The U.S. bishops have issued a letter lending their support to the bishops of Zimbabwe, who are leading the Zimbabwean people through a growing political, economic and humanitarian crisis.

The bishops of Zimbabwe had issued an Easter message, calling for change in the south African country through democratic elections and constitutional reform.

“As the suffering population becomes more insistent, generating more and more pressure through boycotts, strikes, demonstrations and uprisings, the state responds with ever harsher oppression through arrests, detentions, banning orders, beatings and torture,” the bishops of Zimbabwe wrote in their Easter message.

They have joined other voices in Zimbabwe that are calling for an end to President Robert Mugabe’s human rights abuses and to his government. Pro-democracy advocates have been killed, jailed and tortured in recent months.

Bishop Thomas Wenski of Orlando, chairman of the U.S. bishops’ international policy committee, wrote a letter to Archbishop Robert Christopher Ndlovu of Harare, who is president of the Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops’ Conference, expressing solidarity with the bishops and people of Zimbabwe.

“We offer profound respect to you and our brother bishops in Zimbabwe for your brave and faithful pastoral ministry in these difficult days, and we acknowledge and accept the bishops’ invitation to join with you in prayer for Zimbabwe,” Bishop Wenski wrote.

Bishop Wenski called the bishops’ pastoral letter “a powerful testimony to the prophetic leadership of the bishops of Zimbabwe and to the tragic situation of the people in your country.”

Pope Benedict XVI made reference to Zimbabwe during his “Urbi et Orbi” Easter address, describing the country as being “in the grip of a grievous crisis.”