03/06/2014 19:21

Fr Jerry’s killing details still unconfirmed

By Fr Giorgio Licini

After one month since the killing of Fr Jerry Maria Inau and church worker Benedict at Kamulai in the Goilala mountains of Papua new Guinea Central province information is still sketchy and the diocese of Bereina is still waiting for a final police report.

Catholic Reporter PNG, however, was able to talk to local Bishop Rochus Tatamai and diocesan Pastoral Vicar Fr Rey Caigoy. They confirmed that Fr Jerry felt at risk in the area and was invited several times to leave the place for Bereina or for his final parish assignment in Fane. “He was in his village because he wanted to go back there just before Christmas last year”, Fr Rey said. “He he wanted to spend the festivities with his people and thank them for what they had done on the occasion of his ordination in August”.

Fr Jerry, “a slow learner” according to Bishop Tatamai, had been ordained at almost 51 years of age on 16 August 2013 after decades of intermittent pastoral work and studies, which he never really successfully completed. “Our benevolent comments were that Fr Jerry was our St John Vianney”, the bishop also commented, referring to the famous French priest of the early nineteenth century, who was about to be discarded by Church authorities as too poor in academics. He then turned out to be a person who could talk directly to the heart of the people by his example and simple words, thus leading many to newness of life. “Fr Jerry was particularly concerned about the youth and the way he could bring about the end of the killings and stable peace in his home place’, Fr Rey said.

Fr Jerry probably found himself embroiled in the same feud that has claimed several lives over the past few years. Already at Easter 2011 Bishop Rochus and then seminarian Jerry were prevented from entering the mission station of Kamulai because of a fresh killing in the area just before their landing at the nearby airstrip.

It takes four days for the people to walk from Kamulai to the government and diocesan centre of Bereina. Conflicts in the remote areas easily arise over real or perceived benefits of small scale mining, erection of mobile phone towers, or land ownership. When a person is killed it becomes hard to stop the spiraling retaliation process.

Initial but still unconfirmed reports suggest that on Sunday, 4 May communion mister Benedict was killed first in Kamulai and he may have been the real target of the payback; while Fr Jerry may have fallen victim of an unjustified angry reaction to the first killing. The young perpetrators may have been on drugs. Marijuana spontaneously grows in the area and is heavily consumed.

The rest are details that the Bereina diocesan staff is waiting to see confirmed or denied by the police report.  At the moment what the bishop understands is that, while Benedict’s killing apparently had no witnesses except the perpetrators, Fr. Jerry was reportedly accompanied by two ladies and a young girl as he was leaving the area. The perpetrators who run after them were divided and fighting among themselves over the plan of killing the priest. Eventually a shot was fired straight into Fr. Jerry’s heart.

Before dying he was able to recommend that his family refrains from any payback for his death and to give his rosary and probably other religious articles to the small girl that at the moment fainted but recovered at the scene, while the two ladies had run for cover. Bishop Rochus, however, couldn’t personally meet any of them yet.

“Fr Jerry would withdraw rather than engage in a confrontation”, Fr Rey said. “He only harbored sentiments of reconciliation and peace, which was probably his impossible dream among the warring families of Kamulai. Further information is still needed, but the chance he may have died in hatred to what he stood for is very high.”