Imo Catholic Priests Reject Bishop Appointed By Pope
Bishop Vincent Okpaleke, a priest from Onitsha Ecclesiastical Province, was consecrated a bishop for Ahiara Diocese on December 7, 2012, at Seat of Wisdom Seminary, Ulakwo in Owerri North Local Government Area of the state after the death of the first bishop, The Most Rev. Dr. Victor Chikwe.
He has since then been operating outside the diocese.
But Catholic priests and laity of Ahiara Diocese (Mbaise) in Imo State have said that they cannot accept Bishop Okpaleke as the prelate of the diocese until the injustice against them was reversed.
They maintained that they were not against the authority of the Pope, but insisted that they should be given some time to heed to the sudden summons of both the clergy and laity of the Diocese to Rome by the Pope.
The priests claimed that the Pope was misinformed about the goings-on in the diocese by the representatives of the Catholic Church in the Vatican City, just as they added that it was time to correct the injustice meted out on them.
They said the diocesan priests had overtime made frantic efforts to make their case known to the Pope, but regretted that those efforts were nipped in the bud by the Nigerian representatives of the church in Rome.
“This is because they don’t want us to uncover their anomalies before His Holiness. The series of letters we have written to the Vatican City through them were treated with ignominy,” the priests alleged.
The President of the Mbaise Indigenous Catholic Priests, Reverend Father Augustine Ekechukwu, contended that the diocese paraded the highest number of priests in Nigeria with high academic degrees in different disciplines and wondered why no priest from the Presbyterium was elected to take over the mantle of leadership of the diocese.
Ekechukwu further said the diocese needed a bishop from the Presbyterium, who understood the operational and administrative mode of the diocese.
Speaking on behalf of the laity, the former chairman of the diocesan council, Festus Nguma, noted that the laity were solidly behind the priests in the struggle for a bishop of their own to be given them.