Churchgoers in Santa Barbara de Nexe donned t-shirts declaring “Je Suis Jesus” yesterday (Sunday) – not to reaffirm their love for the son of God, but to try and wrestle back their “dancing priest” from Equatorial Guinea, who has been moved west in a kind of diocesan shuffle.
Jesús Ejocha is no stranger to the media spotlight.
He hit the headlines in 2014 when he used Kizomba and African music to entice young people in through the church’s doors.
In those days he was based in Monchique, delighting the mountain’s faithful after a previous lifetime involved with the theatre, dance, martial arts – and even a spell in a circus school.
From Monchique, Ejocha was transferred to Sagres/ Raposeira/ Vila do Bispo, where his evangelical gyrations continued, and then it was on to Santa Bárbara before the recent return posting to Monchique.
What Monchique is making of Jesus’ return, we have not been informed. But Santa Barbara’s churchgoers are devastated.
At least 30 of them turned up before the Mass taken by Jesus Ejocha’s replacement yesterday, sporting their eye-catching “Je Suis Jesus” t-shirts – their message being simple: Jésus Ejocha isn’t just a mover, he’s a shaker too. He’s brought life back into the area’s dwindling parish, and his flock are not ready to see the back of him.
A 500-strong petition has been raised, demanding Jesús’ return – but according to a spokesperson for the Algarve diocese, nothing can be done.
“People have a right to protest”, Miguel Neto told Sulinformação. “But this exit of Jesús Ejocha is not an isolated act. This pastoral year sees changes in 32 parishes. It is a change that has to be seen in a global context to face necessities of the Catholic Church in the diocese”.
According to Neto, Monchique’s former parish priest José Águas was elderly, and had recently been involved in a car accident.
The Bishhop decided Monchique needed someone with more physical strength, and “joy, someone who knew the place well” – which Ejocha certainly does.
Neto’s explanation was going so well, until he basically insulted the “Je Suis Jesus” protestors saying: “Anyone with any intelligence would understand that the move is logical”.
A further biff came in the news that Ejocha’s replacement is an elderly canon who cannot continue at his post (in Faro) due to his age and “physical strength” (for this read:lack of it).
Thus for now, Santa Barbara’s “Je Suis Jesus” t-shirts have not worked any miracles – though parishioners may have other ideas up their sleeves. There is talk of an appeal to Pope Francis.
Bizarrely, an internet search on the dancing priest reveals that he was accused of having attacked a woman in Sagres, in 2015, by putting his hands round her neck and throwing her against a wall.
The incident took place, reports tabloid Correio da Manhã, in Jesús Ejocha’s then home.
The woman was involved in a relationship with the dancing priest, said the paper.
The report ends with diocesan spokesman Miguel Neto telling reporters that he was not aware of the situation but that it remained a personal matter for the priest, and one the diocese trusted authorities were investigating.
Ejocha has since informed CM that the complaint against him has been archived.