Archbishop Pius Ncube, the most outspoken critic of the Zimbabwean dictator Robert Mugabe, has resigned as the Archbishop of Bulawayo after being accused of having an affair. The Vatican announced this morning that Pope Benedict XVI has accepted the archbishop’s resignation.
The Vatican press office released a letter written by the archbishop in which he wrote that he offered his resignation to Vatican officials in July to prevent the Church’s image from being tarnished. "In order to spare my fellow bishops and the body of the Church any further attacks, I decided this was the best course of action," he wrote.
The Holy Father accepted Ncube’s resignation under Canon 410.2, which allows a bishop to resign if he becomes ill or for some grave reason becomes incapable of continuing his ministry.
Archbishop Ncube came under fire in July when a court case was filed against him alleging that he had been committing adultery over a two year period with one of his parish secretaries, Mrs. Rosemary Sibanda. The court case, filed by the Mr. Onesimus Sibanda the husband of Rosemary is seeking 20 billion Zimbabwean dollars ($160,000) in damages.
The evidence against the archbishop consists of photos and videos which purportedly show the archbishop having sex with Mrs. Sibanda and other women. New Zimbabwe.com reported that the footage was taken by Ernest Tekere, a senior intelligence operative for the Zimbabwean government for 20 years. However, it has not been conclusively proven that the footage was not digitally altered.
The fact that the government was involved in the case lends weight to Archbishop Ncube’s claim the court case is part of a government orchestrated campaign against him. He wrote in his resignation letter that it is “obviously a state-driven, vicious attack not just on myself but by proxy on the Catholic Church in Zimbabwe.”
"(But) I have not been silenced by the crude machinations of a wicked regime. I am committed to promoting the social teachings of the Church," he said.
"I will use my experiences working among the people to lobby for greater humanitarian support, in particular food and medical supplies at this time of extreme national crisis," he added.
"I will continue to speak out on the issues that sadly become more acute by the day."
Zimbabwe suffers runaway inflation that the International Monetary Fund expects to hit 100,000 percent by the end of the year; collapsing infrastructure; mass unemployment; and shortages of everything from bread to tractor spare parts. Mugabe, meanwhile, has muzzled the opposition with curbs on speech and gatherings, and has applauded police for beating opposition activists.