Rejection of Ahiara Bishop ‘disgrace’ to Catholic Church — Priest

Pope Francis [Photo: salon.com]
Pope Francis [Photo: salon.com]

A Catholic priest, Philip Jamang, has described the rejection of Peter Okpalaeke by some members of Ahiara Diocese, Mbaise, in Imo, as a “disgrace” to the Catholic Church.

Mr. Jamang, parish priest of Church of Assumption, Chongo Pyel, Jos, told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) that it was particularly wrong for some priests to support those against a Bishop appointed by the Pope.

“Their action is strange; it is an insult never heard of in the Catholic Church,” he said on Monday in Jos.

Ahiara Catholic Diocese has remained without a Bishop, more than four years after the death of its pioneer Bishop, Victor Chikwe, a Rt. Rev., after the rejection of Mr. Okpalaeke, who was appointed and consecrated in 2012.

A section of Mbaise priests, supported by a segment of the laity, have remained opposed to Okpalaeke because of his birthplace.

In May, the Pope gave the diocese a 30-day ultimatum to accept Mr. Okpalaeke and apologise, or face sanctions.

The ultimatum expired last month without compliance.

Mr. Jamang, while reacting to the lingering disagreement, said the action of the priests and the laity had demeaned the Catholic Church and the sacred place of the Pontiff.

“The Catholic Church is a united entity known for sanity and dignity. If today some sections of the Church, including priests in Ahiara, are rejecting a Bishop on the basis of clan, then something is really wrong.

“Most of the Bishops are not natives of Dioceses where they serve. Bishop Ignatius Kaigama of Jos, for instance, is from Jalingo in Taraba. Bishop Mathew Kukah of the Sokoto Diocese is from Kaduna State.

“For any Catholic faithful to insist that his or her Bishop must be a native of the area he is posted, is very odd and strange,” he said.

Mr. Jamang urged Catholics and other Christians to accept and support people ordained by God and sent to work with them as his ministers, and avoid actions that would bring shame to Christianity.

He also called on Christians to pray for the unity of the Church and Nigeria in general (NAN)


DOWNLOAD THE PREMIUM TIMES MOBILE APP

Now available on

  Premium Times Android mobile applicationPremium Times iOS mobile applicationPremium Times blackberry mobile applicationPremium Times windows mobile application

TEXT AD:DIABETES Is CURABLE! Don't Let It Threaten You! To NORMALIZE Your Blood Sugar In 21Days For Life, Click Here!!!.


All rights reserved. This material and any other material on this platform may not be reproduced, published, broadcast, written or distributed in full or in part, without written permission from PREMIUM TIMES.


  • Frank Bassey

    I think it is the church authorities that triggered this disgrace. I have followed the development closely and it is obvious that the cause of all these is the characteristic pretentious nature of the Catholic church. I understand that the anger of the Ahiara Mbaise catholic faithful was that someone believed to be close to immediate past Pope reported falsely that the Ahiara Mbaise catholic faithful were fighting and killing themselves over who would succeed the late Bishop Chikwe. Based on this report, the authorities looked for an alternative candidate from Awka in Anambra State where Cardinal Arinze, now in the Vatican, comes from. Already, this area has produced 22 bishops (both dead and alive) while Mbaise has produced 1. Mbaise has a far greater population of Catholics and priests than Awka (if population was the criteria). Secondly, the people argued that the Catholic has a tradition of consulting the Diary of the dead Bishop to see who he had penned down as his possible successor. This was not done. I think, the church overestimated its autocracy by pretending that the selection process was all spiritual without element of politics. A lesson against future miscalculations.

    • madu kingsley

      Fast forward to the present bishopric impasse. We must be
      reminded that contrary to what some may want to incorrectly portray, there are
      laws that govern the processes of the Catholic Church- The Code of Canon Law.
      When there is a vacant See, The Code of Canon Law, Can. 377 §2, provides
      guidance thus… “At least every three years, bishops of an ecclesiastical
      province or, where circumstances suggest it, of a conference of bishops, are in
      common counsel and in secret to compose a list of presbyters, even including
      members of institutes of consecrated life, who are more suitable for the
      episcopate. They are to send it to the Apostolic See, without prejudice to the
      right of each bishop individually, to make known to the Apostolic See the names
      of presbyters whom he considers worthy of and suited to the Episcopal
      function.” Prior to his passing away, His Lordship Bishop Victor A. Chikwe,
      recommended names of Mbaise priests (secretly as required) from which his
      preferred successor should emerge. Contrary to expectations, although within
      the powers of the Holy See, another perceived scion of Cardinal Francis Arinze
      emerged Bishop-elect, again, from the “left field”.

      We have been peddled baseless claims about how this decision was taken,
      allegedly ‘because Mbaise priests were fighting or petitioning against each
      other’, but no one has told us who the finalists were, that were the targets of
      such petitions. They cannot share this list, because, as per the Code of Canon
      Law, the process is a secret one. In the event there are random petitions,
      which are not uncommon in our society today, mostly only members of the
      Congregations of Bishops sworn to secrecy on this matter would have knowledge
      of their contents. If and when such become public knowledge or the exercise
      used to tarnish the character of and decide suitability of qualified members of
      an entire community to become Bishop, then it is unfair, a violation of due
      process, and thus must be fully adjudicated.

