L’Abbé Norbert Eric Abekan, pastor of Our Lady of Tenderness of the Riviera Golf decidedly not the language in the pocket. Frankly and bluntly, it addresses several issues, including the most troublesome: the priests, women, money, gay marriage, pedophilia in the church and, of course, the assassination attempts against him .
Today, you seem to be under the extinguisher. This is not the same Abékan who mobilized the huge crowds at Notre Dame de Treichville.
What happened ?
It is true that at first I was all fire and flame. I was pretty young. A difficult start, but I initiated something that today has taken. I said it is high time that we were over. My greatest wish is that those remain Bassam Bassam, remain those of Yopougon Yopougon, Bouake those remain in Bouake, because everybody came in Treichville. So I took a step back. But it was voluntary. It is true that Cardinal Bernard Yago, rest his soul, who had not understood the importance of these prayers, asked me to stop; and for a year I stopped. And Monsignor Paul Dacoury that was like my spiritual Father, my spiritual director, gave me this advice using this image. He said: “My son, you see the water flowing from the rock comes into force. And, you know that a man can put a dam. But as the water comes into force, it can bypass the dam and continue his journey. So, what you are doing, if they tell you to stop, if it comes from God, it will continue. If it does not come from God, it will stop. ” This image was so marked that it still with me today. In the Church is obedience. So I submitted. I stopped for one-year. A year later, the same Cardinal Yago summoned all the priests and told them that the Pope then. John Paul II, wrote a book called “blessing of the Book.” Cardinal hoped that it is not only a priest who does all the work. He had just told me basically continue your work. So I continued my work until I left Canada. People did not understand, they still thought it was my hierarchy that had blocked my activities. It was not that. It’s true that at the beginning, my superiors said no, because it was new and she did not understand what was happening. So I was told to stop, time to see well. Today, I thank God, because it continues with new communities, but I go where I am invited. I still somehow this work. I am pastor of a parish, and therefore as such, my priority is my parish.
When you talk about over, do you think the new communities? Can they really make this report?
Speaking of new communities, I say that it is a double edged sword. These lay bring us a lot, they do a lot of property. Those who have understood that in the Church there is the hierarchy are many, because they accept to go to form. They agree to go to our universities and colleges to form. And those doing good work because they work in collaboration with the priests. Those, unfortunately, are rare. There are many today who do anything. It is in this sense that I say that the new communities are a double-edged sword that are good, but are also very hard, like the shepherds and shepherdesses détricotaient all that is said in the church.
What provisions are being taken to reframe the communities that do not fit into the vision of the Church?
At the Episcopal Conference, there is a bishop who is responsible for new communities. Bishop Gaspard Beby Gnéba of Man. I know he has had several meetings with those leaders. In each diocese, for free in Abidjan, Cardinal Jean-Pierre Kutwa appointed a priest who is responsible for new communities.
You have been the target of an armed attack at the height of the Ivorian crisis. Is it over some messages you véhiculiez at the time?
My life is in God’s hand. I had just done a radio debate, I spoke of peace. Today, I have the tape of the broadcast. The bishops have replayed. I spoke of reconciliation. I invited to lay down arms, so much so that I formed a group called white bands. I allowed myself to go meet President Laurent Gbagbo twice.
I allowed myself to go to the Golf, to try to meet with President Alassane Ouattara. It’s true that my voice did not carry too much, but I wanted to make my contribution. And now I come back to this issue and that the height of the Akwaba statue of Port Bouet, I see a cab with four men inside. I finished the show 23 hours and when I left the radio, it was 23 hours 15. They started to shoot me in 28 to 23 hours up to the St. Paul Cathedral Plateau. It was two men armed with Kalashnikovs. They thought I was dead, but no, God was there. I was seriously injured, there were flesh of debris scattered in the car. I lost a lot of blood. I do not know how I’ve done, but I found myself at the Nunciature. When I woke up, I was in the PISAM. I was told that these are soldiers who recognized me. In my hospital room, pulled a ball fractured my door. Thank you God that I was not in bed When one asks me, I say that sincerely, I do not know who I wanted.
