End of mission – Bishop Willigers passes away

The Diocese of Roermond reports the passing of Bishop Joseph Willigers, the Mill Hill missionary who was born within the diocese and rose to become the first bishop of Jinja in Uganda. He was 81 years old and had been living in the Mill Hill house in Oosterbeek, near Arnhem, since his return from Uganda earlier this year.

Joseph Bernard Louis Willigers entered St. Joseph’s Missionary Society of Mill Hill when he was 19. In 1955, aged 25, he was ordained in London by Cardinal Bernard Griffin and sent to Rome to study Canon Law. Upon his graduation in 1958 he left for Africa to work in the mission. He worked in education and basic pastoral care in Uganda and Kenya and in 1965 as vicar general of the Kenyan Diocese of Kisumu, under the Dutch bishop Jan de Reeper. In 1967 Msgr. Willigers was appointed as the first bishop of the Diocese of Jinja, east of the Ugandan capital of Kampala. His consecration was performed by Uganda’s first cardinal, Emmanuel Nsubuga. For an impressive 42 years, Bishop Willigers led the faithful of his diocese, until he retired in March of 2010. As bishop, Msgr. Willigers was inspired by the spirituality of Blessed Charles de Foucauld and was characterised as intelligent, hospitable and warm.

In 2009, he participated in the Synod of Bishops’ Assembly on Africa. His contacts with his native diocese of Roermond continued through the years, as Roermond financially supported projects in Jinja, and as Bishop Willigers had family back home.

Returning to the Netherlands in ill health, Bishop Willigers took up residence in the Vrijland mission house in Oosterbeek, where he passed away in the early morning yesterday, in the presence of his sister. His funeral will also take place from there, on 5 October.

Photo credit: Missionaries of Mill Hill

Sharia court in India accuses Dutch priest of ‘forced conversion’

He is 80 years old, and for 49 of those years he has been a missionary in India. 21 of those years were spent, in two periods, in the overwhelmingly Muslim state Jammu and Kashmir.

Dutch priest Jim Borst, of the Mill Hill Missionaries, together with Protestant clergyman C. M. Khanna, has been convicted by a sharia court in Jammu and Kashmir of forcibly converting people to Christianity. Father Borst had been told by the government to leave India in 2010, but has gone into hiding instead.

A local mufti has announced the verdict and said that a punishment will be announced later this week. India does not recognise the sharia courts in Jammu and Kashmir.

I have a sneaking suspicion that the verdict is quite bogus…

Revelations trigger revelations – further developments around Bishop Cor Schilder

Last year, Dutch missionary bishop Cor Schilder, formerly of Kenya’s Diocese of Ngong, was at the heart of the publication of accusations of sexual abuse, leveled against him in 2009. That matter was then settled between the Holy See, the Society of Mill Hill Missionaries, to which Bishop Schilder belongs), and Michael Ole Uka, the victim. Said victims lodged no official complaint with the secular authorities, so no legal process was started.

But Uka’s story, as such stories have the potential to, gave another man, Emmanuel Shikuku, the courage to come forward with his story. The details may be found on various media websites, but come down to Shikuku claiming to have been abused by five clerics, one of whom is said to have been Bishop Schilder, who now resides in a Mill Hill house in the Netherlands, having been removed from his position following the earlier accusations.

The case came to the attention of Interpol via the Irish police, who informed authorities in the UK and the Netherlands. Much detail is still unknown, as the investigation of the case is still in early stages. An Interpol spokesman says that some information may even be kept secret by the Public Prosecutor for ‘tactical reasons’.

And since much is unknown, it is hard to conclude anything about what may or may not have happened. It is certainly not unheard of that victims of sexual abuse take courage from the stories of other victims and then come forward. That is also, I think, evident in the large number of abuse claims that were made in the Netherlands in the past year, although there are also, sadly, many fake claims among them, of course.

Whether Mr. Shikuku’s belongs to the former or the latter category remains to be seen. Things, at the moment, certainly do not look positive for the 70-year-old Bishop Cor Schilder.

Dutch missionary bishop in the dock

Accusations of sexual abuse have appeared against another bishop of Dutch descent. Details are still lacking, but it seems that Msgr. Cor Schilder, emeritus bishop of Ngong in Kenya, is accused of sexual abuse committed while he was still a  priest. Father Fons Eppink of the Missionary Society of Mill Hill to which Bishop Schilder belongs, has confirmed this. A 32-year-old Kenyan man claims to have been raped when Schilder was still a priest. The accusation was sent on to Rome where, eighteen months ago, the Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples, forbade the bishop from offering Masses in public and performing any pastoral tasks.

So while the Church took steps to remove the accused from where he committed his alleged crimes, there has been no police investigation yet. Father Anthony Chantry superior general of the Mill Hill society, has promised full cooperation with any investigation. The Public Prosecutor in the Netherlands has already asked for a full report from Mill Hill. It seems that the bishop may also be prosecuted here, but on what legal grounds is unknown to me.

It must be noted that, while the Church has seemingly drawn some conclusions, The doings of Bishop Schilder have not yet been legally investigated. Why the police were not informed by either the victim, the Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples or the nuncio in Kenya remains to be seen.

Bishop Schilder served as bishop of Ngong from 2002 to 2009, when he was sent on early retirement ‘for health reasons’. There is, as of yet, no new bishop in Ngong.

Source.