The Catholic Church in Zimbabwe

Historical Note
The first attempt to evangelise Zimbabwe was made in the sixteenth century by the Jesuit Father Goncalo da Silveira of Portugal. His mission was very short lived as he was martyred on 16 March 1561 near the present boarder with Mozambique, not far from Tete. Next came the Dominican Fathers who established themselves south of the Zambezi and remained until 1775. The Dominicans tried to influence King Munhumutapa himself, but they succeeded in taking some of his sons. The first was Miguel whom they educated, trained and ordained a priest in Goa. He was the first black Zimbabwean to become a Catholic priest. He also obtained a doctorate in Theology. He died and was buried in Goa. The Dominicans took two other sons of Munhumutapa whom they trained as priests, Fr. Constantio and his brother Fr. Joao, as they travelled to Lisbon, one died at the start of the voyage and the other died in the city of Bahia in Brazil. However the local community in Munhumutapa Kingdom did not seem to have a strong community of faith of the new religion.

The Jesuits made a second attempt and returned in 1607 and remained till 1759. After 1775 all catholic missionary work ceased in Zimbabwe until 1879 when catholic priests once again entered Zimbabwe, this time coming from South Africa and not through Mozambique like before. The Jesuit Fathers and the Dominican Sisters returned with the Pioneer Column and established Chishawasha Mission in 1891 and the Dominican Convent School in 1892 in Harare. Prior to these institutions, the very first Catholic Mission was established by Fr. Prestage SJ at Empandeni Mission near Plumtree in 1887. It is said that King Lobengula of the Ndebele said to Fr. Prestage SJ: “Go to Empandeni and teach the people there.” (O’Reilly, J., ‘The Centenary of Empandeni”, 1987, p.4).

The original Zambezi Mission of the Catholic Church, which included part of Zambia, was entrusted to the Jesuit Fathers by Rome on 7 February 1879. In 1930 the Bulawayo area was given to the German Marianhill Missionaries, who had previously worked in Manicaland from 1908-1930; in 1946 the Fort Victoria area, now Masvingo, which became Gweru diocese was committed to the Swiss Bethlehem Fathers; in 1953 the Mutare area was confided to the Irish Carmelite Fathers and Hwange area to the Spanish Mission Institute. On 1 January 1955, by Papal Bull, the Ecclesiastical Province of Southern Rhodesia was set up. Today Zimbabwe has 8 dioceses, 12 Bishops including the retired ones, many religious congregations of men and women and show many signs of a growing local Church blessed with local priests, religious, catechists and hundreds of lay leaders.

The Hierarchy of the Catholic Church

His Holiness Pope Francis

Pope Francis PictureBishop of Rome,
Vicar of Jesus Christ, Successor of the Prince of the Apostles, Supreme Pontiff of the Universal Church, Patriarch of the West, Primate of Italy, Archbishop Metropolitan of the Roman Province, Sovereign of the State of the Vatican City, Servant of the Servants of God.

Born in Buenos Aires, Agentina, on December 17 1936; ordained priest in Freiburg, 13 December 1969; Jesuit Provincial of Argentina in 1973, Rector 1980-1986, Titual Bishop of Auca and Auxiliary of Buenos Aires in February 1998. He became Archbishop of Buenos Aires and was created cardinal on February 2, 2001. In February 2011, he was elevated to cardinal by Pope John Paul II and, named the cardinal priest of St Robert Bellarmine in 2005-2011. Bergoglio reportedly received the second most votes in 2005 papal election. His solemn commencement of his ministry as Universal Pastor of the Church started on 19 March 2013 at the age of 76. Jorge Bergoglio is the 266th Pope of the Roman Catholic Church.

The Pope, as successor to St Peter the Apostle, is the head of the Catholic Church. He has primacy of jurisdiction as well as of honour over the entire Church and all of its members

Apostolic Nunciature in Zimbabwe

The Roman Pontiff possesses the innate and independent right to nominate and send his own legates to particular Churches in various Nations and regions and also to States and other public authorities like International Organisations. The Holy See and the Republic of Zimbabwe established diplomatic relations on 26 June 1980, at the level of Apostolic Nunciature on the part of the Holy See and of Embassy on the part of the Republic of Zimbabwe. The Apostolic Nuncio represents the Holy Father and the Apostolic See to the Bishops and the whole Church in Zimbabwe and to the Government of Zimbabwe. His ecclesial and diplomatic responsibilities are outlined in the Code of Canon Law, Canons 362 to 367.

