African Clerics React to Cardinal Pell’s Upheld Conviction

Cardinal George Pell
Credit: Alexey Gotovskiy / ACI Africa

African clerics have reacted to George Cardinal Pell’s upheld child sex abuse conviction through various statements shared with ACI Africa Wednesday.

The Australian Cardinal Pell is the most senior Catholic cleric ever to be convicted of child sex abuse. He had been found guilty of molesting two choirboys in Melbourne, Australia in 1996 and 1997.

“The Church and its leaders are not spared by the cruelty and arbitrariness of judgments,” Cameroonian priest Fr. Jean Benoit Nlend told ACI Africa Wednesday adding, “Nobody is above the law.”

“In the policy of the Holy See, justice must be exercised for everyone,” Fr. Nlend went on to say and decried, “It’s an unfortunate situation that reveals human fragility and makes us all want to pay a little more attention to ourselves and the little children.”

Fr. Donald Zagore described the upholding of Cardinal Pell’s conviction as “a sad and painful story for the whole Church and even more so for the priestly body.”

“It is the dark history of the Church and the priestly ministry that is written,” Fr. Zagore, a member of the Society of African Missions (SMA) told ACI Africa Wednesday adding, “Until all the light will be shed, we churchmen must constantly have a merciful look at our confreres judged and convicted today of pedophilia.”

“To have merciful glance is no way to condone or be silent about the heinous crime of pedophilia,” Fr. Zagore clarified and appealed for conversion.

A native of Ivory Coast and currently ministering in Togo, Fr. Zagore made reference to God as love saying, “The logic of God is clear: God loves the sinner, but hates sin.”

“We remain convinced that at the heart of all this torment, evil whatever his strength and tenacity, will not have the last word,” Fr. Zagore said in his reaction to Cardinal Pell’s conviction and concluded, “God’s love will always triumph over evil.”

“It is time for us to make our ministry profitable than being a danger to others,” Togolese priest Fr Jacob Ketchen shared his reaction with ACI Africa advising, “Let the reaction of the world from this issue not shake our faith in the risen Christ.”

“The evidence by the victim for me, is also something quite tricky,” Fr. Romulus Aabekpiir from Ghana told ACI Africa and explained, “13-year-old boys are not children and could have reported this at the time it happened.”

“If the victim only remembered this and felt the strong urge to bring this out after he attended the funeral of his friend who didn't die as a result of that act, I see a disconnect in the two,” Fr. Aabekpiir continued, “The friend died of drug overdose.”

Noting that the Church is being attacked at all fronts, Fr. Ernest Kouacou urged clerics to be prudent saying, “Christ sends us into the world like sheep in the midst of wolves, we should therefore not become wolves in the midst of our Christians.”

“Priests have to be very careful in their pastoral mission,” Fr Kouacou said, adding, “We have to return to the gospel message in order to discover the things that distance us from our vocation.”

Cardinal Pell was convicted in December 2018 on five charges of sex abuse.  

Fr.  Callistus Nyagilo, a Kenyan Canon lawyer has argued that the Church has its procedure in deciding on such cases saying, “Immediately after the first formal accusation, the church opened an investigation into the said allegations in total confidentiality.”

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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
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