Nigerian Diocese: To Obey Pope Francis or Be Suspended From the Church

By Ivy Lebanan, June 17, 2017 00:06 AM

Pope Francis(BBC)

It's all over the news that Pope Francis has met a delegation from a Nigerian diocese on Thursday which has refused to accept the bishop who was assigned as its shepherd for the last four and a half years. Pope Francis has already ordered that the clerics of the Diocese of Ahiara should accept the bishop appointment that has been made or else face suspension and loss of office.

Way back in 2012, Fr. Peter Okpaleke was assigned to be the Bishop of Ahiara by Benedict XVI. However, the Ahiara diocese is consisted by a majority of the Mbaise ethnic group. As an outsider from the Diocese of Awka and the Mbaise group, Okpaleke was pretty much rejected by much of Ahiara's clergy and laity, who demanded one of their own should be appointed the bishop of Ahiara.

The Mbaise are known to be the most Catholic of the Nigerian people - 77 percent of the diocese's population of 670,00 are Catholic and nearby dioceses range around 19 and 70 percent Catholic in numbers. Having such a wealth of priests, the Ahiara diocese deploys a lot of missionaries to Western countries, and most of them hoped that one of its own should become their bishop.

According to BBC's religion correspondent Martin Bashir, it's very unusual for the pope to issue this kind of threat. The pope already gave the clergy until July 9 to each write a letter of obedience and also ask for forgiveness.

Meanwhile, Archbishop Ignatius Kaigama, the president of the Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria, was also at the meeting in Rome and told BBC that Pope Francis was very upset about the incident and he could see the pain in his eyes. "He was upset that his children were going in a different direction," he added.

In addition, Archbishop Kaigama said that the Catholic church has been doing this tradition for hundreds of years and it will not change now because they want someone from their area to be their leader. It is still unknown at press time if the clergy has responded to the ultimatum or not. Archbishop Kaigama stated that he and other Nigerian Catholics are praying for God's intervention for a resolution on the issue.

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