Catholic Diocese that rejected Pope’s bishop celebrate first Chrism Mass in six years

Ahiara Diocese

There was excitement in Ahiara Catholic Diocese of Imo on Thursday as the Church celebrated its first Chrism Mass in six years.

The Church had been in crisis over the appointment of a bishop to replace the late Victor Chikwe, the pioneer bishop, who died in 2012.

Peter Okpaleke was appointed for the post by the church hierarchy but the indigenous priests and the laity rejected him on the ground that he was not from the area.

They believed that it was unjust to ignore about 700 priests of Ahiara descent and go outside Owerri Ecclesiastical Province to appoint a priest from Awka in Onitsha Province as their bishop.

As the crisis lingered, the Church could not carry out some major activities, such as ordination of priests and others in the religious vocations and confirmation of church members.

Also the blessing of oil for the administration sacraments in the church did not take place, neither did the priests and others in religious vocations renew their vows as Chrism Mass could not hold without a bishop.

Mr Okpaleke resigned his appointment in February and Pope Francis appointed the Lucius Ugorji, the Bishop of Umuahia Diocese, the Apostolic Administrator of Ahiara Diocese.

At the Mass, held at Mater Ecclesiae Cathedral, Mr Ugorji advised the faithful to leave themselves open to the will of God and warned against lawlessness in the Church.

He commended the priests for their many sacrifices and urged them to follow proper procedures in all their actions.

He added that the posting of priests would soon take place and urged those that would be affected to go to their posts cheerfully to win souls for God.

Reacting to the development, the President, Ahiara Diocesan Priests Association, Augustine Ekechukwu, described the resumption of activities at the diocesan headquarters as ”an answered prayer”.

Mr Ekechukwu said the people of Mbaise had been sanctioned unjustly and deserved to have their privileges reinstated.

He commended Pope Francis for appointing Mr Ugorji to oversee the affairs of the diocese and expressed the hope that a native of Mbaise would eventually take over as the bishop of Ahiara Diocese.

“God has answered the prayers of devoted and spiritual minded people of Mbaise; we did nothing wrong, we only fought the war with good intentions knowing that justice will be done.

“Mbaise is happy, Rome listened to the voice of God among Mbaise people when we appealed to the goodness of the Holy Father and he rescued us.

“We’ll keep praying until an Mbaise son takes over,” he said.

Valentine Anyanwu expressed happiness over the celebration of the mass.

“It is wonderful coming back to our diocese to renew our vows for the first time in years; it is a thing of joy and we thank God.

“We also welcome Bishop Ugorji and we are ready to work with him,” he said.

A deacon, Pius Onyekwere, expressed joy that ordinations would soon be done in the diocese.

Mary-Theresà Maduchukwu of Vocationist Sisters Congregation, Aboh, described the day as “a special day in the diocese”.

“We’re very happy to experience Chrism Mass celebrations here again,” she said. (NAN)

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