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Bishops in Liberia Clarify on Breakaway Grouping “Independent Catholic Church”

Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Liberia (CABICOL)

The activities of a breakaway group from the Catholic Church of Liberia including wooing the Catholic faithful into joining the grouping have provoked the Catholic Bishops in the West African nation to set the records right, clarifying to the wider public that the group is not part of the Universal Catholic Church that is under the leadership of Pope Francis.

“The attention of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Liberia (CABICOL) has been drawn to the existence of the Independent Catholic Church of Liberia, under the leadership of bishop Joseph Nimley Donyen,” The Bishops in Liberia have announced in a statement availed to ACI Africa dated Friday, October 18.

“The Catholic Bishops’ conference of Liberia (CABICOL) makes it very clear to all Catholics and the general public that the “Independent Catholic Church of Liberia” is not a branch of the Catholic Church of Liberia, neither are they in communion with the Universal Church seated in the Vatican with Pope Francis as its head,” the Bishops state.

The Prelates have disclosed the identity of the leader of the new grouping saying, “The founder of the independent Catholic Church, bishop Donyen, was once an ordained Roman Catholic Priest for the Diocese of Cape Palmas in the year 1991.”

The Church leaders have continued, “In the year 1996, he (Donyen) was suspended, stripped of all privileges and rights as a Catholic priest due to acts incompatible with clerical state (cf. Canons 290-293).”

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In an interview with ACI Africa regarding the Bishops’ statement, the Secretary General of CABICOL, Fr. Dennis Cephas Nimene made further revelations about Donyen saying, “He (Donyen) entered politics and contested parliamentary seat and lost.”

“Now a group of Bishops not in communion came and ordained him. From indications, he (Donyen) is recruiting priests not in good standing. Now, people are getting confused whether it is the same Universal Catholic Church,” Fr. Nimene said.

“The Catholic Bishops’ Conference therefore deems it necessary to inform its lay faithful and the general public in Liberia and abroad that Bishop Donyen is not in communion with the Universal Church, neither is the “Independent Catholic Church” part of the Universal Catholic Church,” the Bishops’ have emphasized in their October 18 statement.

The case in Liberia is not the first on the African continent.

In Kenya, Godfrey Shiundu was excommunicated by the county's Bishops in 2004 after it came to light that he had fathered a child and later married the child's mother, who was a former nun. He later joined the Reformed Catholic Church in Kenya where he is a bishop.

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The Independent Catholic Church of Liberia is a sister church to the Charismatic Catholic Church International of Kenya, founded by Catholic priests who broke away from the traditional Roman Catholic Church.