ANXIETY mounted, yesterday, when a television station broke the news of a replacement for the ailing Catholic Archbishop of Lagos, His Grace, Anthony Cardinal Okogie, who is currently receiving treatment in an undisclosed foreign hospital.
The early morning report merely quoted a Vatican Radio, without giving reasons, for the replacement by Bishop Adewale Martins from Abeokuta and the new posting of Cardinal Okogie, thereby heightening worries about the state of health of the longest serving Archbishop of the Metropolitan See of Lagos.
Several Catholics across the country and other well wishers who were obviously disturbed by the development were busy making frantic efforts to get information about Okogie who has been out of public glare for months now due to ill health.
The director of Social Communications at the Catholic Archdiocese of Lagos, Rev. Monsignor Gabriel Osu, was overwhelmed by calls from inquisitive reporters and had to issue a statement dousing tension that the cardinal was being relieved of his duties because he had actually attained his canonical retirement age of 75 years.
His statement reads: “The Supreme Pontiff, Pope Benedict XIV, has appointed Bishop Alfred Adewale Martins of Abeokuta Diocese as the new Archbishop of Lagos.
”In a release gotten from the Vatican Radio and confirmed by the Catholic Secretariat of Nigeria, Bishop Martins is to take over as the Metropolitan of the See of Lagos from His Eminence Anthony Cardinal Okogie, who has attained the canonical age of 75 years.
”Meanwhile the Pope appointed His Eminence Anthony Cardinal Okogie as the Apostolic Administrator of the Archdiocese of Lagos until the installation of the newly appointed Archbishop”.
Continuing, the Archdiocesan spokesman said Martins was ordained a Catholic priest on September 11, 1983 in Lagos and was elevated to become the first bishop of the newly created Diocese of Abeokuta on October 24, 1997, before his new appointment on Thursday, May 25, 2012 as the Archbishop of Lagos.
Okogie was ordained priest on December 4, 1966 against his father’s wish and he almost immediately after found himself in theatre of war when he was posted to the war front as chaplain in the 3rd Armoured Division of the Nigerian Army, an experience, many believe, helped to redefine his vocation as a priest.
Reacting to the news yesterday, the national president of Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN, Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor, welcomed Martins to the saddle while extolling the virtues of the retired cardinal, describing him as a colossus who had made invaluable contributions to the development of the nation and the Church in Nigeria.