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Crisis over Ahiara Bishop deepens as clergy, laity disobey Vatican

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By Chidi Nkwopara

The lingering crisis over the appointment of Bishop Peter Okpalaeke, as the new Catholic Bishop of Ahiara, Mbaise Diocese, deepened yesterday, as some priests and laity refused to obey the Papacy.

The Vatican Secretary of State, Pietro Cardinal Parolin, had in a letter addressed to the laity and clergy of Ahiara Catholic Diocese, urged the people to respect the Papal appointment.

The letter, which was delivered and read by the Papal Envoy, who doubled as the President, Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, Peter Cardinal K. Appiah Turkson, explained that he was at Mbaise  “as a personal delegate of the Pope.”

Addressing the clergy and laity, Cardinal Turkson said: “Sincerely speaking, this drama in Ahiara Diocese would have been taken care of long before now. If the Pope appointed your Bishop, the first thing to do was to first accept him and complain later.

“You can’t despise a leader and still expect him to exercise his leadership potentials over your needs. You must learn to allow the Holy Father to exercise his office.”

While calling on the people to respond to the letter from the Secretary, the visiting Cardinal also opined that “the present situation, to me, is a sad situation”.

After taking some time to explain how bishops of the Catholic Church were appointed, the papal envoy also promised that he would investigate if due process was not followed in Bishop Okpalaeke’s case.

“If the Pope calls for another appointment, what is the guarantee that the new appointment would be accepted? Give due respect to the Pope and then complain later,” the envoy said.

But the drama followed when the priest, who acted as the master of ceremony, called specific people to speak and shut out the pro-Bishop Okpalaeke group.

Addressing the congregation, Eze Julius Amaefule said what the people wanted was justice, claiming there was injustice in Okpalaeke’s appointment.

“Due process was not taken in the appointment of the Bishop. His Eminence, John Cardinal Onaiyekan came and instead of solving the problem, he scattered the priests. We have seminarians who are due for ordination but he didn’t do it. Those who were due for confirmation were abandoned. Under no condition shall we receive Okpalaeke in Ahiara.”

While Dr. Festus Nguma said the people had in the past two years, rejected Okpalaeke, the Chairman, Laity Council, Sir Gerald Anyanwu, said there were 74 parishes and more than 80 per cent were against Okpalaeke’s appointment.

“Something can happen tomorrow and people will turn round and say that Mbaise people have killed him. We do not want him,” Nguma said.

Also, President of the Catholic Women Organisation, CWO, Mrs. Felicia Nwogu, urged the Church to listen to the cry of the mothers, saying, “a lot has happened here. The church should listen to the cry of mothers. We are speaking with one voice. To bring Bishop Okpalaeke here is to destroy lives.”


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