Nigerian bishops urge obedience in troubled diocese
August 25, 2017
Catholic bishops in the ecclesiastical province of Owerri, in Nigeria, have joined in an exhortation to the people of the Ahiara diocese to “unconditionally obey the Pope, the Vicar of Christ,” and accept the leadership of Bishop Peter Okpaleke.
Priests and lay Catholics in Ahiara have refused to recognize Bishop Okpaleke, causing a crisis in the diocese. In June, Pope Francis wrote to the clergy of Ahiara, saying that priests who did not accept the bishop’s authority within 30 days would be suspended from ministry.
The Owerri bishops thanked the Pope for his intervention, and urged the faithful to comply. They said:
We, bishops in the Owerri ecclesiastical province, have known and felt the scandal and pain of disunity which has attended the crisis in Ahiara diocese. Many have been deeply wounded, and many others have felt bitter. We the bishops and pastors of our province passionately plead for conversion, forgiveness and reconciliation.
Speaking more generally the bishops said that Nigeria is troubled by divisions, and that to repair ties within the nation, all Nigerians should “eschew all forms of hate-speech capable of inflaming passions.”
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