Rumors have been circulating for some time about the strange practices of a Catholic priest from the diocese of Aneho in Togo called Father Joseph Bassitome.
Bishop Isaac Jogues Gaglo, who has led this West African diocese since 2008, finally addressed what he called a “serious” and “outrageous” matter.
In a Feb. 2 message, he said people in Bassitome Parish informed him that the priest was engaging in “syncretic and outrageous practices” and encouraged them to do the same.
As proof, the parishioners sent the bishop audio recordings of Bassitome invoking the deities of traditional African religion. They said it shook their community.
Bishop Gaglo summoned Bassitome to his office.
The priest admitted in the presence of the vicar general and the episcopal vicar of the diocese that he had been involved in syncretic practices and had also joined a group called “African Renaissance”.
The bishop ordered him to leave the group and spend a time of renewal and conversion at the Benedictine monastery of Dzobegan in the mountains some 180 kilometers from Lomé.
Instead, Bassitome gave the bishop his letter of resignation, explaining that he was renouncing the ministerial priesthood.
Bishop Gaglo said that once Bassitome began the process of dismissal from clerical status, photos showing the former priest dressed as a follower of traditional religions began circulating on social media.
“What is happening is serious,” the bishop said.
“Because it’s a scandal and Joseph was a priest in our diocese,” he insisted.
The bishop encourages Catholics in the diocese to remain “without fear… because God controls everything” and can “make great good out of evil”.
After returning at length to the story of Saint Peter and Saint Paul, two converted sinners who have become the backbone of the Church, Bishop Gaglo asked the faithful of Aného to be “reassured in Christ”.
He recommended that people in the diocese make triduums and novenas of prayer “for our fidelity in the faith, for the conversion of sinners and for our brother Joseph”.
He also invited them to spiritual discernment and vigilance.
“Be vigilant because our brother Joseph no longer exercises the priestly ministry,” the bishop warned.
Finally, he asked Catholics to “keep calm and keep the peace” and to “be careful about belonging to groups with a vague and syncretistic spirituality” which are numerous on the Internet.