A priest at the Catholic Diocese of Makeni has reiterated to Politico that most of the 29 local priests in the region neither recognise bishop-elect Henry Aruna nor will they ever be prepared to work with him.
Fr Francis Saidu Sesay said they were waiting for the 7-day period to elapse since the announcement of the controversial bishop-elect after which he said the Archbishop of Freetown is supposed to visit the diocese. “We cannot say ‘yes’ to the choice” he insisted. Asked whether they would leave the church in protest if the Vatican insisted on their choice, he said time would tell.
Fr Francis and his colleagues, backed by the laypeople of the church in the region, have insisted that one of their own is competent to become the first Sierra Leonean bishop of the diocese to succeed the 75-year-old Italian George Biguzzi who has lead the diocese for 25 years and is by canon law expected to retire which has duly done. The new choice hails from Kenema in the east. The archbishop of Freetown, Reverend Edward Tamba Charles says the Vatican does not consider region or ethnicity in determining who should be a bishop. He said he hails from Kono and is archbishop of Freetown.
Some northerners say they are extremely concerned because none of their own is bishop of any of the dioceses in Sierra Leone or anywhere in the world for that matter. Others argue that the north accepted Catholicism rather very late. The first batch of catholic missionaries arrived in Makeni in the early 1950s and in February 1962 the region had its own diocese.
In the run-up to the announcement of the bishop-elect Henry Aruna, the name was leaked which was in violation of papal secret. In the 1980s Fr Rocco Sera’s name was apparently withdrawn as the successor to Augustus Azzolini as bishop of the Makeni Diocese after his name had been leaked hence Biguzzi became the successor. Arguments abound that Fr Aruna’s name should also have been withdrawn after it was leaked. Many believe the leakage was deliberate so as to disqualify him. Some argue that it would have brought about a messy situation with either side leaking the name of an unfavoured candidate for the position.
The Diocese of Makeni operates several hospitals, schools and the first and only university in the region. There are concerns now that the apparent impasse may affect the operations of these facilities.