Legio Maria rivals split days after announcing truce

Pope Romanus Ongombe and Pope Raphael Adika meets for the first time at St Michael Kwayo Mapera Legion Maria church on May 19, 2019 (Caleb Kingwara, Standard)
Confusion has once again rocked the Legio Maria church, days after rival factions announced a truce.

The church has for the last 10 years been embroiled in leadership wrangles which saw two parallel factions emerge; one led by Pope Romanus Ong’ombe, headquartered at Got Kwer in Migori County, and the other led by Pope Raphael Adika based at Kona Lejo in Kisumu.

However last week, the two warring leaders met during a church service in Migori and announced that they had reached a truce which would see them work together again.

They, however, declined to give details of the ‘handshake’, saying more will be communicated to their believers at ‘the right time’.

But a section of the church’s top leadership allied to Pope Ong’ombe have accused him of throwing believers into confusion.

Distanced themselves

Yesterday, the national head of cardinals, Cardinal Johannes Opanya, convened a meeting in Kisumu which brought together a section of the church leadership, who distanced themselves from the truce between Pope Ong’ombe and Pope Adika.

“Even though Legio Maria remains one, for the past 10 years each of the two popes have had their teams and structures of leadership. It is sad that as the top leadership in the church’s decision making organ allied to Pope Ong’ombe, we only got the information about the handshake in the media,” said Opanya.

He claimed that their faction had not discussed nor have any intention to reunite with the splinter group, and termed the move by Pope Ong’ombe as disrespect to the church leadership and faithful. The church was founded by Papa Mesiah Ondeto in 1960s, who worked with Ong’ombe and Adika, before he died in 1990s.

Later, Adika, who was one of the assistant popes, and Ong’ombe, who was the Cardinal prayer, plunged the church into wrangles after each claimed the throne in 2000, leading to the split of the church.

And the meeting between the two Legio Maria veterans at the Calvary Church in Migori last week was seen as the end of the long battle, and the beginning of the journey to reclaim the church’s lost glory.

Surrender his position

Even though Opanya and his team admitted that there was need to unite the two leaders, he had reservations in the manner in which the reunion was handled, with Ong’ombe said not to have properly briefed his faction.

“For the division to have taken place in the church, there were issues which each side felt were not in order. And when two people come up to declare reunion, there must be clarity on how the pending issues are to be addressed, and how the leadership of the two factions are to be realigned,” said William Awala, Cardinal Chamalengo in charge of Bondo region.

Awala said believers have since halted church development programmes and the giving of offerings following the confusion.

“The two leaders have been the Popes for their different factions. Once they agree to talk, we must have one structure which would mean one of them will have to surrender his position. Without that there would be more confusion and division in the church,” said Opanya.

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Pope Romanus Ong’ombeMigori CountyLegio Maria