Shock as priests arrested in connection with bishop's death

Monday, July 25th, 2005

The arrest of two Catholic priests from Kenya's Isiolo diocese, in connection with the murder of Bishop Luigi Locati, has stunned Kenya.

Even as Bishop Locati was being buried, on Wednesday, July 20, the emergence of evidence suggesting that diocesan priests were involved in the crime astounded mourners. Police had arrested one priest on July 19; another was taken in on July 20. Six other people are being held for questioning in the case.

Bishop Locati was killed by a group of gunmen near his residence on July 14.

Kenya's President Mwai Kibaki, who joined hundreds of mourners at the bishop's Wednesday funeral, vowed that authorities would track down the killers. He called the murder of Bishop Luigi Locati "a repugnant act, a great loss not only for Catholics." He recalled the "selfless and enormous devotion" with which Bishop Locati helped the people of the area where he carried out his ministry for four decades.

Earlier reports had suggested that political enemies of Bishop Locati, who had been outspoken in denouncing official corruption and black-market profiteering, might have arranged the killing. But after questioning several suspects, investigators turned their attention to priests who were unhappy with the bishop's personnel decisions. Robert Kitur, and assistant police commissioner, told reporters that he was confident the investigation had produced enough evidence to solve the murder case.

The two priests who were arrested were Frs Cyril Mukuchia and Peter Malley Guyo Wako. A senior investigator, Mohammed Amin, told journalists in Isiolo that Fr Malley had recently been forced out of a parish assignment because of complaints that he was squandering funds. Fr Mukuchia had been involved in a dispute over the management of two schools that eventually were closed down on the bishop's orders. Church leaders were stunned by the arrests, but supported the official investigation. "I hope the law will take its course, if it is true that the priests were involved in the murder," said Nairobi's Archbishop Raphael Ndingi Mwana'a Nzeki.

At the funeral Fr Eugenio Ferrari, Consolata Missionary and National Director of the Pontifical Mission Societies in Kenya said, “His love was freely given to the people and it was corresponded by the people. He was loved by all as the continual flow of mourners coming to pay their last respects demonstrates�.

“I am deeply moved to see so many Muslims among the people who move silently with tears in their eyes in front of the body of the dead Bishop,� Fr. Ferrari said. “Bishop Locati was really loved by all. The fact that so many Muslims are among the mourners shows too that the Bishop’s tragic death had nothing to do with religion and probably neither with ethnic or tribal tension.