The Catholic Church in Kenya is on the cross, again, after an archbishop has been put on the spot over corruption, arrogance and intimidation.
The Most Reverend Archbishop Zacchaeus Okoth of the Roman Catholic Church in Kisumu has been accused by various parish officials, ordained brothers and priests in the lakeside archdiocese of corruption among a litany of other misdeeds in God’s name, The Nairobian can reveal.
A priest who has served the church for over a decade narrated horrifying ordeal he went through at the hands of Archbishop Okoth, including being transferred twice and demoted for not giving the Archbishop money meant for parish projects.
“I have been unfairly victimized and humiliated by His Grace just because I am not from his clan and unwilling to bribe him,” laments the priest who requested that his name be omitted.
The transfer of priests to various parishes in Kisumu is rampant and “such instances are normally tied up with the issue of money. Maybe the Diocese expected a cut and you did not give it out or if they suspect that you are not likely to share the money with the Bishop, you are transferred forthwith.”
The priest explained that in most circumstances Archbishop Zacchaeus Okoth allows diocesan priests to conduct fundraisings for various church projects before demanding a percentage of the money raised.
A number of documents signed by various priests, brothers and the Archbishop reveal a series of scams and cover up letters sent to the catholic headquarters in Rome.
The said documents which have all been confirmed as authentic by Archbishop Charles Daniel Balvo, the Pope’s Representative to Kenya, contain details of money sent to Kisumu Archdiocese to fund various projects.
“It is true that there are various catholic missions abroad who send funds to support the church in Africa. We must therefore have serious documentation and hard evidence to use against any claims of misappropriation of funds. I would like to call upon the priests who have been unfairly mistreated to come to my office to help get to the bottom of this matter,” he said.
The Nairobian discovered that most of the projects are non-existent and in some cases, the local priests and congregations are unaware of any plans to set up either a convent, new chapel or school.
A case in point are documents that have attached photos portraying a completed convent at Christ the King parish in Katito, yet such a facility does not exist. In an attempt to establish the authenticity of the photo, The Nairobian traversed Kisumu Archdiocese in search of the building. The search led to St Anne’s Sega Catholic church where the said building serves as the parish priest’s house.
One of the letters allegedly from St Michael Sigomre Catholic Parish in Ugenya, Siaya County, states that the local catholic community donated land worth 1.5 million for the construction of a Sister’s Convent.
The letter signed by Rev Father Lawrence Omolo reads in part: “The people’s contribution will take care of insurance, contingencies, architectural fees and supervision. Hence we are petitioning the sum of USD $ 32, 544 (Sh3 million at current exchange rates).”
Contacted by The Nairobian in Ugenya, the soft-spoken Father Lawrence denied any knowledge of the letters he allegedly signed and sent. “I am just tongue tied,” he said, “This is a shocker to me. I do not know anything about these letters, kindly go and seek word from the diocese.”
Fr Lawrence added: “I cannot speak about the Bishop. I am a property of the church and when the bishop speaks I salute and obey whatever he says.”
The Most Reverend Archbishop Zacchaeus Okoth, 72, is one of the longest serving members of the Catholic clergy drawing respect from the larger East African region., but one Catholic brother is of the opinion that “Okoth does not deserve to be defrocked simply because he is corrupt, he deserves to pay for all the atrocities that he has committed in the name of the holy and apostolic church.”
Efforts to reach the archbishop over the allegations were futile after his secretary promised but refused to pick more calls for the planned interview with Archbishop Zacchaeus Okoth.
At one moment during the investigations, the nun who supposedly runs the Bishop’s diary told of The Nairobian that it was not in order to traverse the diocese conducting interviews with parish priests without the Archbishop’s consent.
“If you people have not been sent by the Nunciature then you have no role going to parishes in the Archdiocese of Kisumu in the pretext of conducting investigations. We do not do things like that. You are scaring our priests and brothers. You should have come to the archdiocese first before visiting our parishes. Are you authorized to go round without our authority?” posed Sister Christencia speaking on phone on behalf of Kisumu Archdiocese
When The Nairobian visited Archbishop Okoth’s offices in Kisumu, the man of God had allegedly stepped out but Brother Leonard who was present described the Bishop as a busy man who could not find time at short notice.
More attempts to reach Brothe Leonard or Sister Christencia on phone proved futile as none of the could answer phone calls .