BY CHARLES KUMOLU

I am inclined to do this not because I revel in the bishopric crisis rocking Ahiara Diocese.

I am doing this because i am a Catholic and not just a ceremonial one but one with deep knowledge of Catholicism and the things it stands for.

I am also into this not just because i was born a Catholic, nurtured a Catholic and living Catholicism. I love the church and the priesthood in the same measure, aspired to the priesthood and walked the path of becoming one. Today, i am a proud member of the laity.

I am also writing this because my depth in the Catholic faith makes me a casualty in this dance of shame.

If you think Bishop Okpaleke, the priests of Ahiara Diocese, the laity in the diocese and the Pope are the only casualties, you are wrong.

The church, its values and all, who believe in one holy Catholic and Apostolic Church, are all victims of the repugnant dance in Ahiara Diocese.

However, the ultimate casualties are those, who by their words and actions support the rebellious priests, who have chosen to oppose the Vicar of Christ on earth.

Frankly, anyone, who calls himself a catholic, recognizes and accepts the Supremacy of the Pontiff, whose kingship and scepter shall never fall, is bound to respect the values of the church.

And by accepting these through our Catholicism, we are eternally in concomitant with the powers of the Holy Father over the Church of Christ the Lord.

The appointment of a Bishop is one of the numerous functions the Pope performs especially since 1871 when the Law of Guarantees gave such right to the papacy.

Should there be persons doubting this, it must not be the priests of Ahiara Diocese, who were ordained in the order of Melkizedek of old.

They understand the church, its hierarchy and the dynamics propelling its affairs universally more than the lay people supporting their rebellion.

That is why many are still lost as to the reasons for rebelling against the appointment of Okpaleke as their Local Ordinary (Bishop).

After all he was found not to be lacking in the requirements of possessing strong faith, piety, good morals, human virtue, wisdom and prudence as stipulated in Canon 387:1.

But the Catholic Diocese of Ahiara is not bothered about the position of the Canon Law and the hierarchy of the church. To them, a bishop must be appointed among indigenous priests or the status quo remains. Even one of the priests supported their rebellious act thus: “Okpaleke does not speak the same Igbo dialect with us. His Igbo dialect is different.”

Aren’t these excuses laughable and pedestrian?

Bishop Anthony Gbuji speaks Enuani Igbo (Aniocha|Oshimili Igbo) and the priests of Enugu Dioceses did not rebel against his appointment as the successor of the late Bishop Eneja in 1997.

Even the arrival of Gbuji’s successor in Issele-Uk Diocese did not breed any upheaval on the account of his indigenship and brand of igbo.

When then Fr. Akubueze was made the Bishop of then newly created Uromi Diocese, indigenous priests of Esan extraction accepted him the manner it is universally done in the Church.

The same man is the Archbishop of Benin Diocese having succeeded retired Bishop Patrick Ekpu-an Esan man. Though there were mixed reactions among the laity in Benin under the auspices of Benin Liturgical Council, but they submitted to the decision of the papacy.

The late Bishop Lucas Nwaezeapu, who hailed from Ibusa was the Bishop of Warri Diocese. He never spoke Urhobo nor Itsekiri-the dormant dialects in Warri.

NOTE! These are only but few examples.

Some concerned and informed Catholics, with the same perspective like mine have adduced other empirical instances to remind the rebellious Diocese that indigeneship had never been the parameter for elevating priests to Episcopacy. But to them, it’s either a son of the soil or never!

Since the priests and the laity of Ahiara have stuck to their guns despite the mediation of the Holy Father, one is surprised that they seem to be ignorant of the fact that their actions are ridiculing the cherished values and norms that make us Catholics. And by so doing, they are turning the meaning of disobedience on its head to justify their stance.

It is also instructive to state here that the various schisms the church had witnessed did not happen without corresponding penalties from the Holy See, whose jurisdiction is universal.

In all these, the church emerged stronger than the renegades.
The fact that the priests of Ahiara Diocese are not ignorant of these makes their decision to walk the path of infamy saddening.

NOTE! This piece is with malice toward none and with love for all concerned.

*Charles Kumolu, a staff of Vanguard Newspapers writes from Lagos

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