CLERICS and pilgrims in Zimbabwe were unable to take part in annual celebrations at the shrine of a revered Anglican priest, after the deposed Bishop of Harare, Nolbert Kunonga, claimed ownership of the site.
The Anglican Communion News Service reported that the excommunicated bishop had said that he was in charge of the Arthur Shearly Cripps shrine and 78 churches in the Masvingo diocese in south-eastern Zimbabwe.
The diocese advised pilgrims to stay away from the celebrations, scheduled for 29-31 July, after a court ruled that Kunonga could not be prevented from visiting the shrine.
A spokesman for the diocese said that the former bishop had “got wind of the diocesan preparations for commemoration of Arthur Shearly Cripps . . . and he began to counter these efforts” by distributing flyers around the town of Chivhu, and the Mission in Daramombe, which he has attempted previously to destabilise (News, 10 June).
Kunonga and a group of supporters are also reported to have broken into Daramombe Church, which has meant that regular services there were cancelled.
An emergency meeting between the Bishop of Masvingo, the Rt Revd Godfrey Tawonezvi, and police in Chivhu proved fruitless, as the authorities would not overturn the former bishop’s claim of ownership of the shrine.
The priest-in-charge of Chivhu Church district is also reported to have been detained at Chivhu central police station, and asked to surrender his keys, which he refused to do.
The Presiding Bishop of the Epsicopal Church in the United States, Dr Katharine Jefferts Schori, recently returned from a three-day visit to Zimbabwe, where she met the Bishop of Harare, the Rt Revd Chad Gandiya, and other representatives from the diocese.
She preached at a confirmation service in St Martin’s, Harare, and at the Sunday eucharist at St Paul’s, another church in the Harare diocese. Dr Jefferts Schori is the first US presiding Bishop to visit the province of Central Africa. She said that she “wanted to let the Church in Zimbabwe know of our solidarity as they suffer through this harassment and victimisation by the deposed former bishop and his thugs”.