BY CHIDI NKWOPARA
OWERRI—The Metropolitan Archbishop of Abuja and the current Apostolic Administrator of Ahiara Catholic Diocese, His Eminence, John Cardinal Onaiyekan, has explained that his mission in Mbaise was to ensure episcopal supervision of the diocese.
Onaiyekan gave the explanation in a homily he delivered during a Pontifical mass at Maria Mater Ecclesiae Cathedral, Ahiara, to mark his assumption of duties in the diocese.
Cardinal Onaiyekan said: “My task and mission is to ensure necessary episcopal supervision of this diocese within the present interim period, hopefully brief, until a bishop is on seat”.
He appealed to Mbaise Catholics not to allow the present situation continue for much longer, stressing that nobody will gain from it except enemies of the Catholic Church.
He said: “My dear brothers and sisters, every time we drive away a stranger knocking at our door, we run a great danger of driving God Himself away from our homes and loosing the great blessings that God alone can bestow. It is better to take the risk of bringing in an unknown person than to risk rejecting God”.
According to the Cardinal, “Ahiara people may have many legitimate and deeply felt concerns, but as children of the church, we cannot allow anything to distract us from achieving this one objective of a restored, vibrant diocese that is fully active and firmly integrated in tthe family of God, which is the Church”.
In their address during a reception for Cardinal Onaiyekan, the Catholic faithful of Ahiara Diocese, Mbaise, explained that their insistence on justice, fair play and due process should not be seen as disobedience to the Papacy.
They stated that: “All that Mbaise Catholics are asking for is justice, fair play and due process. Let what is due to a people be given to them”.
Continuing, the people reasoned that nobody should use his privileged position in the Catholic Church as a cover and leverage to foster modern day colonization and domination of their brothers and sisters. The address, which was signed by the former administrator, Monsignor Theophilus Nwalo, former Diocesan Pastoral Council Chairman, Professor Paschal Okorie and others, recalled with grief the havoc caused by the appointment of Bishop Peter Okpaleke.
“We must recall with grief the great havoc the controversial choice of Bishop Peter Okpaleke as the Bishop of Ahiara Diocese had wreaked in the spirituality and psyche of the great Catholics of Ahiara Diocese”, the Catholic faithful said.
According to the people, the choice and appointment of Okpaleke was ill-advised.
He stressed that the act only succeeded in multiplying and compounding the great pains they had been feeling since the sudden death of their first bishop, Most Rev. Victor Adibe Chikwe.
While describing Cardinal Onaiyekan as an objective and impartial cleric, the people expressed happiness that “a Daniel has come to judge our case justly and truthfully and we, therefore, expect nothing less from your Eminence”.