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Africa
Archbishop meets Mugabe over church rift
Head of Anglicans urges president to resolve conflict between breakaway bishop and mainstream church.
Last Modified: 10 Oct 2011 17:46
Rowan Williams, left, described the meeting with Mugabe as "candid" but that there were disagreements [Reuters]


The Archbishop of Canterbury has called for an end to attacks on Anglicans in Zimbabwe, where a renegade bishop has forced the faithful out of their churches.

Rowan Williams, who held a two-hour meeting with Robert Mugabe on Monday, said he had asked the Zimbabwean president to use his powers and resolve the conflict.

"We have asked in the clearest possible terms that the president use his powers as head of state to put an end to all unacceptable and illegal behaviour," Williams said.

"Today we were able to present President Mugabe with a dossier compiled by bishops in Zimbabwe which gives a full account of the abuses to which our people and our church have been subject.

"It was a very candid meeting, disagreements were expressed clearly, but I think in a peaceful manner.

"As representatives of the Anglican Communion and with the support of ecumenical friends worldwide, we strongly and unequivocally support the efforts of ordinary Anglicans to worship in peace and to minister to the spiritual and material needs of their communities."

Al Jazeera's Haru Mutasa, reporting from Harare, said Mugabe did not speak to journalists after the meeting and that he told Williams he was not aware of what was going on in the Anglican church.

Williams' meeting with Mugabe came amid a rift between excommunicated bishop Nolbert Kunonga and the mainstream Anglican church worshippers, which has resulted in the bishop's seizure of the Anglican Church's property in Harare, the capital.

Kunonga, who has praised Catholic Mugabe as a "true son of God", has claimed 3,800 properties in Zimbabwe and neighbouring countries.

The bishop has also backed the president's violent land reform programme and endorsed his condemnation of homosexuality. He was excommunicated from the church over disagreements about the church's stance on gays.

But Williams said the debate over homosexuality was "a distracting tactic to take people's attention away from the real issues".

"The church of the province of central Africa shares the general Anglican Communion position on homosexuality," he said.

"That is, it is not allowed, the same-sex blessings. That it is not encouraged, the ordination of people in homosexual partnerships. And that is common ground."

On Sunday, thousands of worshippers cheered Williams as he held mass in Harare while supporters of Kunonga demonstrated outside the main cathedral in the capital.

Speaking to Al Jazeera from Harare on Sunday, Kunonga said: "[Rowan Williams] is irrelevant. He has divided the Anglican Church the world over. And we're feeling the impact of the division he has created.".

Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
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