The Vatican is investigating claims of a 30-year-old man who maintains that his biological father is an Italian missionary priest, Mario Lacchin. The man, Gerald Erobon, claims the clergyman in question impregnated his mother when she was just 16 years old.
This investigation has cast the limelight on sexual abuse cases perpetrated by priests and instances of them siring children.
The Washington Post on October 9, reported that Erobon was raised by a father whose appearance was very different from him. Benjamin Ekwam, a dark skin-toned Kenyan was listed on his birth certificate in the place of his biological father.
"According to my birth certificate, it is like I'm living a wrong life, a lie," Erobon shared with Associated Press. This is because the thirty-year-old believes his biological father is Rev Lacchin.
"I just want to have my identity, my history," Erobon narrated in a series of interviews in Nairobi and Archers Post- a remote town in Eastern Kenya.
The 83-year-old priest refused to take a paternity test and denied fathering Erobon. Lacchin's religious superiors did not force him to take a DNA test but instead, arranged three meetings for father and son to meet and develop a dialogue.
The Vatican opened this investigation after Erobon took his claims to Vincent Doyle, an advocate for children sired by priests.
The lawyer acquired birth certificates of Erobon and his mother Sabina Losirkale. The documents revealed that Erobon's late mother gave birth in 1988 when she was just 16, two years shy of the legal age.
Father Lacchin met Sabina Losirkale when she was a student at Gir Primary School in Archers Post.
Sabina and her siblings were always on their own as her parents were pastoralists who strayed from home to feed their livestock.
When she was 15, Sabina skipped after-school sports activities in exchange for doing house chores at the priest's quarters. She cooked and cleaned for Lacchin.
“I think Father Mario was taking advantage of my sister.
“He bribed her with gifts, food, clothes. He was even buying us books. My sister used to come with books, pens, all we needed,” Sabina's sister told AP.
When Sabina gave birth, Lacchin was quietly transferred to a nearby mission. Benjamin Ekwam, the driver of the priest and a catechist at Archer's Post, was selected as a husband to Sabina.
“The people of Archer’s knew it was Father Mario. They knew Lacchin was responsible. Because even the boy resembled the priest when he was born,” commented Alfred-Edukan Loote, who taught Erebon in primary school.
Around July 2013, Erobon tried to seek out Lacchin. He sent the priest a number of emails hoping to establish a relationship but received no response. He tried to meet Lacchin in person in Marsabit, where the clergyman worked as a church administrator but his overture was snubbed.
Five years later, Erebon reached out to Doyle, an Irish psychotherapist behind Coping International, which advocates for children of priests.
Rev James Lengarin was sent to investigate. In an interview in Rome, The Vatican stated that it could not compel Lacchin to take a DNA test, arguing that reconciliation would be the best option.
“We didn’t feel that he should be constrained by force of obedience, to do it,” Lengarin explained, noting that Lacchin is now 83.
Lengarin further communicated that Rome continued investigating and remained hopeful that Lacchin would agree to a paternity test.
Erebon wants Lacchin’s help to obtain Italian citizenship for himself and his two children. But more than that, he wants a life that is based on truth.
“I just want to have my identity, my history, so that my children can also have what they really are: their heritage, history and everything,” he told reporters.
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