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Tuesday, November 4, 2008


VATICAN CITY, 4 NOV 2008 (VIS) - The Holy See and the Republic of Botswana, "being desirous of promoting bonds of mutual friendship and of strengthening international co-operation", have decided by common accord to establish diplomatic relations at the level of apostolic nunciature on the part of the Holy See and at the ambassadorial level on the part of the Republic of Botswana, conforming to the rules fixed by the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations of 18 April 1961.

  A communique made public today announces that on 4 November, at the headquarters of the pontifical representation in Pretoria, South Africa, "notes verbale" will be exchanged and a communique signed for the establishment of diplomatic relations between the Holy See and the Republic of Botswana.

  Botswana is a presidential republic, part of the Commonwealth, and independent since 30 September 1966. The current president is Seretse Khama Ian Khama, who has been in office since 1 April 2008. The country has a surface area of 581,730 square kilometres and a population of 1,586,000. The Kalahari Desert covers some 70 percent of the land, while in the north-west is the Okavango Delta, the world's largest inland delta.

  The Catholic Church in Botswana is very young and small in numerical terms. Only five percent of the population are Catholic. The first missionaries reached what was then the Bechuanaland Protectorate in 1850 but only in 1928 did the Oblates of Mary Immaculate manage to found a mission and a primary school. A mission was opened in Lobate in 1930, and another in Ramotwsa in 1935. The Irish Passionist Fathers arrived after World War II. There are currently 84,000 Catholics divided between two ecclesiastical circumscriptions: the diocese of Gaborone and the apostolic vicariate of Francistown. There are 27 diocesan priests, 38 parishes, 40 regular priests, 4 unordained male religious, 77 female religious and around 300 catechists.

  Relations between Church and State are good. During the work of the assembly of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation, held in Rome in October 2005, the then president of Botswana, Festus Mogae, told Cardinal Angelo Sodano, then secretary of State, of his desire to establish regular diplomatic relations with the Holy See. Thus began the process which is coming to a conclusion today.

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