Zimbabwe In an Easter message pinned to church bulletin boards around the country, Zimbabwe's Roman Catholic bishops called on President Robert Mugabe to leave office or face "open revolt" from those suffering under his government.
The letter, titled "God Hears the Cries of the Oppressed," was the most critical pastoral message since Zimbabwe won independence from Britain in 1980 and Mugabe assumed leadership of the country for the first time.
Once prosperous, the country is reeling under hyperinflation of more than 1,700 percent, 80 percent unemployment, shortages of food and other basic goods and one of the world's lowest life expectancies.
"As the suffering population becomes more insistent, generating more and more pressure through boycotts, strikes, demonstrations and uprisings, the state responds with ever harsher oppression through arrests, detentions, banning orders, beatings and torture," the Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops Conference said in a pastoral message pinned up at churches throughout the country.
The majority of Zimbabwe's Christians - including Mugabe - are Roman Catholics. Several thousand worshippers who packed the cathedral in Harare clustered around the bulletin boards to read the message after morning Mass on Sunday.