Kenyan President Laments Prelate's Murder

A Loss «Not Only for Catholics,» He Says

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NAIROBI, Kenya, JULY 20, 2005 (Zenit.org).- Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki called the murder of Bishop Luigi Locati «a repugnant act, a great loss not only for Catholics.»

Earlier this week, Kibaki was commenting on the July 14 murder of the 76-year-old apostolic vicar of Isiolo, in northern Kenya. The president’s comments appeared in a statement issued by his office and reported in the Vatican’s newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano.

The funeral Mass for Bishop Locati was held today in Isiolo.

President Kibaki said that every effort will be made to identify and punish the instigators of the murder.

He recalled the «selfless and enormous devotion» with which Bishop Locati helped the people of the area where he carried out his ministry for four decades.

Ceremonies and prayer vigils in memory of the murdered bishop have been held throughout the country, with large crowds attending.

Special emphasis has been placed on the bishop’s dedication and commitment to young people and the poor, without any tribal or religious distinctions. Prayers were recited last Sunday for the deceased prelate in all Kenya’s churches.

Aided the poorest

«Non-Catholic Christian confessions also joined in the Catholic Church’s mourning,» said Father Gigi Anatoloni, Consolata missionary in Kenya, in statements to the Holy See’s missionary agency. «Bishop Locati was loved and appreciated for his work with the poorest.»<br>
Isiolo is on the northern side of Mount Kenya, in the direction of Ethiopia. Eighteen percent of its inhabitants are Catholics. The area is regarded as a crossroads of communities, with the Meru tribe being dominant.

Recently, Monsignor Franco Givone, director of the Missionary Center of Vercelli, who worked for 20 years with Bishop Locati, told the Missionary News Service Agency about the latter’s role in interreligious dialogue in the Kenyan area.

That dialogue succeeded «in creating Christian entities such as schools or health institutions in areas inhabited by Muslims,» Monsignor Givone said.

Regarding the investigation into the crime, officials of the local police have stressed the lack of connection between Bishop Locati’s murder and the ethnic-tribal confrontations in the Marsabit area, noted the Vatican newspaper.

Robbery also seems to have been discarded as a motive.

«Bishop Locati lived in poverty, because he gave everything he had to the people of the vicariate, Christians and Muslims, without distinction,» said one of his aides.

Motives?

One source told Fides that Bishop Locati had repeatedly denounced «the traffic in stolen cattle and weapons which occurs in this area and that in some way, even if indirectly, could be related to the confrontations of the past days.»

Still valid, however, is «the hypothesis of the motive of the murder being related to the opening of the Catholic school in Merti,» Fides said.

Bishop Locati made every effort «for this institution to be open to all and to become a meeting point for the different ethnic groups and tribes. Some, however, wanted it to be a resource only for their tribe,» a source told Fides.

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