Controversy reigns as splinter Legio Maria church pope is buried
Tom Rachuonyo and Noven Owiti
Controversy reigned in Legio Maria Church of Africa yesterday during the burial of deceased Pope Romanus Ong’ombe after a splinter group attempted to stop former Pope Raphael Adika from presiding over the ceremony.
Romanus, Legio Maria’s third pope after Timotheo Atila, Lawrence Chiaji and Adika, was buried in the hallowed Got Kweru, the church headquarters in Suna, Migori county, where the mystic church founder Melkio Ondetto was interred in 1992 and the first pope Atila in 1997.
Interim church leader Cardinal Lawrence Ochieng presided over the hastened ceremony amid watchful eyes of health officials and police.
Only a handful of church leaders were allowed into the holy grounds where burial rites were performed.
There will be special prayers at the site after three days, seven days, one month and one year.
The church will also construct a house around the grave in keeping with traditions of the church.
“Owing to the prescribed burial time by the state we could not build a house but we consecrated a place beside where the founder was buried and put the pope to rest.
Later on we will come back and build a house as dictated by our doctrines,” said Joseph Warambo, church board vice chairman.
Meanwhile, in Kisumu Pope Adika, ousted from church leadership in 2009, faulted the appointment of Cardinal Lawrence Ochieng as interim pope saying it is an exercise in futility.
Adika and the deceased pope Romanus buried the hatchet last year after years of court battles.
“Pope Romanus, owing to his advanced age handed over the instruments of church leadership to Pope Adika to reclaim leadership when he’s gone. So ideally we should not have appointed someone to act.
Adika ought to have assumed automatic leadership. But there are hardline cardinals who were aligned to Pope Romanus.
They don’t want anything to do with Pope Adika and they account for his absence here,” said the church board vice chairman.
There were scuffles on Tuesday night at the headquarters where cardinals friendly to Pope Adika were roughed up and ejected.
The leadership row seems to have taken a clan angle as high ranking clerics from Migori County led voices opposing the return of Pope Adika into the headquarters. Pope Adika is from the Kano clan which, reside in Kisumu County.
“We want the general public to understand that cardinal Ong’ombe was never the pope of Legio Maria, the only honorary title he held was patriarch.
Pope Adika has been the bonafide leader of the church since he took over after the demise of the second pope,” said Legio Maria secretary Rev Timothy Abwao.