Archbishop Tarcizio Ziyaye suspends priest over nepotism charges
Feb. 26, 2017, 11:02 p.m.
Originally published in: Times Malawi on Feb. 26, 2017, 11:02 p.m.
Archbishop Tarcizio Ziyaye has suspended Madisi Catholic Parish priest Fr. Maximian Khisi for daring the archbishop with accusations that the archdiocese leader was practicing nepotism.
Khisi met Ziyaye and justified the accusations which later saw him being suspended. But the priest immediately appealed to the Vatican against Ziyaye's suspension which did not yield any result as Ziyaye proceeded to suspend him contrary to the Church Canon Law 1353, CIC 1983, which invalidates the suspension until a higher authority intervenes.
Khisi also wrote the Vatican about the nepotism accusations.
In his letter, he says the top management of the Archdiocese of Lilongwe is composed of priests from Mchinji where Ziyaye comes from. These include the vicar general, the archbishop's secretary, the assistant secretary, the treasurer general, Maula Cathedral parish priest, the diocesan meetings moderator, the national pastoral secretary, a lecturer at the Catholic University in Kenya and his councillors.
On February 16, the archbishop's advisors went to Madisi Parish with police officers to evict Khisi out of the parish house after making handovers.
Ziyaye first wrote Khisi on January 17 2017 suspending him from active ministry.
"On Monday, October 17, 2016, you accepted before me the findings by the Criminal Investigations Department of the Malawi Police Service that you authored and circulated the document entitled "Chivunde" of 23rd August, 2016. The document was sent to the Apostolic Nuncio and copied to different people including the prefect for the Congregation of Bishops, through e-mails and various forms of social media. Therefore, I hereby suspend you a divinis [indefinitely] until you have shown signs of repentance and reformation. This suspension is with immediate effect," wrote Ziyaye on January 17 2017 in his letter with reference tgz/cal/sam/mk/1701.
Ziyaye says Khisi's document led to serious defamation of character to those mentioned contrary to Canon 220. He says the document is promoting disunity among the laity and the clergy and expressing insults and contempt against the church, hence violating its integrity and moral values.
Ziyaye concludes the letter: "It is my prayer that with this penalty, the scandal, injustice and damage that have been caused will be partially repaired and that the situation will be remedied."
Khisi hit back at Ziyaye in a letter dated January 25 2017.
"I met you, when I was called to your office, on 17th January 2017 and you served me with a letter of suspension from active ministry. Feeling such a judgement severe, I exercised my canonical right to appeal (as per Canon 1628, CIC 1983) by filing an appeal from your judgment to His Eminence, Cardinal Mauro Piacenza, Prefect for the Congregation of the Clergy in Rome. I served you with a copy of this appeal," writes Khisi.
He adds: "Knowing that an appeal or recourse against judgements which you impose or declare any penalty, has a suspensive effect (as per Canon 1353, CIC 1983). I am surprised that you repeatedly desire to send your officers to proceed with handovers in Madisi Parish. In the absence of a direction given by the higher authority, so far, where the appeal has been filed, I submit this request for explanation for the continued pursuance of your judgment."
In an interview, Fr. Khisi confirmed the suspension and is at his home at Mtengowanthenga in Dowa. He refused to give further details.
Madisi Parish Vice Chair for Finance Paul Chikuta said in an interview that there was chaos in church last Sunday when the news was announced to the congregation.
"Some members wanted to know why the priest was being sent to his home. In the course of the confusion, one member just started singing a hymn and the new priest finished the ceremony," said Chikuta.
Vicar General for Lilongwe Archdiocese Fr. Francis Sonkhani did not pick his phone we called yesterday. The archdiocese's communications director Fr. Gabriel Jana did not answer his phone too when we called.
But we have established that Ziyaye wrote another letter to Khisi removing him from his position as parish priest as a way of forcing him out of Madisi Parish.
Lilongwe Archdiocese has 26 priests from Lilongwe, 15 from Mchinji, nine from Dowa, four from Kasungu, two from Salima, two from Nkhotakota and three from Ntchisi.