Church in  fake baptismal  certificate storm

Church in fake baptismal certificate storm

MASERU – A senior Catholic priest, Reverend Gerard Hlaele, has been accused of fraudulently issuing baptismal certificates to church members for a fee.

The certificates bear the stamp from the main Mofumahali Oa Tlholo cathedral which the National Identity and Civil Registry (NICR) says is different from other certificates signed by other priests.

The NICR is now rejecting all birth certificate applications from people whose baptismal certificates were signed by Rev Hlaele.
The NICR officials however declined to comment on why they have not reported to the police when they suspected the cleric was committing fraud.

The NICR Maseru District Manager, Litšoane Keketsi, said they do not accept certificates with his Rev Hlaele’s signature because they do not believe such certificates are valid.

“We verify certificates from the signatory and usually we ask for the records but Father Hlaele does not have such records,” Keketsi said.
Keketsi said they have had cases where an old person would come with records indicating he had been baptized a day before he came to the NICR department which raised a lot of suspicions.

The paper on which the certificates would be printed would still be new, which also raised suspicions that the stamp was backdated.
“These fake certificates surfaced from December 2018 to January 2019 in large numbers with a stamp from Our Lady of Victory Cathedral also known as Mofumahali Oa Tlholo,” Keketsi said.

He said this is not the first case, they had similar problems in the past.
“However, the church when confronted by the NICR explained that although the stamp bears their name, it does not belong to them,” Keketsi added.

Head of the Catholic Church in the country, Archbishop Tlali Lerotholi, said this is not right if Rev Hlaele is doing it.
Archbishop Lerotholi was responding to rumours that Reverend Hlaele is working from Sethaleng sa Mopapa (Pope John Paul II’s Monument) were there is no office building but just a dilapidated podium erected for the papal visit back in 1988.

Archbishop Lerotholi said Sethaleng “falls within the boundaries of Mofumahali Oa Tlholo but no baptism has to take place there”.
The NICR department has templates painted on the walls for identity document seekers to see which one is wrong or right.
thepost has a copy of Rev Hlaele’s signed baptismal certificate and one bearing the stamp of St Rodrique Mission, which is in Ha-Raleqheka, in the rural area of Maseru district.

Reverend Molefi Ramosoeu, the Maseru Diocese vicar, said if Reverend Hlaele “validly and legally baptized children it is right”.
“It is only wrong if he uses the stamp which is no longer being used by the Cathedral of Our Lady of Victory or rather the illegal stamp,” Rev Ramosoeu said.

While comparing the stamps, Rev Ramosoeu explained that Rev Hlaele’s stamp is modified as compared to the one which the church used a long time ago.

“The stamp is not the same as the current stamp the church is using. Therefore, it is illegal,” Rev Ramosoeu said.
“The law of the church clearly states that once people are baptized, a registry should be filed at church but the case is different with Rev Hlaele,” he said.

He said if Rev Hlaele is conducting Holy Mass at the Pope’s Monument instead of at the church, it is unacceptable.
Also Rev Ramosoeu said there is a standard charge for the issuance of baptismal certificates, and this fee is used to maintain stationery used at the church but he does not know how Rev Hlaele operates.

In terms of validation of baptism, he said he does not know how he carries out the baptismal process but since he is a priest, they “believe he rightfully follows procedure”.

Rev Ramosoeu further noted that the Archbishop approached Rev Hlaele and encouraged him to stop holding Mass at the Pope’s Monument.
“He urged parishioners not to baptise their loved ones at the monument,” he said.
“This causes trouble when they seek church services such as wedding Mass.”
Efforts to get comment from Rev Hlaele were not successful.

Tokase Mphutlane

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