      The clergy and laity of Ahiara Diocese who appear to have studied the Code of
      Canon Law are now using its provisions to deny Bishop Okpalaeke possession of
      the Diocese, while demanding explanations. The Catholic Church hierarchy will
      be well advised to resolve this matter diligently and forthrightly, or risk
      losing credibility and control, as more communities could apply the Mbaise
      formula. To become a diocesan Bishop involves two critical but separate steps,
      hitherto routine and taken for granted. The first step is the Ordination, which
      is totally controlled by Vatican; the second is Canonical Possession, under the
      control of a local College of Diocesan Consulters. The relevant Code, Can. 382
      §1prescribes that…“One promoted as bishop cannot assume the exercise of the
      office entrusted to him before he has taken canonical possession of the
      diocese….” Can. 382 §3 further prescribes that “A bishop takes canonical
      possession of a diocese when he personally or through a proxy has shown the
      apostolic letter in the same diocese to the college of consulters in the
      presence of the chancellor of the curia, who records the event”

      With the instrument of Canonical Possession in their hands, and given their
      stated historical bishopric snubs and the mishandling of the present impasse by
      the Nigerian Catholic Hierarchy, Mbaisemay likely forever deny Bishop Okpalaeke
      Possession of Ahiara Diocese, keeping him essentially a Titular Bishop- a
      bishop without doman.

      We must be reminded that contrary to what some may want to
      incorrectly portray, there are laws that govern the processes of the Catholic
      Church- The Code of Canon Law. When there is a vacant See, The Code of Canon
      Law, Can. 377 §2, provides guidance thus… “At least every three years, bishops
      of an ecclesiastical province or, where circumstances suggest it, of a
      conference of bishops, are in common counsel and in secret to compose a list of
      presbyters, even including members of institutes of consecrated life, who are
      more suitable for the episcopate. They are to send it to the Apostolic See,
      without prejudice to the right of each bishop individually, to make known to
      the Apostolic See the names of presbyters whom he considers worthy of and
      suited to the Episcopal function.”

      To become a diocesan Bishop involves two critical but
      separate steps, hitherto routine and taken for granted. The first step is the
      Ordination, which is totally controlled by Vatican; the second is Canonical
      Possession, under the control of a local College of Diocesan Consulters. The
      relevant Code, Can. 382 §1prescribes that…“One promoted as bishop cannot assume
      the exercise of the office entrusted to him before he has taken canonical possession
      of the diocese….” Can. 382 §3 further prescribes that “A bishop takes canonical
      possession of a diocese when he personally or through a proxy has shown the
      apostolic letter in the same diocese to the college of consulters in the
      presence of the chancellor of the curia, who records the event”

      With the instrument of Canonical Possession in their hands, and given their
      stated historical bishopric snubs and the mishandling of the present impasse by
      the Nigerian Catholic Hierarchy, Mbaisemay likely forever deny Bishop Okpalaeke
      Possession of Ahiara Diocese, keeping him essentially a Titular Bishop- a
      bishop without doman.

    • marc umeh

      Thanks for enlightening us on the cause of this unprecedented revolt against the holy father. In present day nigeria , where you come from is as important than any other qualification.
      The Pope should be educated on our mentality. A bit of democracy might help.

    • javscong javscong

      The procedure adopted is not as straight forward as you seem to think. Since Vatican II, the powers of the laity in the selection of Bishops have virtually disappeared. A retiring Bishop may have an input just as the Archdiocesan Bishop. It is the Papal Nuncio who ultimately forwards the names of possible candidates to the Pope who is the appointing authority. Mbaise may have more ordained priests than any other clan in Nigeria. The issue may be that at the time there was a vacancy, perhaps none of them was found worthy within the definition of Canon 378. Certainly the way the priests have conducted themselves in the last 5 years may be an indication of some serious underlying flaws. Obedience is one of the vows all priests take, vide Canon C 1(3). Therefore, disobeying the Pope is perhaps the most serious negation of their vows. The Holy Father may have no choice other than to suppress that diocese and get rid of all those priests. As a practicing Catholic I feel shamed and scandalised by these priests. I begin to doubt if indeed they were “called to the vocation”.

      • Frank Bassey

        Ok. Let “Bishop” Okpalaeke move to his new Diocese of Ahiara.

  • Fadama

    The Diocese must get their act in order and start behaving like men in divine robes.

  • otunne steve gofrey

    It is unfortunate that respected Holy Catholic church could descend so loo. This is one of the signs of the end.

  • Mentus

    While the Ahiara diocese is at it, can they recall all their priests from wherever they are posted. So they can have their own indigenes as their bishops.

  • Apath

    Do we really need to go to church? if it must be where you come from. As Christians is that the best way to tell others that you are not happy with the Bishop, have you forgotten about prayers so soon? How many times have they even rejected our globally known corrupt politicians who kill and rig elections within this same area or state. How many times, this same diocese has gone to streets to demonstrate about any injustice in the state, in terms of political appointments, elections etc. They do accept and live with it. The priests in this diocese are responsible for all this shame. One may look at this as hypocrisy to the highest order!