VATICAN CITY - Bishops attending a Vatican meeting on Africa issued a blunt ultimatum yesterday to corrupt Catholic political leaders in Africa: repent or leave public office.

In a strong final message, the bishops said Africa needs "saints" in government "who will clean the continent of corruption, work for the good of the people," and end the evils of war and poverty devastating the continent.

They cited as an example the late Tanzanian president Julius Nyerere, the father of Tanzanian independence and a symbol of Africa's hopes as it emerged from the shadow of colonial rule, who is being considered for possible beatification.

While praising some Catholic leaders who are doing their public service well, they accused others of having "fallen woefully short in their performance in office."

"The synod calls on such people to repent, or quit the public arena and stop causing havoc to the people and giving the Catholic Church a bad name," the bishops wrote at the end of their monthlong synod.

The bishops didn't name names, but Zimbabwe's Robert Mugabe, who has been blamed for presiding over a politically repressive regime that led to the economic collapse of the country, and Angolan President Eduardo dos Santos, whose party swept elections last year that critics say were marred by fraud and corruption, are two well-known Catholic leaders.

The prelates, about 300 from Africa and around the world, also condemned non-Catholic leaders and outside foreign interests for allowing African countries to fall into such devastation, saying "in most cases we are dealing with greed for power and wealth at the expense of the people and nation."

In particular, they cited areas of conflict such as Somalia, the Great Lakes region, Sudan and Guinea.

"Whatever may be the responsibility of foreign interests, there is always the shameful and tragic collusion of the local leaders: politicians who betray and sell out their nations; dirty business people who collude with rapacious multinationals; African arms dealers and traffickers who thrive on small arms that cause great havoc on human lives, and local agents of some international organizations who get paid for peddling toxic ideologies that they don't believe in" - a reference to nongovernment organizations and humanitarian groups that promote abortion rights.

The results, the bishops wrote, are visible for the world to see: poverty, misery and disease; refugees within Africa's borders and beyond; brain drain; human-trafficking; wars; child soldiers, and violence against women.

"How can anybody be proud of 'presiding' over such chaos?" the bishops asked. "What has happened to our traditional African sense of shame? This synod proclaims it loud and clear: it is time to change habits, for the sake of present and future generations."