Price of Bible in Zimbabwe increases by the minute

CAPE TOWN, South Africa — Even making a plan to buy a Bible in Zimbabwe is enough to work you up into a sweat, says Jesuit Father Oscar Wermter.

A foreign currency sign is seen as shoppers buy products at a supermarket in Harare, Zimbabwe. The Zimbabwean government recently allowed food outlets to accept foreign currency in order to tackle the increasing inflation. (CNS/Reuters)

A foreign currency sign is seen as shoppers buy products at a supermarket in Harare, Zimbabwe. The Zimbabwean government recently allowed food outlets to accept foreign currency in order to tackle the increasing inflation. (CNS/Reuters)

At last, the Bible has been translated into Shona, a local language, and is selling for $6. So, like other parish priests, Harare-based Father Wermter wants to order 20 for those in his parish who want their own copy but can’t afford it. The Bible is a luxury in a country where 5 million people — about half the population of Zimbabwe — are facing starvation.

Everyone with something to sell wants cash or foreign currency, he says, and if you insist on paying by check they charge you 10 times as much.

If he went to the bank to draw out the equivalent in Zimbabwean dollars of the $120 he would need for 20 Bibles, he would stand all day in line and, when he got to the front, he likely would be told there was not enough money to give him all he needed.

And even if he was able to draw it all, by the time he got out of the bank, with an inflation rate of 231 million percent the Zim bucks would be worth less than they had been when he started out. His other option is to collect the cash from each parishioner before he pays the supplier. But then he’s passing on the chore of spending a day in the bank to them and will still be out of pocket because, with prices going up every few minutes, there’s no way he could collect the money and pay for the Bibles before the
price rose.

So he’s caught between a rock and a hard place, and while he’s pondering those Bibles aren’t getting any cheaper.

‘Catholics have an obligation to be interested in politics’

As Canadians go to the polls today to elect a government, Catholics are being wooed by candidates and parties in much the same way U.S. Catholic voters are sought.

The Catholic Register, Canada’s oldest Catholic weekly, has been in the thick of things. A detailed article, “The spirituality of politics”, tackles what some of the nation’s Catholic groups are emphasizing as important in voting. Associate editor Michael Swan talked about politics with people from a range of Catholic organizations — from the Campaign Life Coalition, which focuses on abortion, same-sex marriage and euthanasia, to the Catholic Worker Movement, which focuses on peace and life issues such as opposing the death penalty and supporting people with mental handicaps.

He also traces the history of the church’s involvement in Canadian politics, dating back to the 1890s, when Bishop John Cameron of Antigonish, Nova Scotia, regularly dined with Canada’s first Catholic prime minister, Sir John Thompson. That was 70 years before the United States elected its first Catholic president, John Kennedy.

The page also includes a summary of the points in the Canadian bishops’ federal election guide, which starts with this premise: “Catholics have an obligation to be interested in politics.”

Pope Benedict as Bible blogger?

VATICAN CITY — The Synod of Bishops on the Bible heard an unusual suggestion Tuesday morning when a Hong Kong observer asked Pope Benedict to start up his own daily blog on Scripture.

Agnes Kam Leng Lam, president of the Catholic Biblical Association of Hong Kong, said people need to experience Scripture in small but significant doses.

“To put it in a nutshell, I’d like to suggest to you Holy Father to start a multi-language blog to shepherd today’s world by scriptural verses, daily verses,” she said on the synod floor. The pope’s blog should include simple reflections that relate Scripture to real-life situations, she said.

Lam included advice that’s probably good for any blogger: “Remember, brief texts, Holy Father, and plentiful images, and this will be very attractive to the young generation and to today’s people.”

The talk apparently provoked a positive reaction and some laughter, but the pope, who was presiding over the Oct. 5-26 assembly, didn’t say whether he’d be blogging anytime soon.

CNS Bible Blog: Judith, Chapter 10 – Hanging on to tradition

By Uta Sievers
Special to Catholic News Service

Today, I sat down again with the Book of Judith and started reading Chapter 10. Following the method of “Ignatian contemplation” (a way for reading and praying with the Scriptures that has been used by Jesuits since the 16th century), I took a step back inside the story as Judith.

Uta Sievers

When the Assyrian soldiers grab my bare arms, I feel fire run through my body. I shrink back but see the necessity of going through this. I feel shame at the humiliating smiles, at their obvious enjoyment of having me in their hands. Disgust at their dirty hands on my skin. The eyes of men who are trained for war, not for love. Their smelly bodies rub against me as they push me forward to take me to Holofernes. Beauty can be such a trap.

I manage to tell the story of my treason convincingly, and there is a reason for it: I am still angry at the Elders in my town, who almost mistrusted God. Silly people, my Israelites! I feel I could almost do it, lead the enemy into the heartland of Israel. But that’s not God, that’s me, the Jonah in me. All I need to do now is get through to Holofernes, and any story will do.

As I am escorted through the gaping crowds of soldiers, I feel lightheaded. I know what God is doing here by way of me, Judith: crossing all the boundaries of what’s permitted for a woman, a stranger, an inferior human being. It’s so outrageous that they decide not to harm me … for now.

I have five days. Four and a half now. I feel my way through those days, doing things almost in a trance, following the master plan. I reconnect every night with the one who is in charge here. Oh, how I long for my nightly prayer sessions. To feel clean once again inside and out after washing myself in the fountain. To share my fears with the one who knows them already, and who even knows the outcome of our plan. To find strength and answers. To be safe from the inhabitants of the camp, one night at a time.

As I step out of the story, I pray for the men and women of all faiths who hang on to their traditions and customs in the midst of adverse conditions because that is where they find meaning.

Better homilies, better readers: That’s the ticket

VATICAN CITY — The need for better homilies and the importance of lectors carefully, slowly and clearly proclaiming the word have been insistently recurring themes at the world Synod of Bishops on the Bible.

Auxiliary Bishop Anton Leichtfried of Sankt Polten, Austria, told the synod yesterday that for too many Catholics, going to Mass is like standing near a train station: every once in a while, a train whips by — the Sunday Scripture readings.

A Franciscan Friar at Rome's Termini Train Station (CNS photo/Max Rossi, Reuters)

A Franciscan Friar at Rome's Termini Train Station. (CNS photo/Max Rossi, Reuters)

“The readings of the Sacred Scripture will pass quickly by the ears and eyes of the faithful who cannot get on board and stay on board,” he said.

Bishop Leichtfried asked the synod to suggest that all Catholics read at least the Gospel for themselves before going to church. And that those who preach really take on board the fact that their Sunday homily is probably the only Biblical reflection most Catholics will hear all week.