Apostolic Nuncio
His Excellency The Most Rev. Marek Zalewski

Secretary and Mission D/Head: Very Rev. Fr. John Baptist Itaruma
Physical Address: Apostolic Nunciature
5 St Kilda Road
Mount Pleasant Harare
Postal Address: P O Box MP 191
Mount Pleasant Harare
Telephone: (04) 744547
Fax: (04) 744412

Zimbabwe Catholic Bishop’s Conference

Bishops, in union with and in subordination to the Pope, serve the people of their own dioceses with ordinary jurisdiction and authority. They also share, in collegiate manner with the Pope and with each other, concern and efforts for the general welfare of the whole Church. The Zimbabwean Bishops form, as their co-ordinating body, the Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops’ Conference (ZCBC), which was constituted by Roman Decree on 1st October 1969.

The Composition of the ZCBC is as follows:

  • Most Revd Robert C. Ndlovu Archbishop of Harare
  • Rt Revd Xavier Munyongani Bishop of Gweru
  • Rt Revd Alexio Churu Muchabaiwa Bishop of Mutare
  • Rt Revd Dieter B. Scholz Bishop of Chinhoyi
  • Rt Revd Michael Dixon Bhasera Bishop of Masvingo
  • Rt Revd Albert Serrano SMI Bishop of Hwange
  • Rt Revd Angel Floro SMI Bishop of Gokwe
  • Rt Revd Patrick Mumbure Mutume Auxiliary Bishop of Mutare
  • Most Rev. Alexander Thomas Kaliyanil of Bulawayo
  • Suffragan Sees of the Province of Harare: Mutare, Chinhoyi, Gokwe
  • Suffragan Sees of the Province of Bulawayo:
    Gweru, Hwange, Masvingo

Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops’ Conference Office Bearers of the ZCBC 2014-2017

President: The Rt. Rev. Bishop Michael Dixon Bhasera of Masvingo
Vice-President: The Mt. Rev. Archbishop Robert Christopher Ndlovhu of Harare
Secretary/Treasurer: The Mt. Rev. Archbishop Alex Thomas of Bulawayo

Caritas Zimbabwe: Mt Rev. Alex Thomas
Health / Refugees / Migrants/Parliament L.O Archbishop of Bulawayo

Commission for Clergy Rt. Rev. Dieter Scholz of Chinhoyi
Commission for Evangelization and Catechesis / The Pastoral Centre / Commission for Liturgy and Worship
Rt Rev. Alberto Serrano SMI Bishop of Hwange
Education Commission/ Culture Rt. Rev. Angelo Floro SMI Bishop of Gokwe
Social Communications Commission/Comm. for Ecumenism/Interreligious Dialogue Rt. Rev. Michael D. Bhasera of Masvingo
Marriage & Family Commission Rt. Rev.Dieter B. Scholz SJ
Theology & Canon Law Rt. Rev.  Bishop Michael D. Bhasera
National Marriage Tribunal Mt. Rev. Robert C. Ndlovu ArchBishop of Harare
Seminary Commission Mt. Rev. Robert C. Ndlovu of Harare
Seminary Board of Bishops Mt. Rev. Robert C. Ndlovu ArchBishop of Harare
National Catholic Council of the Laity Rt. Rev. Xavier Munyongani of Gweru
National Catholic Youth Council Rt. Rev. Xavier Munyongani of Gweru
Catholic Commission for Justice & Peace Rev. Alexio C. Muchabaiwa Bishop of Mutare


Seminary Board: Archbishop R. C. Ndlovu, Bishop Xavier Munyongani, Bishop Alex Thomas,
Bishop A. Floro SMI
Finance Committee: Archbishop Alex Thomas, Bishop Alexio Muchabaiwa, Bishop Albert Serrano

ZCBC General Secretariat

Physical Address
Africa Synod House 29/31 Selous Avenue, Harare
Postal Address Box CY 738 Causeway, Harare
Telephone (04) 705368/9
Fax (04) 704001

Secretary General Fr. Fradereck Chiromba
Administrator Sr. Gregor Dakudzwa LCBL

Finance Manager: Sr. Angela Mugwenhi
Roman Catholic Lay Employees
Pension Fund Sr. Eustina Hlabati
Box CY 738 Causeway, Harare
Tel: (04) 706911
Fax: (04) 704001
General Secretary Residence: Msgr. Chikore House
No. 10 Timber Close, Chispite
Telephone (04) 480606

Postal Address: Box CY 738 Causeway
Chairman: Bishop Alex Thomas
National Coordinator:
Telephone 04-731915/705368 ext:205/210

Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace
Postal Address Box CY 284 Causeway, Harare
Telephone (04) 791053 / 792380
Fax (04) 724971

Chairman Bishop Alexio C. Muchabaiwa
Chairman Mr G. Muzenda
National Director Mr. Arkmore Kori
Administrator Pending
Education & Publications Officer Mr. T. Zimbiti
Women & Gender Desk (Co-ord)