By Sr Bernadette Mary Reis, fsp
The Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples released a press statement on Monday stating: "The Holy Father, after having accepted the resignation of His Excellency Peter Ebere Okpaleke, has relieved him of the pastoral care of the Diocese of Ahiara, and at the same time has thanked him for his love for the Church.”
Who is Bishop Okpaleke
Bishop Okpaleke was appointed by Pope Benedict XVI in 2012 as Bishop of the southern Nigerian diocese of Ahiara. Local clergy and faithful objected to his appointment and prevented him from entering the cathedral in order to take possession of the diocese. In June 2017, Pope Francis asked any clergy personnel who was formally a member of the diocese to write a letter to him pledging fidelity to the Pope, and expressing willingness to accept the appointment of Bishop Okpaleke.
Pope appoints Apostolic Administrator
Pope Francis received over 200 letters from individual priests manifesting their obedience and fidelity to him, and explanations regarding their difficulty in accepting the episcopal appointment of Bishop Okpaleke. The press release continues to say that “taking into account their repentance, the Holy Father decided not to proceed with the canonical sanctions and instructed the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples to respond to each of them.” The Pope “does not intend to appoint a new Bishop in Ahiara, but (…) reserves to Himself the right to continue to have a special and particular concern for this Diocese.” He has appointed an Apostolic Administrator, Bishop Lucius Iwejuru Ugorji, Bishop of Umuahia to whom he has granted all the faculties of a Bishop.