Zimbabwe president arrives in Rome for papal mass

Published on NewsOK Modified: March 18, 2013 at 5:40 am •  Published: March 18, 2013
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HARARE, Zimbabwe (AP) — State radio in Zimbabwe says President Robert Mugabe has arrived in Rome for the inaugural mass of newly-elected Pope Francis.

Mugabe is the subject of a travel ban by European nations to protest his human rights record in a decade of political and economic turmoil in his southern African nation, but it does not affect his trips to the Vatican through Italy or United Nations meetings elsewhere.

A practicing Catholic, Mugabe, 89, joined world leaders at the 2005 funeral of Pope John Paul II who visited Zimbabwe on an African pilgrimage in 1988. At the Pope's request then, Zimbabwe suspended criminal executions but hangings resumed nearly a decade later.

The radio said Pope Benedict XVI recently retired at age 85 "for reasons of physical and mental health."