By Tare Youdeowei
OWERRI—The Knights of St. John International and Ladies Auxiliary, KSJI, an Order within the Roman Catholic Church, has called on Priests and the lay faithful of the Catholic Diocese of Ahiara, in Imo State, to fully comply with the directive of the Holy Father, Pope Francis, regarding accepting Bishop Peter Okpaleke, the ordained Bishop for the diocese.
This comes following the Supreme Subordinate Board (National) meeting of KSJI and their Ladies held, weekend, at KSJI Avenue, Assumpta Cathedral, Owerri.
Speaking after the meeting, the Supreme Subordinate President, KSJI Nigeria, Major General Anselm Okafor who frowned at the situation in Ahiara Diocese said: “We Knights of St. John International, condemn in its entirety the attitude of members of the lay faithful of Ahiara Diocese, which is bordering on intransigence and disrespect to the Pope.”
Okafor further said, “we also express our disappointment with the priests who should know better. Make no mistake about it; the Catholic Church has a rich and enviable history, devoid of ethnic and pre-modal considerations and therefore, the appointment of a Bishop is at the behest of the Pope, and this is backed by Cannon Law 377.”
Bishop Okpaleke was appointed Bishop of Ahiara Diocese by the then Pope Benedict XVI in 2012, but has been unable to take control of the diocese because of protests by some of the priests and lay faithful.
Okpaleke was later ordained a Bishop in May 2013. The ordination took place not in Ahiara diocese but at a Seminary in the Archdiocese of Owerri. But some of the priests argued and still contend that Ahiara is in Mbaise, a predominantly Catholic region of Imo State and that Bishop Okpaleke was brought from neigbhouring Anambra State.
However, in reaction to their opposition, Pope Francis gave a directive to the defiant priests which expired on July 9 (yesterday), to write a letter to apologize for their opposition, promise obedience and allegiance to his authority and accept the Bishop appointed for their diocese.