Rome embraces Mugabe for the beatification of Pope John Paul II
As the Blessed Pope John Paul II (‘the Great’) is officially beatified in a ceremony of great joy and religious fervour, there is a whiff in the air, if not something of a sickening stench. And His Grace is not referring to the bodily decomposition of the late Pope, who could doubtless be nosed after his unseemly exhumation, having been entombed for barely five minutes. No, the sulphuric odour emanates from the very-much-alive corpse of Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe, who flew into Rome and was driven to the Vatican in order that he might attend the beatification ceremony.
Mugabe, a professing Roman Catholic, is subject to an EU-wide travel ban for more-than-a few human rights abuses. So someone must have pulled a few strings.
According to CNN, Fr. Federico Lombardi of the Holy See’s superlative press office ‘did not personally invite Mugabe to the Sunday event’. The reason he is present is because ‘a diplomatic relationship exists between Zimbabwe and the Vatican’.
Right. So you have a pleasant chat with the guy over a pizza and limoncello, and talk about saintliness and the weather. The Vatican ought to consider why such a relationship continues at all. The civilised world has imposed sanctions, instigated bans or ceased diplomatic relations altogether: it is the very least that morally-minded nations can do in response to murder, terrorism, oppression, starvation, genocide and a myriad of human rights abuses. The UK supports the EU’s travel ban and the Church of England has demanded an end to the regime.
But the Vatican is a sovereign state and not a member of the EU (despite continually desiring to foist it upon the rest of us). As a sovereign and independent state with its own sovereign diplomatic corps, its borders are secure and its sovereignty inviolable.
But Fr. Lomabardi explains: “The Vatican cannot tell Mugabe not to come if he wants to take part, just like it wouldn't tell no to Obama or Sarkozy, if they had wanted to come."
Curious, that. Because the Vatican is a sovereign state, and intrinsic to the notion of state sovereignty is control over one’s national borders (in the case of the Holy See, within Lateran Treaty confines). Someone clearly manoeuvred behind the scenes to circumvent the EU-wide travel ban which permitted Mugabe to fly into Rome. Who was that? It must have been some very senior Vatican official, colluding with the Italian government; conflating religion with politics; confusing the mind of God with diplomatic expediency; mistaking incarnate evil for one of the Catholic faithful.
It is not for us to judge the state of Mugabe’s soul or question his account before God. But it occurs to His Grace that the Zimbabwean President is about as Catholic as a certain German chancellor was.
Contrast Rome’s ‘normal diplomatic relations’ with the Church of England’s principled repudiation of the tyrant. The Most Revd and Rt Hon Dr John Sentamu, Archbishop of York, has heeded the cries of the Zimbabwean people for justice: “We can no longer be inactive to their call,” he said. “Mugabe and his henchmen must now take their rightful place in the Hague and answer for their actions. The time to remove them from power has come.” And he has pledged not to wear his dog collar again until Mugabe is removed from power. In cutting up his symbol of ordination, he said: "You know that identities are destroyed. As an Anglican, this is what I wear to identify myself that I am a clergyman. Do you know what Mugabe has done? He has taken people's identity and literally cut it to pieces."
And the Archbishop speaks for the entire Church of England on this matter.
What a great pity – not to say a very great tragedy – that Fr. Lombardi speaks for the Church of Rome.