic mission of the Holy See, the Vatican.
Green’s counterpart in Zimbabwe Edward Adams said he was deeply concerned about the situation but he believed his phone was tapped.
Green and Adams spoke in code -“some Latin, some Italian”.
Viewing cable 07PRETORIA1096, ZIMBABWE: CHURCH LEADERS CAUTIOUS ON VATICAN ROLE
PP RUEHMR RUEHRN
DE RUEHSA #1096/01 0871500
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 281500Z MAR 07
FM AMEMBASSY PRETORIA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 8919
INFO RUCNSAD/SOUTHERN AF DEVELOPMENT COMMUNITY COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEHDS/AMEMBASSY ADDIS ABABA PRIORITY 2044
RUEHBS/AMEMBASSY BRUSSELS PRIORITY 1050
RUEHLO/AMEMBASSY LONDON PRIORITY 1149
RUEHFR/AMEMBASSY PARIS PRIORITY 1041
RUEHRO/AMEMBASSY ROME PRIORITY 1168
RUEHTN/AMCONSUL CAPE TOWN PRIORITY 4102
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC PRIORITY
RUEKDIA/DIA WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 PRETORIA 001096
DEPT FOR AF/S S. HILL, EUR/WE LARREA
ROME FOR VATICAN
E.O. 12958: DECL: 03/27/2017
SUBJECT: ZIMBABWE: CHURCH LEADERS CAUTIOUS ON VATICAN ROLE
REF: A. STATE 036885
¶B. VATICAN 0064
¶C. PRETORIA 0957
Classified By: Ambassador Eric M. Bost. Reasons 1.4(b) and (d).
¶1. (C) SUMMARY: The Vatican shares U.S. concerns about the
deteriorating situation in Zimbabwe, but will be cautious
about speaking out publicly, according to Papal Nuncio Green.
Public comments by the Pope are the final card to play, and
the Vatican will want to save that step for the right moment.
Durban-based Cardinal Napier recently spoke with Harare
Archbishop Ndlovu, and said the Catholic Church was
considering a pastoral visit from regional church leaders
and/or a public statement. While Catholic Church leaders in
South Africa are concerned about the deteriorating situation,
they are reluctant to get too far in front of the bishops in
Zimbabwe. A clear signal from Archbishop Ndlovu in Harare
might free Napier and other Catholic leaders to speak out
more forcefully. Senior Catholic and Anglican leaders from
South Africa are planning a pastoral visit to Zimbabwe after
Easter; organizers wish to keep this visit quiet, for the
time being. END SUMMARY.
Papal Nuncio Says Papal Statement Final Step
¶2. (C) Ambassador delivered Ref A points to Papal Nuncio
James Green, who is an American, on March 28, highlighting
the continued suffering of the Zimbabwean people. Green
confirmed that the Vatican shares U.S. concerns and is
following the situation closely. Green noted that a public
statement by the Pope is the final card to play, and the
Vatican wants to save Papal intervention for the right moment
(“you don’t want to swing at every pitch”). Once the Pope
speaks out, there is little else the Vatican can do except
repeat his comments.
¶3. (C) Green noted that the situation in Zimbabwe is
particularly embarrassing because Mugabe “pretends to be” a
practicing Catholic. Mugabe carries around a rosary, which
he pulls out and shows people.
¶4. (C) Green said that he recently spoke with his counterpart
in Zimbabwe, Edward Adams. Adams is deeply concerned about
the situation. He believes his phone is tapped, and Green
and Adams spoke in code (“some Latin, some Italian”). Green
also expressed his surprise and frustration with the South
African Government’s lack of public support for democracy and
human rights, a stance he finds ironic given the
international support for the anti-apartheid struggle.
Cardinal Napier Discusses Interim Steps
¶5. (C) Drawing on Ref A points, Consul General Durban
informed Cardinal Wilfred Napier on March 26 of Embassy
Vatican City’s meetings with Vatican officials, noting that
the Ambassador would be calling on the Papal Nuncio. Napier
reported that he had spoken with Archbishop Buti Tlhagale,
president of the Southern African Catholic Bishops Conference
(SACBC), and Archbishop of Harare Robert Ndlovu following his
March 13 meeting (Ref C) with the CG and PolOffs. (NOTE: The
SACBC covers South Africa, Namibia, Lesotho, Botswana, and
Swaziland — not/not Zimbabwe. END NOTE.) During these
conversations, they discussed two options: (1) a pastoral
visit to Zimbabwe to include unnamed senior clerics, and/or
(2) a public statement condemning the situation in Zimbabwe.
Napier said his colleagues were inclined to move forward with
a pastoral visit, likely to take place after Easter, but had
made no decision about a public statement. Ndlovu and
Tlhagale were concerned that a public statement might
“jeopardize the current discussions” and the long-term
prospects of constitutional change. Napier commented that
they were too focused on the long term and not enough on the
immediate situation, which needed a response now.
¶6. (C) Napier said he had also spoken with Anglican Bishop
PRETORIA 00001096 002 OF 002
Peter John Lee in Cape Town about the situation in Zimbabwe.
Lee had spoken to DepForMin Aziz Pahad to offer any
assistance the SAG deemed useful, but he did not have
anything substantial to report from the meeting. Napier said
he had not yet been successful in reaching Archbishop of
Bulawayo Pius Ncube but said he would continue to try. He
thought that the Archbishop sounded “desperate” in his “very
strong” statements. Napier said he had been in regular
contact with Selvan Chetty of the Solidarity Peace Trust, who
was in frequent contact with church officials in Zimbabwe.
¶7. (C) Napier agreed that the situation in Zimbabwe was
getting “desperate” and required immediate action in addition
to the long-term process of changes currently being
discussed. He said he would contact his counterparts again
to discuss the situation.
Solidarity Peace Trust Organizing Visit
¶8. (C) PolOff spoke separately to Selvan Chetty of the
Solidarity Peace Trust (SPT) on March 28, who said he was
organizing a visit to Zimbabwe for senior South African
church leaders (NOTE: likely the same visit referred to by
Napier in para 5). SPT is a South African organization,
co-chaired by Archbishop Pius Ncube and Anglican Bishop Rubin
Phillip, that assists victims of human rights abuses in
Zimbabwe. The three-day visit would take place immediately
after Easter, possibly Easter Monday, and would include
Napier, the SACBC’s Tlhagale, Phillip, and possibly Anglican
Archbishop Njongonkulu Ndungane. Chetty said he was
struggling with Church politics in Zimbabwe since Harare
Archbishop Ndlovu had some reservations about the trip, but
that Napier was willing to “run over” Ndlovu if necessary.
Chetty cautioned that he is trying to keep the visit quiet,
because he fears that Mugabe might try to stop it if he
learns about the trip in advance.
¶9. (C) Catholic Church leaders in South Africa share U.S.
concerns about the deteriorating situation in Zimbabwe, but
are reluctant to get too far in front of the bishops in
Zimbabwe. A clear signal from Archbishop Ndlovu in Harare
would go a long way toward freeing Napier and other Catholic
leaders to speak out more forcefully about the tragic
situation in Zimbabwe. Napier, who expressed public concern
about the situation March 14 following our last meeting with
him, is devoting considerable time and energy to Zimbabwe
issues and will likely continue to work on Ndlovu. While
Green did not explicitly say that he would raise the matter
with Vatican officials, Zimbabwe is clearly on his mind, and
we suspect he will do so.