A Catholic priest was dragged from his church by an angry mob on Tuesday in Singaraja, Bali, allegedly over an internal church conflict.
Church property was damaged in the scuffle, which also injured a five-year-old girl.
The group forcefully dragged Father Yohanes Tanumihardja from the church on Jl. Dewi Sartika in Singaraja, 90 kilometers north of provincial capital Denpasar.
These mob also removed the priest’s family and his assistant, Yohanes Ola, and then set about ransacking the church’s interior. Some of the priest’s followers attempted to defend their leader but were overwhelmed by the larger group.
A number of male congregants fled the attack, leaving women and children inside the church.
Five-year-old Aurelia was injured during the incident and was taken to a nearby hospital for treatment.
The attack took place on Tuesday morning under the auspices of Denpasar Catholic diocese’s director Herman Yoseph Babey, who said he was executing diocese orders dated March 5 and 10, 1996, dismissing Yohanes from his position at the Singaraja Church.
He said priest Yohanes had stubbornly insisted on keeping his position as head of the church, 14 years after the issuance of the letters.
The priest’s actions violated Catholic church law, he said.
A new letter, issued by Denpasar Bishop Silvester San last December, revealed that Yohanes had already been dismissed and his jurisdiction had been revoked by the Denpasar diocese, which oversees Catholic churches in Bali and West Nusa Tenggara provinces.
Father Herman Yoseph Babey told reporters the diocese had attempted to amicably solve the problem on a number of occasions by holding dialogues with Yohanes.
“We even offered him to continue his work as a priest in another diocese in another province but he refused the idea,” said Herman, who was accompanied by the newly appointed Singaraja priest Yohanes Handrianto Wijaya and former Bali Police spokesman Sr. Comr. A.S. Reniban.
Chairman of Buleleng Legislative Council, Dewa Nyoman Sukarawan, arrived at the site soon after the incident but said nothing.
Congregant Antonious K. Sanjaya and Aurelia’s mother reported the violence against priest Yohanes to Singaraja Police.
“We reported the violent actions [committed] under the name of the Catholic Church,” said Antonious.
“The arrest of a person should be enforced by legal authority, not by mob mentality.”
Bishop Silvester argued that it was not an attack. He said the Denpasar diocese had tried to take back church property which has been controlled by a priest who allegedly has no authority. Father Yohannes’ jurisdiction was already revoked by Vatican, he claimed, adding that all religious activities at the Singaraja church had no legal ground.
The bishop added the church had asked the Buleleng administration and the police to evacuate the priest but none of them were willing to do so saying it was the church’s internal affairs.
Comr. Ida Bagus Wedana Jati, who led the police unit that secured the scene, said they were unable to interfere the incident. “It was an internal dispute and solution within the Catholic Church.”