The Standard deputy editor Walter Marwizi was granted an exclusive interview with Archbishop Robert Ndlovu. Archbishop Ndlovu heads the Harare archdiocese of the Roman Catholic Church which covers 63,555 square kilometres and boasts a Catholic population of close to 500,000 people. Below is the second part of the interview.
WM: Young charismatic leaders like Emmanuel Makandiwa and Uebert Angel, aren’t they drawing from your flock?
RN: They are. It would be naïve to say they don’t. But what normally happens from our own assessment is that people who go there — I think there are few from the Catholic church but I wouldn’t close the door that they are not going — are people who have a kind of dual loyalty in the sense that there are reasons why they would occasionally go there, because, mind you, we also have the Catholic Church charismatic movement which is quite good in answering some of those needs.
You would realise that people who go there occasionally are people who have problems with sickness, other ills, death and so forth. But there is also another element that we see especially when it comes to the younger generation.
People go to some of these Pentecostal churches for various reasons. One of them is employment. Some of these [churches] offer them employment, housing and so forth. And I have been told they are offered stands. I remember one young man whom I knew very well as an altar server some years back who has now joined one of the Pentecostals, not the Makandiwa one. I think he graduated and he couldn’t get a job, he was promised a job and he was told, “We shall even help you to make a start in life, in marriage and so forth.” And he is there. He was very open with me — he said I am still Catholic at heart but there was an immediate need and I responded to that, and I went there.
WM: What is the Catholic Church doing to counter that?
RN: One of the things that we have to bear in mind is that generally our people have a problem with countering evil spirits and issues of witchcraft. We have not really been converted in that area and I think one of the ways that the church tries to do is to understand, even to study the culture and the traditions of the people…
And the other Pentecostal churches have managed to really focus on the healing ministry and just do that to answer that need and the fear that people have of the spiritual world: death and illness and so forth. Hence a good number of them will not very much preach about the Cross. They would rather preach about redemption and salvation and they will always give the impression that if you get into trouble something has gone wrong; maybe God is angry about something.
The Cross is a bit foreign and they will not speak about sacraments very much. They would rather focus on the healing ministry and there is what is coming now — the gospel of prosperity to answer that. So people sometimes flock because of that, but there is something which I always find missing: commitment.
Some of the young people who have left [Roman Catholic Church] like the entertainment that you find in these places. And again it fulfills the emotional aspect, but it does not really demand a commitment to certain doctrines, certain values. Some people have left the church and gone to Pentecostals because they have taken a second wife. So they come into the [Catholic] church, they cannot receive the sacraments, it’s painful for them and I share that, and they think they can go where no questions are asked but they fulfill a religious kind of inclination. But no questions are asked of whether you are committed to one wife…. This is why I sometimes say we should not only look at the emotional side; the Pentecostals are very good satisfying that emotional side, but the commitment side….
WM: When you say commitment, what do you mean, commitment to what?
RN: You see what I mean is for instance certain Christian values, like if the church says, “One man, one woman.” It is that. It is not something that we can say, “No, we can change. We can look at it differently.” It is just that. So a person can say, “Well, I don’t like staying in the church with this demand because I cannot fulfill it.” So we have those kinds of demands that some people find very difficult.
WM: You were talking about the charismatic Catholics, is it a way to respond to that?
RN: The charismatic [movement] has done very well as I said. It has healing sessions which I think are quite good. They have to do it. Christ, we know that he was also healing people, he was concerned with sickness. So if there are people with those kinds of gifts: charisma–be they priests or community members–I think they should be allowed to use that gift. It’s a spiritual gift and that is why the church is doing that without any problems. There are priests in the charismatic movement; there are other religious groups as well.
WM: So this process might lead to prophets in the Catholic church?
RN: Well, if someone has that gift, why not. It should not be suppressed but it has to be done well as Paul says. It has to be done for the good of the church, the good of the community. It’s not something for self-satisfaction or for status.
WM: Do you already have a prophet in the church?
RN: We wouldn’t say prophets, we would use that terminology in the Catholic Church but we have some people who do prophetic kind of work, I don’t think that is a big problem.
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