Kenya bishops tell priests to keep out of politics

Amid fears that Kenya's government is seeking to boost electoral support by appointing clergy to government positions, the country's bishops have issued a five-point decree requiring priests to obtain permission before accepting appointments.

The Kenyan East Standard reports that the decree by the 27 bishops of the Kenya Episcopal Conference demarcates fresh no go-zones for the Catholic clergy, including a state development fund, trade, as well as appointments to state corporations and boards.

The edict comes after increased recruitment of clerics by the Government to serve in public commissions and boards for which members draw sitting allowances.

It is believed the decree was forced by fear within the religious arena that the Government was trying to smooth the ground for next year's election by roping influential members of the church, the Standard says.

Although the pastoral letter does not mention individuals, the Standard believes that Fr Dominic Wamugunda, Dean of Students at the University of Nairobi, and who was recently appointed a director of the Postal Corporation, is one of the priests targeted by the edict.

Church sources told the Standard that Holy See Nuncio to Kenya Archbishop Alain Lebeaupin consulted with the Pope prior to the bishops acting.

According to a pastoral letter to Kenyan priests that resulted, "priests are not permitted to accept positions on State or Corporation Boards".

Another section counsels that "in the area of party politics, priests should not take sides, as it will divide the local community".

"Canvassing or even urging people to vote for particular candidates or parties leads to confusion and division."

Catholics constitute an estimated 40 per cent of Kenya's population.

Vatican acts on Kenya's political priests (East Standard, 16/12/06)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Archbishop Alain Lebeaupin (Catholic-Hierarchy)
Kenya Episcopal Conference

18 Dec 2006