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LOCATI-FUNERAL (UPDATED) Jul-22-2005 (500 words) With photos posted July 20. xxxi

Kenyans mourn death of slain missionary bishop

By Catholic News Service

ISIOLO, Kenya (CNS) -- Some 4,000 Kenyans attended an emotional funeral Mass for slain Bishop Luigi Locati of Isiolo, an Italian missionary who had worked in Kenya for 40 years.

Among the mourners was Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki, who pledged to bring the bishop's killers to justice.

Eight men -- including two local Kenyan priests picked up July 20 -- were being held by police for questioning about Bishop Locati's death, reported Reuters, the British news agency.

Reuters quoted a Kenyan police official as saying there could be financial motives involved with the bishop's death.

"There was a problem of corruption to do with the funding of various projects under the church and in which the bishop must have got some enemies," said provincial criminal investigation officer Mohammed Amin.

MISNA, a Rome-based missionary news agency, reported July 21 that the arrested priests had been connected to two schools that Bishop Locati ordered closed in late June.

The priests, Fathers Cyril Mukuchia and Peter Malley Guyo Wako, are members of the Borana ethnic group, which has been involved in recent violent clashes with other ethnic groups over cattle ownership and access to water, MISNA reported.

The agency said Father Mukuchia is pastor of the parish in Merti and was administrator of the Macci Boys School and the Macci Girls School; the other priest is director of vocations for the Isiolo prelature.

MISNA quoted unnamed missionaries in Isiolo as saying the schools were deeply in debt and that, in violation of church policy and Bishop Locati's efforts to promote harmony among the region's people, both recently began admitting only students who belong to the Borana ethnic group.

Bishop Locati was shot in the head and throat at close range outside the Isiolo pastoral center and died about an hour later at the community hospital. He had worked in Kenya, mainly in Isiolo, for 40 years and had just learned that Pope Benedict XVI had accepted his retirement.

Christian and Muslim leaders from around Kenya, with some from neighboring Uganda and Tanzania, attended the funeral.

Earlier, Pope Benedict XVI had expressed his condolences in telegrams to the Vatican's nuncio to Kenya and to the archbishop of Vercelli, Italy, Bishop Locati's home diocese.

Archbishop Alain Lebeaupin, the nuncio, read his telegram at the funeral, held in the Isiolo cathedral.

"The pope hopes that Bishop Locati's death will speed the peace and reconciliation process in Kenya," Archbishop Lebeaupin said at the Mass.

Although the funeral was held in Kenya, Bishop Locati's family requested that his body be flown back to Italy for burial, reported the Kenyan daily The Nation.

Coadjutor Archbishop John Njue of Nyeri acknowledged receiving the request, but said the church had not acted on it because the late bishop's will had not been read yet.


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