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POPE-NCUBE Sep-11-2007 (370 words) With photo posted July 11. xxxi

Pope accepts resignation of outspoken critic of Zimbabwean leadership

By Carol Glatz
Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Benedict XVI accepted the resignation of Zimbabwean Archbishop Pius Ncube of Bulawayo, the most outspoken critic of the country's leadership who is also facing allegations of adultery.

In a letter written by the archbishop and released by the Vatican press office Sept. 11, the archbishop wrote that he offered his resignation to Vatican officials in July to spare sullying the image of the church.

The Vatican announced that the pope accepted the archbishop's resignation under Canon 410.2, which includes resignations for illness or some other grave reason.

In neighboring South Africa, Bishop Kevin Dowling of Rustenburg expressed shock upon hearing the news.

"This will have huge repercussions in Zimbabwe, where he is seen as a prophetic voice," Bishop Dowling said. "He has massive support in Matabeleland, where they see this as an attack on the Matabele people, not just on their leader."

Matabeleland is a region in western Zimbabwe.

Bishop Dowling confirmed that the camera placed in the light in Archbishop Ncube's bedroom was put there by Ernest Tekere, a senior intelligence operative for the Zimbabwean government for 20 years. Tekere allegedly was involved in the Gukurahundi campaign, in which government troops were responsible for the murders of about 20,000 people as well as torture and human rights abuses in the western Matabeleland province from 1981 to 1987.

As a result of photos taken by Tekere and splashed across Zimbabwean newspapers in July, Onesimus Sibanda claimed damages from Archbishop Ncube for an alleged affair with his wife, Rosemary Sibanda.

Archbishop Ncube, an outspoken opponent of Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe, has urged Zimbabweans to take to the streets in protest against government oppression and said he was willing to risk his life by leading them.

Zimbabwe is crippled by the highest rate of inflation in the world, unemployment of more than 80 percent, and shortages of foreign currency and fuel. Food shortages are acute, large numbers of people are migrating to the neighboring countries of South Africa and Botswana, and, with elections scheduled for March, political violence has intensified.

- - -

Contributing to this story was Bronwen Dachs in South Africa.


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