Since that time, Abékan a-t- he been other threats?
It seems that some people came to the hospital to see me in the jacket. But the Nunciature has left firm instructions that no one goes. They gave a list of people allowed to visit me. I saw that I was not safe in this place. I asked from physicians and regularly came in a secret location to treat me that my wound is not infected and there is no gangrene. I was convinced that I would lose my leg, I was going to be amputated. But eventually, the doctors caught. After this incident, it was the food. It brought me a meal. God thank you that I told my vicars: “do not eat”. I asked them to finish the dish that the cook has prepared. We come back half an hour later to open the food, the sauce had mounted, we could not stay in the house. After, they are people who have returned with weapons in my room, they took everything. At the time I speak, I do not know who tried to kill me. I do not know. I can not say so openly. Even if I knew, maybe I could not tell. I would have said to that right, but I do not publicly going to say.
What is your relationship with the various heads of state of Cote d’Ivoire?
I had the joy to mix with all the heads of state of Ivory Coast. First the first president, Felix Houphouet-Boigny. When he was sick, it’s me he did call. I was in Switzerland with him. It was I who came back with him. His last trip, I was with him, in addition to the pilot and doctor. We were four in this small white plane that brought him back. I was on good terms with him. As President Bédié who called me to go and bless the house which is now the palace was bombed. After him. It was President Robert Guei who has called me by his wife, when I was parish priest in Saint Jean de Cocody in prayer. Then President Laurent Gbagbo that I went to meet three times. The first time was about prisons, saying that it is not normal that children born in prison. I went back a second time to dialogue with his brother Alassane Ouattara and the third time when I made the white bands to tell the two presidents to stop, because it was killing too many people. Meanwhile, the invisible commando killed. It was killing everywhere. Everyone killed. This means that all trusted me. With the current president also, there is no problem, since he came here to Our Lady of Tenderness with his wife. Often we see the mosque. I am for all the presidents, I have no preference.
How do you assess the role played by the Church in the context of national reconciliation?
The role of the Church is not political. But the Church has something to say to give advice, to orient and guide. Mgr Paul Simeon Ahouana is religious, he is a bishop, it is even archbishop. He brings something to reconciliation. Some have variously interpreted his appointment. I do not see why not. The fact that the Church sheds light and especially to talk Compensation is talk of reconciliation. The Church has more than ever its place in reconciliation, but not politicking. I restates the Church has something to say and I think it is in this sense that Bishop Ahouana agreed to play this role. It is true that initially it was not understood, I would have learned that he has not seen before accepting his peers, and it made the others are turned a little, but, I think they are frankly about a meeting in Taabo. And, as I am not privy to God, nothing has filtered. But eventually, they all agreed.
Very often we find in the speech of some religious of political positions. This is not it often a source of division within the Church?
I condemn this, insofar as these men of God did not understand that God is for all. We are for the people. I can love a President, but I do not necessarily have to go in his direction. If I see that the president speaks in a way that goes against the people, I have to say I do not agree. This is what the true prophets did in the Bible. Sometimes we are afraid and we enter the compromises, I do not agree. That is neutral, we play our role of educators, advocates for the poor, but at the same time, it is for everyone. The rulers, as the ruled. That’s our role. Unfortunately, we see in the newspapers, we hear on the radio and television, some taken clear positions. It is not our role. I condemn this practice.
At the trial on the death of former President Robert Guei, it was made if the role of the Catholic Church. Some even say that it is the Church that has delivered.
Here, I do not know. I know that President Guei, rest his soul, had taken refuge at St. Paul’s Cathedral Plateau. Honestly, I’ll be honest with you, you are a great newspaper, really neutral, which I love. I reiterate what I said, I really do not know. But I heard a priest, Father James Wadja, who wrote a book. And as they say, “The words fly away, written words remain.” So it will remain in history. He says it is the Church that has delivered Guei. If that is the Church, certainly he has evidence. I have no evidence, so I can not commit myself. I can not say I have not seen. I will testify to what I saw, but not what was said. I know that this is indeed the Cathedral that President Guei was taken. I said. And all witnesses agree: it’s at the Cathedral. So one could say that those responsible for the Cathedral did not protect Guei. maybe we can draw this conclusion. But, what happened? I believe that one day the truth will come out.
