Peter Matika/Shelton Masina
TWO former Roman Catholic Church priests and seminarians in Zimbabwe who left the church over personal, theological and pastoral issues, leading to the formation of their own church a few weeks ago, have been unmasked.
The group, according to clerics from the Catholic Church, who requested anonymity, was recruited by one Bishop Jacinto Kibuuka who was excommunicated from the Uganda Catholic Church to form the Evangelical Orthodox Church (EOC) that subscribes to the Antiochene rite commonly known as the Eastern rite — one of the 23 rites in the Catholic Church.
The two have since been identified as Levison Banda, who was excommunicated from the church in Bulawayo in 2012, and Muchineripi Rungano, who also suffered the same fate two years ago.
Banda, according to a high level cleric within the church was excommunicated for alleged misconduct and incompetence.
“He was not promoted because of his character, his reports were never positive and was generally not active,” said the cleric.
The cleric went on to allege that Rungano, who was based in Harare, was excommunicated, after numerous sexual scandals involving him emerged.
“He was generally a hot head and was rebellious towards the system. He also had a number of issues to do with his sexuality and that mostly contributed to him being excommunicated from the church,” said the cleric.
The source added that the breakaway members had problems with celibacy and personal issues with the bishops and fellow priests.
“This whole episode began due to varied issues within the Catholic Church. Several priests had issues with their church hierarchy and became increasingly liberal on social and theological issues. The increasingly liberal hierarchy of the churches probably resulted in several of the priests leaving their denominations,” he said.
An ordination event was said to have been secretively held and took place at a rented venue in Harare, where their Ugandan leader allegedly resides.
“Nobody knew about the formation of the church, we were equally surprised too, but it happened at some rented venue, where their Ugandan bishop resides. In fact one of our priests in Botswana said they phoned him and asked him to join them if he had problems with the Catholic Church,” said a cleric.
A Roman Catholic priest, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said they agreed with the Orthodox Church but differed on other issues, the main one being charisma.
“We agree with this group doctrinally, but they are charismatic and we can’t have that. We also agree with that group liturgically, but they plan on introducing female priests and that’s not good.
“We also agree with this group doctrinally, but they are soft and turn a blind eye to homosexuality and lesbianism,” said the priest.
However, the Roman Catholic Church officially denied having knowledge of anything about the church, saying they too only heard about the existence of the church a fortnight ago.
The Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops Conference Secretary General, Father Frederick Chiromba in a statement said the Roman Catholic Church was not affiliated to the Evangelical Orthodox Church and could not comment on anything concerning its formation.
“The Roman Catholic Church is not affiliated with this Church and does not have any opinion on its formation. We only heard about the existence of this Church in Zimbabwe about a fortnight ago.
“The Roman Catholic Church will follow closely any developments to avoid confusion among the faithful, as some of the leaders of the new movement are said to be former Roman Catholic priests,” he said.
B-Metro contacted Banda for comment and he referred all questions to Rungano. However, repeated efforts to reach Rungano were abortive as he ignored calls.