VATICAN ( Archbishop Gabriel Zubeir Wako has been sentenced to prison by a court in Sudan, and the government has confiscated several vehicles used by the Catholic Church for humanitarian work.

      The Comboni Press news agency-- an organization supported by the missionary congregation of the same name-- could not report the length of the archbishop's prison sentence. The press report indicated that Archbishop Zubeir Wako is currently free pending an appeal.

      The case against the archbishop was brought by a Sudanese merchant, who claimed that the Catholic Church had never paid him for aid he distributed to refugees. Church sources insisted that the aid had in fact never been delivered, and Archbishop Zubeir Wako indicated that he would prefer to serve a prison term rather than pay the debt with money which could be used to serve the starving people of Sudan.

      According to Comboni Press-- whose release was distributed through the Vatican press office today, in an unusual move-- the archbishop was arrested on Easter Sunday by a police officer, the brother of the merchant who brought the original charges. Sources in Khartoum suggested that the Sudan government has welcomed the opportunity for a confrontation with the Catholic Church.

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April 24-26, 1998 volume 9, no. 80         DAILY CATHOLIC