Zimbabwe News

US$15 000 stolen from Roman Catholic Priest’s bedroom

An assistant priest of the Roman Catholic Church in Bulawayo’s Kumalo suburb has been picked up by the police to assist with investigations following the disappearance of US$15 000 belonging to the church.

The cash was being kept in a safe in the priest’s bedroom on the church premises. Father Aurelio Ayala (36) who is the priest-in-charge of Our Lady of Lourdes Parish in Kumalo, filed a police report after discovering that the money was missing on 28 January. Although Bulawayo police spokesperson Inspector Abednico Ncube could not immediately comment on the issue, Fr Ayala confirmed the incident to Sunday News yesterday.

“I can confirm that US$15 000 belonging to the church was stolen from a safe in my bedroom. I reported the matter to the police and investigations are underway. I can also confirm that my assistant Fr Edwards was recently taken for enquiry by the police although this is not necessarily to say he is the suspect. He was questioned and released,” said Fr Ayala.

The incident, however, seems to have opened a can of worms with allegations and counterllegations flying thick and fast as congregants take sides in what a source said could be a result of deep-seated factional wars.

“The church is currently conducting ‘novena’ prayers. In Christianity, novena is a term designating a spiritual devotion consisting of the recitation of a set form of prayer for nine consecutive days, in petition for a divine favour or in preparation for a liturgical feast or as participation in an important event such as a Year of Jubilee. It is during these ongoing prayers that the congregants have amplified various allegations. Right now, the church is drowning in debt. There are water bills amounting to millions (ZW$) yet there was money kept in the bedroom,” said a source.

Responding to adultery allegations levelled against him, Fr Ayala said a faction of the church was peddling the allegations following the disappearance of the money.

“I have heard those allegations but they are not true. People started peddling them after the money disappeared. I am not involved in any adultery or whatsoever relationship, the allegations are false,” said Fr Ayala.

In January last year, thieves broke into the Roman Catholic Church’s St Andrew’s Parish in Kingsdale, Bulawayo and stole sacred vessels used to conduct mass. They stole ciboriums (metal vessels), which are considered the most important aspect of the Catholic service. The theft occurred just three weeks after armed robbers raided the same church and attacked its priest, forcing him to spend the night at the neighbouring Marianhill Institution, an organisation that houses Catholic priests. A number of churches in the city have also fallen prey to thieves who have taken various amounts of money, with police urging churches and businesses to avoid keeping large sums of money in offices or at home, and instead, bank the money.

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