With all these secrets that remain hidden, can we achieve true reconciliation in Ivory Coast?
There are a lot of secrets. We do not know as of today, for example, that people have dumped toxic waste in Ivory Coast. Since all those who were interviewed, ministers, CEO, Dg … nobody knows. One has the impression that toxic waste arrived from Europe by accident! Today, we understand there is a lot of cancer and malformed children. And there is a truth that needs to know, because true reconciliation can not be achieved on the basis of truth. Now all these secrets that do not reveal are like brakes, obstacles to true reconciliation. When we speak of reconciliation, I think we should take the example of South Africa, where there have been people who have cried because the truth was told. From the truth, today, South Africa wins. My wish is that these hidden truths are also discovered in Ivory Coast. How do you expect on the basis of lies, it is reconciled? It takes a lot of truth. Should that people have the courage to say it was me who asked such an act. ” And they say that when confesses his sins, one is relieved. By telling the truth, I believe that reconciliation will be more durable. We must avoid the opening. We did a lot of painting. It takes up to remove polish, drill abscess, get out the stink to heal the wound. But I do not say that n is not a work that has been done. There is a work that has been done. Today is the Conariv but with CDVR, there is work that has been done, because it is be dishonest not to recognize this work. The war is easy, reconciliation has thick skin. It’s hard to do. That is why we are told to avoid war, because we know how in a split second, you push a bomb, a Kalashnikov, you destroy everything. But for reconciliation, it is difficult. I congratulate those who have worked to CDVR. President Banny and his team. Perfection is not of this world. Today is the Conariv continuing the work. The work is done, but we have courage enough to the truth to come to true reconciliation. Otherwise, we will make a façade of reconciliation, which is a time bomb. It could explode again. I wish we defuse this time bomb concealed.
Christians in Ivory Coast, like those around the world, live a highlight is the season of Lent. What meaning do you give in this time before the Easter?
In Lent me, there is the figure 40. The people of Israel who were in captivity in Egypt, walked free this country of slavery to go to the land of freedom across the desert. Lent will be at this level. It is this march through the desert as we revive after the people of Israel, but especially following Jesus Christ, who for 40 days, 40 nights, prayed, fasted. Lent is an invitation to imitate Jesus Christ, to imitate the people of Israel through this spiritual desert, fasting, deprivation, in confession and especially alms, charity. There are these great pillars on which we rely. Prayer alone or in community; sharing, so alms, the church tax and our Holy Father, Pope Francis, will talk about the physical works of mercy: “I was hungry, you gave me food.” The time of Lent, it is the three P: Prayer, Penance and Sharing.
We’re in the home stretch with the Holy Week that begins after Palm Sunday. Your tips to live this Holy Week.
Let each examine his conscience and say that in the beginning of this Lent, that is to say, on Ash Wednesday, I made resolutions. Is what I’m holding them? The advice is to first stop to take stock of the journey undertaken and as they say it is never too late to start, instead of taking several resolutions, make a resolution. I tell my parishioners; “I prefer that you eat a lot, so it gives you enough strength to love your brothers and sisters.” Because all is not to come to church, to fast and in your places of work activities you are execrable. You do not even talk with your neighbor, with your husband. I prefer you to eat if it is hunger that drives you to be so nervous. I prefer to eat a lot and that performs acts of charity and love. When I was a priest in Saint John, I told my faithful made fast your language. You speak too ill of others. Make fast your language. Eat and fast your language. You give too hurtful words.
The end of Lent leading to Easter, how should Christians welcome this event which is the Resurrection of Christ?
