By CHIDI NKWOPARA, Owerri
Priests and lay faithful of the Catholic Diocese of Ahiara, Mbaise, yesterday, staged a peaceful demonstration against the appointment of Monsignor Ebere Peter Okpalaeke as the bishop-elect of the diocese.
Apart from the peaceful demonstration staged at Mbaise, the priests and lay faithful handed out a six-page press statement signed by eight persons, including the President and Secretary, Ahiara Diocesan Priests Association, Rev. Fr. Austin B. Ekechukwu and Rev. Fr. Dominic N. Ekweariri respectively.
“We, the priests and Lay faithful of Ahiara Diocese state quite clearly that we have nothing whatsoever against the person of Monsignor Ebere Peter Okpalaeke and do not per se oppose his choice as a bishop of the Catholic Church, but we strongly contest his suitability for Ahiara Diocese, given its uniqueness and pastoral realities”, they stated.
While denying that it was alleged disunity amongst the priests of Ahiara Diocese that led to the appointment of a priest from Awka Diocese as bishop-elect, the priests also challenged anybody to provide any evidence to the contrary.
“The appointment of Monsignor Okalaeke contradicts natural justice. It sends a very reprehensible signal about the status and reputation of the 500 Catholic priests that trace their origin to the soils of Mbaise, a diocese that has been acclaimed the Ireland of Nigeria.
“In unequivocal terms, we restate our resolve to resist any attempt to forcefully impose him on us as the bishop of our beloved diocese”.
Meanwhile, some critics have not only slammed the protesting priests but also accused them of being myopic about the universality of the Catholic Church.
An Mbaise man, who simply identified himself as Ambrose, reminded the priests that “they are carefully trying to set a very bad precedent in the Church”.