Priests, Laity Want Arua Bishop Removed

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In short
A disagreement has emerged between Arua Catholic Bishop Sabino Ocan Odoki and a section of priests and members of the laity who accuse him of corruption and witch hunting priests.

A disagreement has emerged between Arua Catholic Bishop Sabino Ocan Odoki and a section of priests and members of the laity who accuse him of corruption and witch hunting priests.
 
They also accuse Bishop Odoki who was appointed Arua bishop on October 15 2010 and enthroned two months later on December 18, of immorality.
 
A section of Christians led by Martin Andama, the chairperson of the Laity have prepared a petition to Pope Benedict XVI seeking to have the bishop removed.  

In their petition dated October 23, 2012 written through Gulu Archbishop John Baptist Odama, the members of the laity and priests allege that Bishop Odoki diverted more than 100,000 US dollars meant for Maracha Missionary Hospital for his personal use.

He is also accused of diverting funds meant for Pokea Minor Seminary and Catechists and priests subsidy donated by friends of the diocese from Italy. Andama claims that the bishop deducted two percent from the donation as administrative costs.

The priests and members of the laity also accused him of conniving with the some officials of Caritas Arua branch to mismanage more than 80 million shillings meant for projects leading to suspension of funding for Arua diocese this year.

The petition also accuses the Bishop of having a family in Gulu where he first worked as an auxiliary Bishop from July 2006 till he was posted to Arua. They quote a September 28, 2008 letter written by a one Toopaco Nestorius, a retired civil servant who once worked with the East African Community. The letter, addressed to Archbishop Odama, is titled “Personal Concern About the Decay and Collapse of Gulu Archdiocese. In the letter, Bishop Odoki is mentioned as having fathered children long before being appointed bishop.

The petition also faults the Bishop of dragging to police retired Bishop Fredrick Drandua and three other priests Nakary Adiga, Lino Buni and Biajo Candiga for allegedly attempting to kill him which case is still pending.  

The petition also mentions Father Valentine Matua, who was suspended by Bishop Odoki in April this year due to disobedience, arrogance and lack of proper documents among others.

Because of the grave accusations against the Bishop, the secretary of the Apostolic Nuncio, Msgr. Edward Karaan who is also Chargé d’affaires rushed to Arua diocese headquarters on Friday to hold emergency meeting with priests and members of the laity to iron out the issues raised in the petition.

In the emergency meeting held at Arua Christus Centre, the acting Apostolic Nuncio stopped Bishop Odoki from making any comment as he cleared retired Bishop Drandua and three other priests whom the current Bishop had accused of attempting to kill him. Drandua was bishop of Arua diocese from 1986 to 2009.

He asked the Christians and priests to continue praying hard for the diocese so that people who live within it have unity and peace. Msgr Karaan has asked individuals concerned to meet him again on Saturday to present evidence of their petition before it is taken to the Vatican for action.

Bishop Emeritus Drandua, who was given a chance to speak during the meeting, preached forgiveness, saying when he was dragged to police for allegedly plotting to kill his successor, he was only praying to God that one day he would be set free.

But Martin Andama, the chairperson of the Laity maintained that their petition still stands adding that if the meeting on Friday fails to solve the problems the petition will be pursued all the way to the Vatican.

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When contacted over the allegations, Bishop Odoki told Uganda Radio Network that the problems between him, priests and the Laity are in-house and cannot be discussed in the media.  

Archbishop Odama also declined to comment who URN contacted him on phone. He said that the issue should be addressed to Bishop Odoki and not him. He could not confirm or deny when asked about the said petition.

 

About the author

Ronald Batre
Ronald Batre is so passionate about journalism that he did not wait to finish school before he started his career. This is how he started with Radio Paidha, The West Niler, Daily Monitor newspapers and later with Radio Pacis as Assistant News Editor.

To be allowed to practice his passion, Batre had struck a deal with his parents. He would complete his education. He kept his word and went through school while suporting himself with his journalism.

Entering the workplace so young attuned Batre to the plight of the youth and those who seek employment. Apart from that, he is interested in reporting about politics, local government, business and the environment. A witness to some of the destructive impact of the Lord's Resistance Army rebellion in northern Uganda, Batre is interested in reporting about peace building efforts too.

Uganda Radio Network's former Gulu bureau chief, Batre is now based in Kampala. He is URN's main politics correspondent. He has been a URN staff member since 2009.