Easter is the biggest Christian festival in the sense that it is the central feast. Because St. Paul says. If Christ is not risen, our faith is vain. ” Everything we do, Lent, fasting is zero. So Easter is the biggest celebration that shows us that the last word is not death, hatred, betrayals, sputum, humiliation, to quote all that Jesus lived during the Passion. But the last word belongs to life. Easter is an invitation to be the message of Hope and Life carriers in our living environments. Bring forth life with respect for the human person. That’s Easter! Easter is to ask, “Does this festival allowed me to change a little and say with St. Paul:” Now if I live, it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. My eyes are the eyes of Christ, my ears are the ears of Christ, my hands are the hands of Christ. ‘ ” That’s what Easter.
Some religious leaders would resort to occult practices to refuel faithful in their churches. Do you know something?
Just a few years Inter had spoken Béhanzin and myself. I was a little upset because you could have come to give me the floor before. In this story of Béhanzin, we say that there is no smoke without fire. In the background, taking a step back, it’s not because he attacked me. It must be said, and that’s the truth, there are men of God who engage in these practices, because they believe it requires some mystical force. So Béhanzin somehow said something true. Unfortunately, there were montages, there were people that were accused, there are people who wanted to settle accounts with some of which they cited the names later, they balked. At the time, when we had approached me, I said that Béhanzin said was not unfounded and there is, unfortunately, these kinds of practices. There is someone who has camped it through a film. There is a truth. He said that people will take some mystical forces, rings, wedding rings, to drop the faithful. And, as is so recurrent, there are testimonies that were given. There is no smoke without fire. There is some truth in what Béhanzin had argued at the time. It is a pity that a man of God, do not trust God to preach, but other forces.
Can this God cohabitation and mystical forces be?
It’s not even possible. We can not be with God and the false gods. That is to say, we take an old coat with a new coat. It will not go. Over time, these people are caught.
Do you think that witchcraft exists?
Yes. Witchcraft exists because there are people who chose to do evil, since evil exists. The sorcerer is a henchman of the devil, as all those who chose to fight life to destroy life, and who take pleasure in seeing others suffer, doing spells, enchantments of. I heard two intellectuals, two prominent university professors discuss the issue. There is a saying that witchcraft does not exist, and the other who supported the opposite. And I was in the middle. Certainly all is not rocket science. For example, when a person on and the foot strikes a rock, you hear him say, “You are defeated.” Needless to say this is a wizard who turned into stone to break his foot. It’s exaggerated ! We see everywhere witchcraft. But also assert that witchcraft does not exist is not true also. There are people who have chosen mystically to harm their relatives. And who do and say. I met a large well-known sorcerer who told me: “Father, I have come to pray with you for you délivriez me because I’m a wizard. I killed “. He said he wanted out because he turns into a snake to bite people. I told him: “I want to go in your group. He posed as; requirement to hand over my father or my mother. This man has killed many people. I followed a girl who was turned into pigs. I went looking for her. It’s a mystical story.
I’m the exorcist of the diocese, I hear a lot. I went bless homes that were closed. When you open the door, it’s blood everywhere. These are facts that prove that witchcraft exists. But, do not see everywhere witchcraft. I take the case of the woman whose pregnancy was at an end and that did not happen, despite everything, to birth. She will see soothsayers who tell him that wizards have cemented his belly. Others make him believe that it comes from a spirit of death. She arrives in a new community, and people, what do they do? That is their statement: “We’ll see.” one viewing and told her stepmother sat on her stomach, that’s why she can not give birth. I take this opportunity to challenge the siblings of the new communities to be careful. Finally, the woman comes to me. I ask her about her husband, is the key that will give me, “Oh, that idiot there, that bastard.” The phrase that I put a flea in the ear, is: “I do not know why I’m pregnant with him.” I asked him to call this one. They reconciled, the day after the woman gave birth. So it makes people think a lot of things wrong. Clearly, witchcraft exists, but do not see everywhere witchcraft.
The question of priestly celibacy has been brought up to date recently in the Vatican. What is your opinion on this old debate?
