Bishops’ Decree Bars Clergy in Angola, São Tomé “from taking public, secular offices”

Members of the Conference of Bishops of Angola and São Tomé (CEAST).
Credit: Vatican News

Members of the Conference of Bishops of Angola and São Tomé (CEAST) have, in a collective decree, barred the Clergy in the two-nation Conference from accepting service in public and secular offices.

In the October 12 Decree obtained by ACI Africa, the leadership of CEAST also says that violators of the decree will be “sanctioned.”

“The clergy are prohibited from taking public offices that implies participation in civil power,” the Bishops in Angola and São Tomé state in their decree co-signed by CEAST President and Secretary, Archbishop Filomeno do Nascimento Vieira Dias of Luanda and Bishop Antonio Francisco Iaca of Benguela, respectively.

Similarly, they add, the Clergy in the two African countries “are prohibited from every kind of official accessory to the Provincial Governments and to the public or private companies.”

“Priests are also barred from managing goods belonging to members of the laity or other secular offices that demand accountability without the authorization of the Diocesan Bishops,” the leadership of CEAST also says in the one-page decree in Portuguese language.

The Clergy in Angola and São Tomé have also been barred from actively participating “in directing syndicate associations, unless from the wisdom of the competent ecclesial authorities (such participation) is required for the protection of the rights of the Church and the promotion of common good.”

The members of CEAST say that the decrees are justified by the fact that “the vocation and mission proper to the priesthood, just like the Church itself is not of the political, economic or social but religious order.”

Violators of the decree, the Bishops say, will be “sanctioned with the just and proper cause” including their “removal from the ecclesiastical office to which had been delegated,” the leaders of the Catholic Church in Angola and São Tomé say in the statement issued at the end of their October 6-12 Second Ordinary Assembly. 

In the West African nation of Ghana, members of the Clergy have taken public offices that have ordinarily been reserved for the Laity.

Last week (October 9), Fr. George Arthur of Ghana’s Sekondi-Takoradi Diocese was promoted to the rank of Deputy Commissioner of Police. Fr. Sylvanus Dogodzi of the Archdiocese of Accra was recently elevated to the rank of Lieutenant Commander in the Ghana Navy. 

In September,  Fr. Joseph Adu Owusu Agyeman of Ghana’s Archdiocese of Kumasi was sworn-in as a High Court judge after receiving dispensation from his Local Ordinary; he will no longer celebrate the Sacraments in public.

ACI Africa was officially inaugurated on August 17, 2019 as a continental Catholic news agency at the service of the Church in Africa. Headquartered in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, this media apostolate will strive to facilitate the telling of Africa’s story by providing media coverage of Catholic events on the African continent, giving visibility to the activities of the Church across Africa where statistics show significant growth in numbers and the continent gradually becoming the axis of Catholicism. This is expected to contribute to an awareness of and appreciation for the significant role of the Church in Africa and over time, the realization of a realistic image of Africa that often receives negative media framing.

Father Don Bosco Onyalla
Editor-in-Chief, ACI Africa
[email protected]