JOHANNESBURG, South Africa -- The South African government Thursday confiscated the passport of Bishop Desmond Tutu, the outspoken critic of the country's apartheid regime.
Tutu, the secretary-general of the South African Council of Churches, shrugged off the incident and said calmly: 'I wish the prime minister and his people a blessed Good Friday and a happy Easter.'
The Anglican bishop, a forceful critic of the white regime's racist policies, had recently returned from a trip to Europe which included a meeting with Pope Paul last week.
'This does not in any way affect me,' he said after two policemen came to his Soweto home to confiscate his passport. They handed him a document signed by Internal Affairs Minister Chris Heunis instructing that his passport be withdrawn.
Tutu said Prime Minister Pieter Botha, 'will one day come to us and return our passport when he needs us to sort out the mess we are landing ourselves in.'
During electioneering speeches last month and again last week, Botha told questioners that the bishop's passport would be revoked because 'he spread lies about South Africa overseas.'
In New York, the National Council of Churches condemned the action and praised Tutu as a 'Christian committed to peaceful change' in South Africa.
'In sermons, private conversations and other public statements, the bishop admonished all who would hear him that only by the concerted exertion of political, diplomatic and above all economic pressure could South Africa's government be convinced that her present direction could only lead to massive resistance on the part of the majority people of that country,' a Council statement said.
'For this action of Christian witness by a person committed to the principles of the Christian faith, the government has responded by taking his passport and thereby virtually placing him under 'state arrest.' The National Council of Churches abhors such violence done to the human spirit. We publicly protest this new act of aggression against Christians committed to peaceful change in a country where change is inevitable,' it said.