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Makeni: Bishop Aruna Crisis Persists

9 January 2013 at 08:55 | 3441 views

By Our Reporter in Makeni, Northern Sierra Leone.

The Consecrating Prelate for the ordination of Bishop Henry Aruna, the Most Reverend Prostase RUGAMBWA, Adjunct Secretary of the Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples and President of the Pontifical Mission Societies, has told both the Diocesan Priests and Missionary congregations of the Diocese of Makeni that, ‘as we continue to appeal to the priests and lay faithful of the diocese to heed to the Pope’s decision, we will not impose; which means the Bishop elect (Fr. Henry Aruna) will be an impeded Bishop and the Diocese (Makeni) becomes a vacant seat.’

Cardinal Prostase RUGAMBWA made this concluding statement after a day close door meeting with Diocesan Priests, clergy and Missionaries from the entire diocese of Makeni at the Pastoral Center conference hall in Makeni on Thursday, 3rd January 2013.

The purpose of his visit to Makeni was to understand and dialogue with the priests of the diocese following their disagreement over the appointment of Bishop Henry Aruna as the successor of Bishop Emeritus George Biguzzi.

The Cardinal was accompanied by the Apostolic Nuncio of Sierra Leone, Most Reverend George ANTONYSAY, and his Secretary, Fr. Natalio Panganeli and Msgr. Hyacinthe Dione the Secretary to the Cardinal (also in photo).

The meeting started with adoration at the Our Lady of Fatima Cathedral at 11 a.m. followed by a one on one interview by the Cardinal of all the priests including Missionaries in the diocese of Makeni. The question was a YES or NO – Do you accept the Bishop Elect to become the successor? Each Priest is asked to sign a document. Over 50 Priests went through this personal interview.

The interview was climaxed with a meeting of all the Priests where the Cardinal highlighted in his opening statement the canonical implications of reports they received in Rome from Makeni and disclosed that from his personal interview majority of the priests including missionaries were not in favour of Bishop Henry Aruna as Bishop of the Diocese but he however hastened to give ears to the Priests to hear their grievances first hand.

The Priests presented their case and in conclusion they said, "we are not disobeying but we disagree"

It was after this concluding statement that the Pope’s envoy declared the Bishop seat vacant for Makeni before he left for Freetown that evening.

This vacancy, according to catholic analysts here means that no Bishop will occupy the seat until the whole process of the appointment of the substantive Bishop is revised. This will take some time, the analyst said.

But the Apostolic Administrator appointed by the Pope (Fr. Natalio Panganeli) will remain in charge as and until the time when a new Bishop is ordained and installed. The Apostolic Administrator has all administrative powers like a Bishop except that he cannot ordain a Priest.

Also, when declared as an impeded Bishop that means, according our analyst that the individual, as in the case of Aruna, awaits to be allocated to a diocese where he will be installed or posted to another other church or official assignment whilst awaiting.

The issue of tribalism should be completely ruled out according to our analyst as the clergy of Makeni Diocese involves most of the tribes including, Krios, Mendes, Sosos, Limbas, Temnes, etc. In fact the first ordained Priest of the Diocese is a Mende (Fr. Kanneh). The Diocese can now boast of over 35 well educated local Priests with Doctorates and Masters in various disciplines and also 40 missionaries from various congregations with expertise in various areas including health, education, science and technology, etc. The Diocese is the fastest growing diocese and the biggest in Sierra Leone with the University of Makeni, Holy Spirit Hospital, School for hearing impaired, etc, our analyst added.

It could be recalled that part of the protest and disagreement over the appointment of Bishop Herny Aruna as Bishop elect for Makeni Diocese was not unconnected with the questioning of procedures carried out during the selection that was claimed to have been doctored by the conference of Bishops in Sierra Leone that was dominated by the Freetown, Bo and Kenema Dioceses.

Secondly, the issue of representation at the Episcopal Conference of Bishops with their locality, all key national positions including National and International (i.e. ITCABIC) were dominated by the three regions and the insensitivity towards the geo-political, historical and cultural backgrounds among other issues.

Photo: Senior Roman Catholic priests in Makeni.

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