By Fr. Lazar Arasu SDB
As Catholics and being faithful, we call the Church our Mother. Just like our earthly mothers who suffer when their children wander and falter, Holy Mother the Church too suffers when Her children fall astray and more so misguide and scandalize other children. The Catholic Church, both the hierarchy and the laity have gone through great pain and discomfort in the recent days with the issues of “episcopal ordination” of one of Her former priest Jacinto Kibuuka by a church that is not in communion with the Holy Father and the Roman Catholic Church. Often, secular media feed themselves with a great appetite on matters that are scandalous, disreputable and ambiguous among the Christian Faithful.
The media reports often create heat rather than light. Now, a few days after the said “episcopal ordination” and much speculation and confusion, it is more important to clarify issues such as Antiochian Orthodox Church, Apostolic Succession, Priestly Obedience, Suspension and Excommunication rather than repeating the blame on each other and making more accusations. Let us throw more light rather than create unnecessary heat.
Sunday Monitor of July 17th, 2016 in its article, “Father Kibuuka’s Suspension: The inside story called” Jacinto Kibuuka, popular and stylist charismatic priest. Indeed he was! The paper also spoke of his popular evangelistic enterprise and his success in fundraising activities. No one can deny all these activities. They are always good for the Church and its growth. God gives each one a particular gift and talent which ought to be used for the promotion of God’s Kingdom. As the Church progresses, the individuals also progress in many ways. But, it is important to keep in check the steward’s integrity, humility and holiness. The devil prowls like a roaring lion looking for its prey.
The Greek Orthodox Church of Antioch, also known as the Antiochian Orthodox Church is an autocephalous Greek Orthodox Church within the wider communion of Eastern Orthodox Christianity. It is said to be headed by the Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch, it considers itself the successor to the Christian community founded in Antioch by the Apostles Peter and Paul. This Church is not in communion with the Roman Catholic Church under the leadership of the Pope, the universal head of the Catholic Church. This particular Church is not much known in East Africa and many ordinary Christians were left to wonder where all those “bishops” who “ordained” Kibuuka came from. To cause more ambiguity, those said clergy wore typical Roman Catholic vestments which are ordinarily not accepted or worn by the Orthodox Churches. The Roman Catholic Church, the Pope alone has the authority to appoint bishops and has control over their doctrinal and pastoral duties. The bishops from a particular geographical area form episcopal communion with each other and always act in unison. This preserves the unity and oneness in faith and practice. Priests, deacons and other pastoral agents are directly supervised by the bishops of a particular diocese. This unique communion is the great strength of the Catholic Church.
The Roman Catholic Church often makes great sacrifice to preserve this unity and pastoral leadership practice. This unity is basically derived from the Apostolic Succession, meaning, the uninterrupted transmission of spiritual authority from the Apostles through successive popes and bishops, taught by the Roman Catholic Church but denied by most Protestants, since the time of divisions created at the period of Reformation and after. The Apostolic Succession is visibly done by the imposition of hands on the ordination ceremonies of bishops, priests and deacons. Once again, this makes the Catholic Church stand apart from other churches giving it great credibility.
It is the Catholic belief that Ordination to Priesthood (and eventually Episcopate) is permanent making indelible mark on the individual. Hence the ordained minister is expected to live in communion with his bishop who is his immediate supervisor and dispenser of Apostolic Succession. He ought to strictly keep the doctrinal and pastoral discipline in his personal and public life. This calls for obedience and daily discernment of God’s will and His grace. But, due to certain unavoidable circumstances, an ordained minister is dispensed from his pastoral duties after proper canonical process. The person is laicized and allowed to lead a life of an ordinary Christian though intrinsically, he possesses his mark of priesthood.
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