Posted by News Express | 4 July 2013 | 8,444 times
The appointment of a Sole Administrator for Ahiara Mbaise Catholic Diocese in Imo State, South-East Nigeria, is not something for the diocese to celebrate, afterall.
Though the people of the diocese have succeeded in stopping Father Peter Okpaleke, a priest of the Diocese of Awka in neighboring Anambra State, from serving as their new bishop, the appointment of a Sole Administrator for the diocese is a tactful way of demoting the diocese, News Express has learnt.
“I can tell you authoritatively that it is a demotion,” a source close to the top hierarchy of the Catholic Secretariat of Nigeria, Abuja, told News Express last night. The source was reacting to News Express’ story on the appointment, by Pope Francis, of the Catholic Archbishop of Abuja, Cardinal John Onaiyekan, as the Apostolic Administrator of Ahiara Diocese after declaring the seat of the bishop of the diocese vacant.
“It means that they have no bishop until the problem is resolved,” the source told News Express.
Further explaining the implications of the new development, the source made it clear that Cardinal Onaiyekan “will not abandon his duties as the Archbishop of Abuja and travel down to Ahiara Mbaise to perform the duties of a bishop there.”
“It means that Ahiara Mbaise Diocese can no longer do the things which a bishop does. For instance, they can no longer separate marriages. If hey want to see Cardinal Onaiyekan for anything, they have to go to Abuja and wait if he has no time for them. Even if he went to Rome, they will have to wait for him to return,” the source disclosed.
Founded in 1987, Ahiara Mbaise Diocese was governed by Bishop Victor Chikwe from its inception until his death in 2010. In December 2012, the then Pope Benedict appointed Father Okpaleke as the new bishop but he was rejected by Mbaise Catholics, who are angry that none of the hundreds of priests produced by the community has been deemed fit for appointment as a bishop.
Despite the opposition, the Vatican went ahead to ordain Father Okpaleke on May 21 in neighbouring Owerri, but angry Ahiara Catholics locked the cathedral, declaring that Okpaleke was not welcome.
•Photo shows Cardinal Onaiyekan, the Sole Administrator of Ahiara Mbaise Catholic Diocese.
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