By Arnold Neliba
WOTE, OCTOBER 13, 2023 (CISA)– “How many bishops and priests do not devour their sheep for financial gain, for their insatiable desire for power? A true shepherd is not looking for his own gain, not after financial gain or political recognition and therefore a bishop should not enrich themselves. A bishop is not a politician and should not aspire to be one. Civil authority and spiritual authority are strictly separated,” said Archbishop Hubertus Maria van Megen during the installation of Bishop Paul Kariuki Njiru as the first bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Wote on September 30.
Using the complexity of the ‘good shepherd’ metaphor, the Apostolic Nuncio to Kenya and South Sudan appealed to bishops and priests to understand the suffering of the faithful happening behind closed doors, thus cautioning them against exploiting the poor and siding with politicians for their own gains.
Reflecting on the philosophical and jurisprudential concept of the separation of the church and state, the nuncio stated that church leaders have fallen into the trap of politics only to find out that “the soles are shackled and not able to free anymore.”
“No politics in church and no church in politics,” Archbishop van Megen stated.
The papal diplomat weaved his homily on the virtues of a good shepherd into the fabric of people’s lives and urged the clergy to be the voice of the voiceless in society.
“A true shepherd leads in humility, doesn’t turn his homily into political speeches, doesn’t turn his church into a political venue, doesn’t speak at political gatherings. He doesn’t express himself in favour of one politician or another.A shepherd stays with his sheep, and he remains with the wananchi. He humbles himself and remains with the least of in society. He goes after the last sheep. He stays with those living at the peripheries of society,” he elucidated.
According to the nuncio, the church of a Good Shepherd opens wider doors for the needy and those who have no voice in society. He noted that a good shepherd will have special care for the poor and will try to defend them at all times; defend them from the wolves and the mighty who come to feed on the poor.
“The wolves who come to fill their bellies with whatever little the poor might have because the wolves have no respect for the poor. He uses them and abuses them, for the wolf, the sheep, and the poor are just an easy way to achieve power and influence and he will deceive them promising them anything they want because let’s face it, the poor are easily deceived. They are hungry and are in need and a few pennies can already do the job. And once the wolf has reached his goal, has eaten to his fill, he will vomit to the sheep. He will dump the poor and leave them to their own devices,” said the Vatican diplomat.
Stopping short from revealing some names, the nuncio hailed the bravery of some bishops, priests, religious women and men who have given their lives for the people and defended them in their hour of distress.
“Those men and women put me to shame through their simplicity of life, through their humility, through their sacrifice and they disturb my conscience and they make me wonder, where do I stand. I could mention their names here, I know their faces and they stand with their people in times of war, massacres, tribal conflicts and natural disasters. They do not run away, but remain facing torture, disease or even death,” he said.
“Those bishops, priests and religious and even lay people work silently. They will never make it to the newspaper and will never have an audience with the president and not even with the pope. They simply do not aspire for it. They don’t make any big declarations. They have no long interviews, do not appear in the newspapers, and are not seen at the parties of the powerful because their kingdom is not of this world. Their priority is not with the glamour of this world. The true shepherd stands with the poor of spirit because to them belongs the kingdom of God,” he added.
Echoing the words of Pope Francis when he said “a true shepherd will take upon him the smell of the sheep” the nuncio urged the clergy to humble themselves.
“The true shepherd as Jesus says are not dressed in fine clothing and linen and are not found in the palaces of kings and presidents. The true shepherd will be found in the shed of the poor, in the grotto in Bethlehem, in a mabati house in Kibera,” stated the nuncio.