The Most Rev. Ignatius Kaigama, the immediate past President of Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Nigeria (CBCN), has advised priests and faithful of Ahiara Diocese to obey and support the new administrator appointed by Pope Francis.
Kaigama, Archbishop of Jos Catholic Archdiocese, made the call in an interview with the Newsmen in Abuja while reacting to the developments in the diocese.
Pope Francis has appointed Most Rev. Lucius Ugorji, the Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Umuahia, as the Apostolic Administrator of Ahiara Diocese, following the resignation of the Rt. Rev. Peter Okpaleke, the Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Ahiara.
Okpaleke had recently resigned as a result of the crisis that has lingered for nearly six years in the diocese.
The clergy and the laity of Ahiara refused to accept Okpaleke appointed as their local ordinary on grounds that he is not from Mbaise.
The priests of Ahiara insisted that one of the priests of the Mbaise origin should be chosen as the bishop of Ahiara.
Kaigama, however, called on every catholic faithful in the diocese to support the new administrator, saying “ this is the time to overcome and move forward.
“This is time of lent, a time of critical examination; all that we are struggling for is eternal life, is not for any political advantage.
“How long will I live in this world? Even if I am a bishop for 100 years, I will have to leave this world so it is a matter of eternal life.
“We hope that we will overcome our differences and focus on our faith and how to achieve peace and harmony here and attain eternal life when we leave this world.’’
The archbishop said that a lot of negative things had happened in the diocese, praying that the new development would bring positive things to the faithful.
According to him, the situation in Ahiara is not a normal one.
“We just keep praying that it will return to normal; the pope has spoken and as Catholics, we don’t want to go beyond that.
“We just take what has been given and hope for the best.
“There is nothing we can say than to urge the people to accept what the pope has decided.’’
Kaigama said it a culture of Catholics to obey the directives of the pope, saying “ that is what binds us together and that is what creates the spirit of family among.
“We accept in obedience what the Holy Father tells us and that is why you see the Catholic Church is growing worldwide.
“We hope this development will bring greater peace and understanding, will bring healing and reconciliation and the family of God in Ahiara Diocese will flourish,’’ he said.
Similarly, the CBCN in a communiqué issued on Thursday after its first Plenary accepted the resignation of Okpaleke appointment of Ugorji as the Apostolic Administrator of the vacant See of Ahiara.
In a communiqué read by Bishop Donatus Akpan of Ogoja Diocese at Mass held St Charles Lwanga, Apo, the bishops urged all Catholic faithful to do the same.
“We commend our brother Okpaleke for his outstanding faith and courage.
“We commend him in the face of his unfortunate non-acceptance as the Bishop of Ahiara by a large sector of the clergy and laity of the diocese.
“We pray for repentance and reconciliation among the Christ faithful of Ahiara,’’ the communiqué read.