This debate was of all time. This is a topic really relevant. There are priests who are for marriage. In our Eastern brothers, before ordination, you are asked if you want to marry you or not. If you do not want to get married, once you order, you get married anymore. But if you want to marry is before ordination as you say. But in the Roman Catholic Church, our Church is in the seminary that you choose. So the problem comes back and it is on the table of the Pope. Some say maybe it will change, but it is a debate.
Where do you stand on this debate? For you, the priest should he marry?
Regarding my perspective, I am for the commitment to celibacy to be much freer. Today I am a parish priest, I exorcist of the diocese, I’m on the radio, I am dean of the deanery, I episcopal vicar. Suppose I have a family, but I can not do my job. Thus, unfortunately, there are cases of compromise where people ultimately do not do their job. We chose and I’m glad I made that choice. If I had to choose again, I will make the same choice. I’m not saying we have no problem, we have no problem, but it is a choice to do. I am for this choice of celibacy.
He said that priests have children …
Yes ! Priests have children. That is to say that there is a choice to make. Or, it is in celibacy, or choosing the wedding. But, there is a compromise.
Priests also have a lot of property. Is it normal when you know you made a vow of poverty?
I agree with you. You’re saying the right things. We must not hide the fact that we made a vow of poverty, it’s part of our vows. Only, do not hide the fact that there are priests who have many possessions. Is this is a sign of testimony? No. Sometimes it is a sign of against-testimony. Because you have families that do not eat, and you priest, you have all property. And people see, they know. We can not hide an elephant under a palm tree. True, there are priests, not to say the bishops, who have great possessions. I wonder if it serves them to do their job. Sometimes the heart is much more for these goods. I’ll see my plants, my houses … etc. finally, the pastoral work for which you have been commanded, the care of souls, you do not do this work.
It is in this sense that I say no! The Church has done well to invite us to practice humility and poverty, because it is also a testimony that we give to people. Our Holy Father, Pope Francis, is very firm on this issue. There are bishops that it has suspended. I know elsewhere, Benedict XVI has suspended the bishops and priests, because they saw their bank accounts, which is not normal. By cons, if a priest gets riches to help his parish is normal. The Vatican has a lot of property. But today, the Vatican does not have enough money to help the poor parishes. There are impérées quests that are made in the parishes that go to the Vatican and are redistributed after. If the priest’s property to help the poor, I say bravo. If a property for him, I say this is a cons-testimony.
Marriage for all, pedophilia in the Vatican …
At the Vatican, they are men who are there. They are not angels, they are not saints. Unfortunately, there are those scandals. Not only the Vatican, because today there are countries where priests are pedophiles. Too bad. There were bishops and priests who have been convicted. This was very costly to the church. In the US for example. Currently, in the diocese of Lyon, there is an investigation that is conducted on a pedophile priest who allegedly abused young scouts. That is to say that in every fold, there are bad apples. There is a problem to see is that of the formation of priests. In our seminars, the choice of priests, seminarians, pedophilia is a crime which we condemn. The priest must defend the children. A pedophile priest is a crime. I am one of those who now speak out against marriage for all. Some of my parishioners are not happy with me. I’m not here for us to be happy with me. God created man and woman. “That is why a man leaves his father and mother and be joined to his wife and the two become one. “But today, people have distorted it all. Man can go with the man, the woman can go with the woman. It’s a Pandora’s box that is currently open. Because tomorrow, we should say not that I am not free to go marry my dog, or my dog. In the year 3000, some will say: Me, I can take my sister, another: “I can take my own mother, I can also take my own father. I’m free “.
Is it true that the Pope tolerate gay marriage?
The pope said: “Who am I to condemn ..?”. It was enough of it for people to criticize and say it accepts gay marriage. The pope did not say that. He said he does not condemn. To return to pedophilia, I say as the Pope, do not condemn people. Listening to the people, we perceive the evil at the root. And this is to be cured. In families, helping parents to educate children. I do not condemn gay, because we do not know what they are. Rather approaching, listen and accompany them without judging them.
By Irene BATH