by Desmond O'Grady and Peter Stanford THE CHURCH combats all forms of racial discrimination, Pope John Paul II said on Saturday, when receiving the United Nations' Special Committee against Apartheid.
Pope John Paul referred in particular to two aspects of the sOuthern Africa situation: the independence of Namibia and the displacement of vast numbers of people in South Africa.
He said the Holy See did not wamt to put forward political proposals but was speaking "on the level of the human person", and it was at this level that these matters caused deep disquiet, for the weight of suffering affecting the individuals and communities concerned was very heavy, The Catholic Church, faithful to her mission in the world, shared these sufferings and could not pass them over in silence, he said. If she did, her witness of love and service to man would be compromised.
As for Namibia, the Holy See expressed the hope that it would be possible for the negotiations, which have been going on for a long time, to be translated, without too much delay, into clear decisions which would recognise without ambiguity "the right of this nation" to be sovereign and independent.
Picture, page 2 This would be an important contribution towards restoring peace in the region, the Pope commented, and a valuable sign of reconciliation between the different peoples who live there.
It would similarly be an exemplary application of the principles of international law which could not fail to extend its positive influence to other conflicts on the African continent and also elsewhere.
The recent agreements which have marked relations between different countries in southern Africa seem to constitute an advance in this direction. In the meantime, it is of capital importance the Pope went on that the conduct of the civil and military authorities in Namibian territory should be inspired by "respect for the rights of the inhabitants, even in the situations of confrontation that exist".
Turning to the problem of the displacement of vast numbers of South African citizens to the places of residence assigned to them by the Government, Pope John Paul said the local Catholic chUrch had already expressed its protest and that a joint ecumenical initiative had been taken by the Southern Africa Catholic Bishops' Conference and the South African Council of Churches, in order to draw the attention of the public and of international organisations to these facts, which are a
consequence of the system of apartheid.
"The Holy See" he continued, "for its part, expresses its concern at procedures contrary to the dignity of individuals and whole communities. It earnestly hopes that a different policy will be established, in order that a population already so sorely tried, and whose right to be treated without discrimination is systematically flouted, may be spared further painful and tragic experiences. It likewise desires the revision of such a policy so that other catastrophic consequences can be avoided in the future, for the true good of all who live in the region and for the sake of world peace."
Two prominent church critics of the apartheid system in South Africa have been in London this week. Bishop Desmond Tutu, the Secretary-General of the South African Council of Churches was visiting the British Council of Churches and also had meetings with Mr Malcolm Rifkind, Minister of State at the Foreign Office. He described their meeting as 'frank and friendly". They discussed Mrs Thatcher's recent meeting with the South African Prime Minister, Mr P W Botha.
Speaking later at a press conference, Bishop Tutu said that black people had been "hurt" by the meeting which had "bolstered the morale" of the white South African government.
Turning to Mr Botha's meeting with Pope John Paul II, Bishop Tutu echoed the sentiment of five black Cathok priests in South Africa, who had stated after the meeting that "if the Pope were to visit one of the (South African) missions tomorrow, he would certainly not be offered as much as a glass of water".
Bishop Tutu said that this statement "aptly described" the feeling of black Christians in South Africa.
On the general question of whether Mr Botha should have been received at all by western heads of government, Bishop Tutu said it was "unacceptable" to "receive someone standing for a policy which is genocidal, and to do it in the name of Christianity and western civilisation".
In London this week at the invitation of the Catholic Institute for International Relations was Fr Smangaliso Mkhatshwa, the SecretaryGeneral of the Southern Africa Catholic Bishops Conference. Fr Mkhatshwa was arrested in October in Ciskei and was detained without trial until January of this year. He was finally acquitted of chafges of subversion and incitement to public violence in March after international protests at his continued detention.
Fr Mkhatshawa likened Prime Minister Botha's return from Europe to the return of a "conquering hero". In South Africa it was reported that he had received western approval for his constitutional changes which will set up a tricameral legislature, with separate parliaments for coloureds and Indians. The country's 18 million blacks will remain without a parliamentary voice.
Fr Mkhatshwa spoke of the foundation of the United Democratic Front, an alliance of over 500 community organisations to lead the fight against the new constitutional proposals and apartheid in general. He mentioned a petition of 350,000 signatures objecting to the proposals.
Fr Mkhatshwa will have a private audience with Pope John Paul at the Vatican on Sunday.
see Donald Woods, page 3 and editorial, page 4