The head of the Catholic Church in Kenya, Archbishop John Cardinal Njue, has moved to court seeking to have a suit against him referred for arbitration.
He wants the matter settled out of court, saying if it proceeds to full hearing, it would prejudice him and the entire Catholic Church.
Dr William Charles Fryda had filed the suit recently complaining of harassment by Cardinal Njue and Marie Therese Gachambi of Assumption Sisters.
Both the prelate and Sr Gachambi are embroiled in a row with Dr Fryda over ownership of multi-billion St Mary’s Hospitals.
The doctor who is also a priest claims to own the hospitals situated in Nairobi’s Lang’ata Estate and Elementaita in Nakuru County.
In his witness statement, he claimed he incorporated the Assumption Sisters as trustees for the purpose of registration of the land where the hospitals are situated, since he is a foreigner.
The registration, according to him, was to be transferred later to a limited company called St Mary’s Mission Hospital. But this never happened because “the Sisters called him a trespasser”.
He also alleged that Cardinal Njue and Sr Gachambi registered Pacis University College — a private institution — using title deeds for the hospitals’ land.
By registering the college, Dr Fryda said, the prelate and Sr Gachambi were seeking to take over the property of St Mary’s Mission Hospital.
He provided documents showing the college is owned by the Cardinal and seven other people, including Sr Gachambi.
He further accused the Archbishop of trying to influence him to resolve the dispute out of court.
Cardinal Njue, however denied having any interest in the hospitals in his replying affidavit.
In his fresh application filed by his lawyer, Nangalwe Mwenya Muniafu, under a certificate of urgency, he has asked the court to allow him establish a competent Committee/Tribunal to hear and determine the dispute.
The Archbishop said he had opted for arbitration because Dr Fryda and Sr Gachambi are all members of the clergy governed by the provisions of the Canon Law.
The media, Cardinal Njue has asked the court, should be kept out of the matter.
“If the matter proceeds to litigation, it is likely to attract a lot of negative publicity to the Catholic Church as it already has,” says Mr Muniafu in his supporting affidavit.
He adds that the matter is of great concern to Catholic faithful who stand to be prejudiced by any negative media reflection of the Church.
The application was filed on Thursday last week at the High Court in Nairobi and will be heard on Wednesday.