Khomasdal Catholics still restless

Khomasdal Catholics still restless

SIX months since the Khomasdal Catholic Church, St Mary’s Help of Christians, was reopened and its former parish priest excommunicated, the parish is still unable to reconcile.

A group, mostly supporters of ousted priest Father Gert Petrus, is now accusing the church hierarchy of not heeding their concerns in the aftermath of the church being reopened and of siding with the other faction within the community, which supported the archdiocese’s High Court action to remove Petrus from his post. On Sunday, the disgruntled group held an annual Christmas lunch for pensioners at the parish hall.The event organiser, Sabine Diergaardt, complained that she had to raise donor funding for the lunch, which in previous years had always been funded from the church account, because she was not permitted access to church funds.One of the leaders of the disgruntled group, Rheinhold Routh, claims that months of attempts to communicate with the Archdiocese had failed.He told The Namibian that letters and attempts at making appointments to see the Vicar Generals or the Archbishop were being ignored.”This church was thrust into scandal because of stories.And now they [the diocese] still act on stories,” he argued, claiming that the diocese was siding with the other group.”We don’t want to go to the newspapers but the priests don’t want to listen to us.They give us the impression they don’t care,” said Susan Bobe, a parishioner helping out at the Christmas lunch.”We don’t want our children to go to other churches, but the way things are now we don’t know if we should come to church or just stay home and pray.”On the other hand, the Archdiocese maintains that its attempts to bring the two groups together had failed because the disgruntled group had not kept their appointments.”Our office is open.If they don’t come, what can we do? We have tried to put the two groups together.They say they will come, but they never came.We invited them.They can come at any time,” said Archbishop Liborius Nashenda when approached by The Namibian on Tuesday for clarity on the issue.He said he had appointed a priest as administrator at the church and it would now be up to him to try and reconcile the community, sort out the church finances and any other matters related the church and its parish.Nashenda further said he could not authorise the release of church funds for the Christmas party because the effort was not one of the whole parish.He said funds collected by the community could not be given to a certain group to host a function that did not enjoy the backing of the whole parish.Vicar General Werner Afunde, who has been appointed by Nashenda to oversee reconciliation at the Khomasdal church, told The Namibian that he believed the caretaker priest was experienced and capable of healing the rift.The congregation should approach the caretaker priest with any lingering concerns they might have, he said.”He is well-experienced.We have no doubt that he will handle the situation.If there are still problems then he will approach the archbishop,” said Afunde.Afunde said he doubted the sincerity of certain parishioners who had approached the diocese, because discussions had been twisted in report-back to other parishioners.Routh said the parishioners were still demanding answers on the closure of the church last year, because according to him the closure and re-opening had not been handled within the church laws.Last year October Nashenda locked the Khomasdal church when the rift in the congregation threatened to turn violent over the diocese’s attempts to remove Petrus as parish priest for alleged inappropriate behaviour.Petrus was eventually forced to leave the property in July following a High Court ruling.Misunderstandings over the court appearance meant that Petrus did not defend the allegations against him.The church was opened shortly afterwards, and since then various priests have been saying mass there on an ad hoc basis.Nashenda said the diocese did not plan to make a permanent appointment or appoint a new parish council until the situation had normalised.Some parishioners The Namibian spoke to said they wanted the diocese to give money to start a new church at Otjomuise so that they can “find God again”.Some of the disgruntled parishioners who have been attending church services were up in arms over the weekend over what they perceived to be a priest deliberately denying Diergaardt’s son communion at a funeral service, wedding and a Sunday mass at which he was serving as an altar boy.His parents told The Namibian the priest had said he had been told that their son had not received his first holy communion and thus did not offer him any.The Namibian saw documents certifying that the boy had made his first holy communion and was confirmed at the Khomasdal church.On Sunday, the disgruntled group held an annual Christmas lunch for pensioners at the parish hall.The event organiser, Sabine Diergaardt, complained that she had to raise donor funding for the lunch, which in previous years had always been funded from the church account, because she was not permitted access to church funds.One of the leaders of the disgruntled group, Rheinhold Routh, claims that months of attempts to communicate with the Archdiocese had failed.He told The Namibian that letters and attempts at making appointments to see the Vicar Generals or the Archbishop were being ignored.”This church was thrust into scandal because of stories.And now they [the diocese] still act on stories,” he argued, claiming that the diocese was siding with the other group.”We don’t want to go to the newspapers but the priests don’t want to listen to us.They give us the impression they don’t care,” said Susan Bobe, a parishioner helping out at the Christmas lunch.”We don’t want our children to go to other churches, but the way things are now we don’t know if we should come to church or just stay home and pray.”On the other hand, the Archdiocese maintains that its attempts to bring the two groups together had failed because the disgruntled group had not kept their appointments.”Our office is open.If they don’t come, what can we do? We have tried to put the two groups together.They say they will come, but they never came.We invited them.They can come at any time,” said Archbishop Liborius Nashenda when approached by The Namibian on Tuesday for clarity on the issue.He said he had appointed a priest as administrator at the church and it would now be up to him to try and reconcile the community, sort out the church finances and any other matters related the church and its parish.Nashenda further said he could not authorise the release of church funds for the Christmas party because the effort was not one of the whole parish.He said funds collected by the community could not be given to a certain group to host a function that did not enjoy the backing of the whole parish.Vicar General Werner Afunde, who has been appointed by Nashenda to oversee reconciliation at the Khomasdal church, told The Namibian that he believed the caretaker priest was experienced and capable of healing the rift.The congregation should approach the caretaker priest with any lingering concerns they might have, he said.”He is well-experienced.We have no doubt that he will handle the situation.If there are still problems then he will approach the archbishop,” said Afunde.Afunde said he doubted the sincerity of certain parishioners who had approached the diocese, because discussions had been twisted in report-back to other parishioners.Routh said the parishioners were still demanding answers on the closure of the church last year, because according to him the closure and re-opening had not been handled within the church laws.Last year October Nashenda locked the Khomasdal church when the rift in the congregation threatened to turn violent over the diocese’s attempts to remove Petrus as parish priest for alleged inappropriate behaviour.Petrus was eventually forced to leave the property in July following a High Court ruling.Misunderstandings over the court appearance meant that Petrus did not defend the allegations again
st him.The church was opened shortly afterwards, and since then various priests have been saying mass there on an ad hoc basis.Nashenda said the diocese did not plan to make a permanent appointment or appoint a new parish council until the situation had normalised.Some parishioners The Namibian spoke to said they wanted the diocese to give money to start a new church at Otjomuise so that they can “find God again”.Some of the disgruntled parishioners who have been attending church services were up in arms over the weekend over what they perceived to be a priest deliberately denying Diergaardt’s son communion at a funeral service, wedding and a Sunday mass at which he was serving as an altar boy.His parents told The Namibian the priest had said he had been told that their son had not received his first holy communion and thus did not offer him any.The Namibian saw documents certifying that the boy had made his first holy communion and was confirmed at the Khomasdal church.

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