Kenya: Catholic Priest's Fight to Keep His Son

Nairobi, Kenya - A Catholic priest is fighting to have the custody of a boy he claims to be his legitimate son. Father Anastasio Kaburi appeared at Kirinyaga Central district children's office in Kerugoya Town on Thursday, determined to secure custody of the eight-year-old boy, who has been living with his grandfather after the death of his mother.

Accompanied by relatives, Fr Kaburi wanted the district children's office to hand over the boy to him. The priest vividly remembers the boy was born eight years ago by his woman friend who later died. After the child was born, he parted ways with the woman who then got married to another man.

Several years later, the mother of the priest's child died after a short illness, leaving the boy in the care of his grandfather. On learning of the death of the woman, the priest says he was touched and felt he should claim the boy, whom he says is his biological son. He started on a search and found the boy living with his grandfather in Kerugoya. He was moved to tears on seeing him, he says.

"I was excited when I saw my child and deeply within my heart, I felt that I should have him forever," he told the district children's officer, Mr Danstan Omari. The priest promised to look after the boy and educate him. He urged the officer to let him take away the boy.

Asked whether keeping the child would jeopardise his job as a priest in the Catholic Church, which advocates celibacy, the priest asked: "What does my right to have custody of my child got to do with my profession?" The priest said he could even have the child live with his brother or a female friend who resided in the area if the children's office was finding it hard to let him take the boy.

Earlier, the priest who appeared confident and unshaken kept chatting with the boy who called him 'father', as Mr Omari attended to other children's cases. The child's grandfather, Mr Raymond Karinga, said he would hand over the boy as long as there was a proper legal agreement.

However, the priest said there was no need of complicating the matter. "Let me just take him away," he said. The father said he had lived with the boy at his place of work for a week, after he was temporarily released to him by relatives. The priest told the officer he was capable of taking care of his own child.

In his ruling, however Mr Omari said that there was no way the boy could be given to the priest without following the legal process. Mr Omari advised the priest to file an application in a court of law for the custody of the boy. The priest, he added, could not be allowed to take full responsibility for the boy although he had been in contact with the youngster for a few days without going through the legal process.

"I do not object that you have your child, but the rule of the law should be followed," he said. The priest protested at the presence of the Press, saying his right to privacy must be respected. For a long time, priests have been accused of paedophilia, secret affairs and marriages and having children.

According to former Zambian Catholic archbishop Emmanuel Milingo, paedophilia is so serious in the US that cases committed 40 years ago have cost the church billions of dollars in compensation. Archbishop Milingo spoke specifically of priests having lovers last June at Sasamotor Centre in Karen, Nairobi, where he quietly ordained the first married Catholic priest in Kenya.

There are about 150,000 married priests worldwide, 25,000 of them in America and 18,000 in Brazil, according to the archbishop. He added: "We have a community here in Kenya. Some are doing full pastoral work. In America, they are asking if I can find a priest to go there." Milingo was excommunicated from the Catholic Church after he got married to a Korean woman.