From JAMES C. O'NEILL in Rome
Reports have reached here from the Republic of Zaire that President Mobutu Sese Seko has banned all religious teaching from the country's schools, and that a cult of "Mobutuism" is being promoted by State officials. About half the country's 23 million people are Christians, most of them Catholics, President Mobutu and the Catholic Church's Cardinal Joseph Malula of Kinshasa, the capital city, have clashed in the past over Mobutu's "Africanisation" policy. This policy has aimed at rooting out all colonial influences, including certain religious practices which have been linked with the Christianity brought by Europeans.
According to reports from Kinshasa, the Commissioner of State for National Education, Mabolia Imengo Ira Bwato, announced on December 13, that all religious training would be stopped in the nation's schools on January 1.
The Commissioner said religious courses would be replaced by three new educational programmes: civics, political formation and , Zairean ethics.
Another report stated that on December 5, a Government spokesman told the official news agency AZAP that Mobutu was a messiah and his party, the Popular Revolutionary Movement (MRP), a Church.
"The Popular Revolutionary Movement must henceforth be considered as a church and its founder as a messiah," he said, adding that there is no room for "Hierarchies of imported churches" which are harmful to ancestral values.
The spokesman, identified only as Mr Engulu, is Commissioner of State for Political Affairs. He continued: "Mobutu has come in the name of the ancestors and was sent by them . . . He has brought the message of peace, understanding and fraternity. He has rehabilitated the Zaire man in relation to himself and to the outside world.
"Does not Mobutu deserve the name of messiah? Is not the MRP a church, the religion of which is authenticity? Mobutu must be considered as our prophet and the MRP as our religion."
Engulu also was quoted as saying that "teachers are the appointed apostles of Mobutuism."
The Mobutu government last year decreed that Christmas was not to be a public holiday and ordered that it be con
sidered as an ordinary working day.
While there was no immediate reaction from the Vatican's Secretariat of State, one Vatican official said: "This looks like more trouble for the Church. 1 think we just will have to wait and see how much this new programme is pushed. It (Mobutuism) may turn out to he more of a personality cult than a religion. Only time will tell."
Meanwhile, Vatican Radio in a news report from Kinshasa stated on January 2 that Cardinal Malula met the priests and Religious of his archdiocese on January I, and urged them to concentrate on their relations with the laity.
Vatican Radio said the cardinal pointed out that during the coming year "several laymen will officially be placed as the head of parishes." The cardinal, according to Vatican Radio, also "exhorted the clergy to remain united and concluded by calling on all present to offer their prayers for the next plenary assembly of the Zaire Bishops' Conference so that the Lord may grant the bishops courage to take decisions necessary for the future of the Church in their country." playing their full part in society here and he would like to see a stronger Race Relations Act to tackle the problem.
Miss Monica Pearce, former matron of the General Hospital, Birmingham, who this year launched a campaign to raise funds for building a hospice for the dying in Birmingham, receives the Order of the British Empire.
An OBE also went to Mr John Fox, Provost of Motherwell and Wishaw from 1959 to 1962. He is the longest serving Labour councillor in the burgh and its honorary treasurer, having represented the same ward for 29 years. He is a former president of the British Waterworks Association.
Mr. Horace Walker, chairman and chief executive of Bass Charrington and a director of British Rail, becomes a Knight Bachelor.
Mr, Richard Cave, made a Knight Commander of the Order of St Gregory by the Pope, a Knight of Malta and a Knight of Constantine, was appointed a Companion of the Most Honourable Order of the Bath.
tie is founder of the Multiple Sclerosis Society, vicechairman of the Society for the Relief of Distress, a Governor of the Nuffield Nursing Homes Trust and of the Queen Elizabeth Foundation for the Disabled.
Mr Cave is organist at St Thomas Aquinas Church, Ham, Surrey, and a Confrater of Ampleforth Abbey. He is a Member of the Royal Victorian