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|Imo Catholic Diocese Boils Over Appointment Of Bishop by o'boy: 7:43pm On May 17|
By Anolu Vincent, Senior Correspondent, Owerri
The Roman Catholic world is expected to be rattled today with the planned mass protestby the Ahiara Catholic Diocese over the appointment and proposed consecration of Monsignor Peter Okpalaeke as the new Bishop of the diocese on May 21.
The diocese, which is a stronghold of the Catholic Church with over 200 indigenous priests and 95 per cent faithful, has been in the eyes of the storm following the decisionof the Vatican to install Okpalaeke to succeed the late Bishop of the diocese, the Rt. Rev. Victor Chikwe.
Chikwe, the pioneer Bishop of the Ahiara Diocese which was excised from Owerri Diocese, passed on in 2010.
The mass protest which is expected to traverse the length and breath of the three local government areas of Mbaise will involve men, women, the clergy, the laity and children.
The protest, said to be unprecedented in theannals of the Catholic Church in the country is a culmination of the people’s indignation and rejection of Okpalaeke as the new Bishop of the diocese.
Investigation by Daily Independent revealed that the rejection of Okpalaeke was not unconnected with a perceived violation of due process in the appointment and ordination of Catholic prelates and domination of the Owerri Ecclesiastical Province made up of Owerri, Umuahia, Ahiara-Mbaise, Orlu, Okigwe and Aba by Onitsha Ecclesiastical Province made up of Onitsha, Nnewi, Awka, Enugu, Awgu, Nsukka and Abakaliki.
The Catholic Church in Igboland is divided into the two Ecclesiastical jurisdictions.
The crisis broke out on December 7, 2012 when Okpalaeke was named the Bishop-elect. Okpalaeke hails from the Onitsha Province.
Amadi Azuogu, a Professor of Biblical Studies, said it is a question of domination and that Mbaise will reject it.
“The Onitsha Province has monopolised recent bishopric appointments in Igboland.
“Since 2011, priests from Onitsha Provinceoccupied all the three vacant bishopric seats from both Owerri and Onitsha Provinces. This is domination. Only one side is now anointed to control the Catholic bishopric in Igboland.
“In the Onitsha Province, three Dioceses (Onitsha, Awka, and Nnewi) are the triangle of Church power. They are the axis of churchpower and control. Whereas Awka Diocese has five Bishops, Mbaise has none. And now, how can one diocese alone produce five Bishops when another has none? When Ahiara Diocese has qualified priests, it is not fair to let a fifth Bishop to be sent from Awka to be the Bishop of Ahiara Diocese.
“Next, out of the six dioceses in the OwerriProvince, Awka Diocese is controlling 50 per cent of the bishopric seats (Aba, Mbaise, Okigwe). There is a clear monopoly of powerhere that is creating a lot of resentment among the people.
“This has raised the aversion level towards the Bishop-elect. He is seen as a conqueror and not as a shepherd like the late Bishop Victor Chikwe who was a father-figure. As it is now, priests from Awka migrate to other places to be diocesan Bishops, but no one has ever been allowed to migrate to Awka to become a diocesan Bishop there. This is not the outlook of evangelisation that the Church wants to project to the world,” he said.
Already, security agents and men of the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) have been mobilised to guard against possible breakdown of law and order during the protest while school children, traders, market women and commuters have been urged to stay in-doors ahead of the peaceful rally.http://dailyindependentnig.com/2013/05/imo-catholic-diocese-boils-over-appointment-of-bishop/
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