Recall that since after the appointment of Bishop Peter Okpalaeke as Bishop of Ahiara, there has been a rumbling and raging controversy in the Diocese.
The Holy Father recently received a Delegation of the Diocese of
Ahiara, Nigeria, in a private Audience, which has been living a painful
situation for years (see Fides, 8/6/2017). The members of the Delegation
were accompanied by His Eminence Cardinal J. O. Onaiyekan, Archbishop
of Abuja and Apostolic Administrator of Ahiara, His Excellency A. J.
Obinna, Metropolitan Archbishop of Owerri, I. A. Kaigama, Archbishop of
Jos and President of the Episcopal Conference of Nigeria, His Excellency
P. E. Okpaleke, Bishop of Ahiara. Also Cardinal Secretary of
State, the Prefect and Superiors of the Congregation for the
Evangelization of Peoples were also present as well as Reverend Fathers
C. O. Ebii, J. N. Uwalaka and U. I. Olekamma, Sister B. O. Ezeyi and
S.A.R.P Iwu, Traditional Head, on behalf of the religious and lay
faithful. The meeting, characterized by dialogue and listening, ended
with a prayer to Mary and the Pope's blessing.
Below is the Holy Father’s text:
"I cordially greet the Delegation and thank you for coming from Nigeria in a spirit of pilgrimage.
For me, this meeting is a consolation because I am deeply saddened by the events of the Church in Ahiara.
In fact, the Church (and excuse the wording) is like a widow for having
prevented the Bishop from coming to the Diocese. Many times I have
thought about the parable of the murderous tenants, of which the Gospel
speaks (cf. Mt 21:33-44), that want to grasp the inheritance. In this
current situation the Diocese of Ahiara is without the bridegroom, has
lost her fertility and cannot bear fruit. Whoever was opposed to Bishop
Okpaleke taking possession of the Diocese wants to destroy the Church.
This is forbidden; perhaps he does not realize it, but the Church is
suffering as well as the People of God within her. The Pope cannot be
I know very well the events that have been dragging on
for years and I am thankful for the attitude of great patience of the
Bishop, indeed the holy patience demonstrated by him. I listened and
reflected much, even about the possibility of suppressing the Diocese,
but then I thought that the Church is a mother and cannot abandon her
many children. I feel great sorrow for those priests who are being
manipulated even from abroad and from outside the Diocese.
that, in this case, we are not dealing with tribalism, but with an
attempted taking of the vineyard of the Lord. The Church is a mother and
whoever offends her commits a mortal sin, it’s very serious. However, I
decided not to suppress the Diocese. Instead, I wish to give some
indications that are to be communicated to all: first of all it must be
said that the Pope is deeply saddened. Therefore, I ask that every
priest or ecclesiastic incardinated in the Diocese of Ahiara, whether he
resides there or works elsewhere, even abroad, write a letter addressed
to me in which he asks for forgiveness; all must write individually and
personally. We all must share this common sorrow. In the letter
1.one must clearly manifest total obedience to the Pope, and
2.whoever writes must be willing to accept the Bishop whom the Pope sends and has appointed.
3.The letter must be sent within 30 days, from today to July 9th, 2017.
Whoever does not do this will be ipso facto suspended a divinis and
will lose his current office.
This seems very hard, but why must the
Pope do this? Because the people of God are scandalized. Jesus reminds
us that whoever causes scandal must suffer the consequences. Maybe
someone has been manipulated without having full awareness of the wound
inflicted upon the ecclesial communion.
To you brothers and sisters,
I would like to express my sincere thanks for your presence; and also
to Cardinal Onaiyekan for his patience and to Bishop Okpaleke, whose
patience and humility I admire. Thank you all". (Agenzia Fides,