Robert Mugabe Papal Inauguration: Zimbabwean Strongman Visits Vatican


This one's right out of left field: through a convenient "religious grounds" loophole, Zimbabwean dictator Robert Mugabe attended the inauguration of the new pope, Francis.

Mugabe, who turned 89 this February, is subject to an European Union travel ban which makes allowances for the Vatican. He arrived with a delegation in Rome yesterday, and attended the new pope's inauguration on Tuesday.

Where to begin? A ruthless dictator who has been in power since 1980, Mugabe has embraced the United Kingdom's comparison of his leadership to that of Hitler. During his reign, the Zimbabwean dollar has suffered from historic hyperinflation; at least 10,000 members of the urban poor in Harare have been left homeless; and life expectancy has fallen, since 1990, from 64 for men and women, to 37 and 34, respectively.

As someone who claims to champion the poor, Pope Francis should have seized this opportunity to make a stand against abusive political leaders. Mugabe's policies have consistently resulted in international sanctions levied against Zimbabwe. As the Church's first non-European leader, Pope Francis had a great opportunity to combat the prevalence of poverty and injustice in African and Latin American nations. It is not known what if any communication Francis and Mugabe had with one another. 

Sadly, Pope Francis and Mugabe do actually agree on one thing: neither of them support rights for gay people. The latter has gone on the record to state that homosexuals are "worse than dogs and pigs." In 2010, Pope Francis condemned a government-supported law in Argentina which legalized marriage and adoption by same-sex couples as "a war against God."