Archbishop of Canterbury met Robert Mugabe for 'pastoral' meeting

Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe listens before addressing a meeting of veterans of the country's independence war in the capital Harare this month.Reuters

The Archbishop of Canterbury has attended a private meeting with the President of Zimbabwe, Robert Mugabe.

The meeting, which was pastoral in nature, was hailed as testament to the improvement in relations between Church and state in Zimbabwe.

The visit by Archbishop of Justin Welby was made at the reqest of Bishop of Harare, Chad Gandiya.

According to ZBC, Archbishop Welby was pleased about the improved relations and the prospects for fruitful association.

Archbishop Welby was accompanied by several Anglican bishops when he met Mugabe at the State House in Harare on Sunday afternoon. 

He was also accompanied by the British Ambassador to Zimbabwe, Catriona Laing.

Bishops and other Anglican leaders have been attending a meeting of the Anglican Consultative Council in Lusaka, Zambia. Archbishop Welby visited Zimbabwe after the end of that meeting.

After talking with Mugabe, a Catholic, Archbishop Welby said: "Affairs of the church, the past and future, and mistakes that have been made are some of the issues that we discussed with the President."

They also discussed the ordination of women.

The Anglican Church in Zimbabwe is recovering from a damaging split in 2007 when Nolbert Kunonga of Harare led a breakaway. Kunonga was excommunicated by the Anglican Province of Central Africa and was recently ordered by a court to pay back large sums of money from the disposal of church assets.

According to Zimbabwe News, the meeting was not political although Mugabe and Welby talked about the future of the Church and of Zimbabwe. Mugabe also talked about how much relations between church and state had improved. Some of Mugabe's senior government officials were also at the meeting.

Lambeth Palace said: "The Archbishop of Canterbury paid a pastoral visit to President Mugabe of Zimbabwe yesterday late afternoon.

"This last minute visit, made at the request of the Bishop of Harare, was in support of the church in Zimbabwe.

"It lasted less than an hour."

The Archbishop of York Dr John Sentamu has not worn his clerical collar since 2007 in protest at Mugabe's crimes against humanity.

On December 2007 he cut up the collar on live television, saying: "Do you know what Mugabe has done? He's taken people's identity and literally if you don't mind, cut it to pieces. This is what he's actually done, to a lot of—and in the end there's nothing. So as far as I'm concerned from now on I'm not going to wear a dog collar until Mugabe's gone."