A Central African Republic (CAR) bishop has claimed the Belgian Salesians “betrayed” and “deceived” the local Church in a cover-up of a pedophile priest active in the country.

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Bishop of Bossangoa and CAR Bishops’ Conference President Nestor-Désiré Nongo-Aziagbia spoke to La Croix about the case of Father Luk Delft.

The Belgian Salesian priest was posted to CAR in 2013 despite a 2012 conviction for child abuse and child pornography with an 18-month suspended jail sentence and a ten-year ban on contact with children.

“We feel betrayed by the Belgian Salesian province, which deceived us”, Nongo-Aziagbia denounced of the order’s cover-up of Delft’s crimes.

That initial cover-up of the Salesians in allowing Delft to travel to CAR first as an assistant to a Salesian bishop there was later compounded by Delft’s appointment as national executive secretary of Caritas Central Africa, a Church relief organisation in contact with vulnerable children.

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Nongo-Aziagbia said the CAR Church was first warned about Delft only in 2017, when a psychotherapist concerned about the priest’s presence among children, despite the Belgian court ban, tipped off Caritas Internationalis.

Caritas informed the CAR Bishops’ Conference, when immediately demanded answers of the Belgian Salesians.

The Belgian provincial “implicitly acknowledged that there were allegations against this priest but added that the case had been handled in Belgium and that it had been settled legally. We obviously believed his word”, Nongo-Aziagbia affirmed.

But when news outlet CNN, which broke the Delft scandal, arrived in CAR to investigate, the priest first denied his crimes and his order then sent a series of contradictory emails first claiming Delft had to return home to face abuse charges, but then instructing CAR Church authorities that the priest be allowed to stay in the country.

What’s next

Two sad consequences are immediately evident from the Belgian Salesians’ negligence in the case of priest abuser Delft, according to Bishop Nongo-Aziagbia.

The first is that Delft, currently holed up in a Salesian house in Belgium, is facing new charges of the abuse of a 13-year-old in CAR, for which police and canonical investigations are underway both in Belgium and in Africa.

The second consequence of the Delft affair, according to the bishop, is that humanitarian organisations have suspended assistance in war-torn CAR over the presence there of the pedophile priest.

“This situation puts Caritas Central Africa in difficulty as some partners have suspended their support”, Nongo-Aziagbia lamented.

“In the dioceses of Bangui, Mbaïki, Bambari and Bangassou, aid was stopped.

“We feel a sense of injustice because we have been deceived and, on top of that, we are being suspended from humanitarian aid.

“As a result, we can no longer pay the staff.

“Partners and employees only know the direct employer, Caritas Central Africa.

“Meanwhile, the people who were rescued, have plunged into poverty”, Bishop Nongo-Aziagbia deplored.

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