Saturday, May 30, 2009

Central African Republic: Church in Crisis as Two Catholic Bishops Quit

29 May 2009

B angui — The Catholic Church in the Central African Republic is grappling with a crisis brought by the resignation of two senior bishops and a strike by priests.

The Vatican on Tuesday announced the resignation of Archbishop Paulin Pomodimo of Bangui, 54, less than two weeks after the departure on May 16 of Bishop Francois-Xavier Yombanje of Bossangoa, president of the bishops' conference.

Media reports say the resignation of Archbishop Pomodimo followed an investigation into priests of Bangui who live more or less openly with women and had fathered children.

Catholic News Service reported that following Archbishop Pomodimo's exit, more than 40 priests launched a one-day strike to protest the appointment of a new apostolic administrator. The priests from the Archdiocese of Bangui resumed celebrating Mass on Thursday a.

The Bangui archdiocesan chancellor, Fr Brad Mazangue, told CNS that arrangements were being made for the new apostolic administrator, Fr Dieudonne Nzapa-La-Ayinga, to address the priests on the matter as soon as possible.

When announcing the resignation of Archbishop Pomodimo, the Vatican said the prelate quit under the terms of Canon 401.2 of the Code of Canon Law, which states that "a diocesan bishop who has become less able to fulfil his office because of ill health or some other grave cause is earnestly requested to present his resignation from office."

Other reports quoted Passionist Fr Ciro Benedettini, vice director of the Vatican press office, as saying that Archbishop Pomodimo resigned because of "insurmountable difficulties in running the diocese."

Fr Mathurin Paze Lekissan, a Bangui archdiocesan priest, told CNS by telephone that the Bangui clergy had invited priests in other dioceses to join them in protesting the resignation of the two bishops.

The news agency Africa News had reported Monday that Archbishop Pomodimo and several priests in his archdiocese would be sanctioned "for adopting a moral attitude which is not always in conformity with their commitments to follow Christ in chastity, poverty and obedience."

The agency said Guinean Archbishop Robert Sarah, secretary of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, had visited the Central African Republic and "concluded that many local priests have official homes, children and have accumulated private properties."

Archbishop Sarah told CNS on Tuesday that he had travelled to the Bangui Archdiocese, but could not comment further.

Africa News also reported that priests from nine of the country's dioceses accused the Vatican of being "discriminatory, partial and selective in the assessment of the situation since white priests and bishops are also guilty of the same practices."

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