FROM A SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
RHODESIAN Catholics were urged to pray this week for the success of today's •talks between Mr. Ian Smith, the Prime Minister, and Bishop Lamont of Umtali on the Government's racial policies.
The Catholic bishops have warned the Government that they will close down all Catholic schools, hospitals and orphanages if the dicussions break down.
Their statement said that the Government's racial policies, particularly the new Land
Tenure Act, which divides the
country into black and white areas, would make it impossible for the Church to continue its work.
The statement was signed by Archbishop Markall of Salisbury, Bishop Lamont of Urntali, Bishop Haene of Gwelo, Bishop Schmitt of Bulawayo and Bishop Prieto of Wankie.
"OURS BY iuGur" The bishops said that after "months of agonising consideration and consultation, it has become clear to us that recent legislation, and particularly the Land Tenure Act, makes it impossible for us to continue the works of service which have been done by the Church for all the people of this land.
"The act in question is wholly unacceptable to us. Not only does it violate conscience, it grievously restricts the practice of religion. It interferes with the rule and constitutions of the various religious communities of nuns, teaching brothers and priests, and it makes it impossible for us reasonably to hope for either young men and women who may wish to dedicate themselves to God in religious life and so enable us to continue our work.
All this will of itself effectively bring to an end the work being done by our institutions throughout Rhodesia. We refer to our schools, hospitals, orphanages, homes for the aged and so on.
"They are ours by right, they have been built and maintained by the Church and staffed by its dedicated servants, and they have been of incalculable benefit to Rhodesia."
"TRAGIC LOSS" The bishops saiti the responsibility for "the tragic loss" of Catholic institutions would rest squarely on the Government. The bishops believed it was idle to argue that "the objectionable laws" would not be enforced.
"It is up to the government to decide. We ask those responsible urgently to consider this plea that the Church be not reduced to the condition of existing merely by permission of the State, but that it be able to continue its work freely, under no ambiguity or shadow of indecision."
According to the latest statistics there are 820 schools, with 4,400 white, 151,000 black and 1,400 other pupils. There are 81 convents for whites, 43 convents for Africans, 43 hospitals,, 88 dispensaries, 23 orphanages, more than 70 rural missions and five seminaries.
The Church has 150,000 acres of mission lands-100,000 of them leased to African tenants. The tenant families include 12,000 persons and there are more than 7,000 children in the mission schools.
The Rhodesian taxpayer would carry a heavy burden if the state had to take over these Catholic institutions.