Posted by News Express | 21 July 2013 | 5,256 times
President of the Association of Ahiara Mbaise Diocesan Priests, Reverend Father Austin Bernadine Ekechukwu, has told people of the diocese not to worry as the Administrator recently appointed by Pope Francis will produce a Bishop of Mbaise extraction before the end of this year.
“Father Ekechukwu, who is the Parish priest of Saint Joseph’s Catholic Church, Otulu, Ahiara Mbaise, made it clear that the mandate of Cardinal John Onaiyekan is to ensure that an indigenous priest of the diocese emerges as Bishop,” according to Sunday Sun newspaper, which interviewed him.
Cardinal Onaiyekan, according to Father Ekechukwu, “would commence intensive and extensive discussions and consultations with priests of the diocese and other stakeholders as a preparatory ground for the selection of an indigenous priest of the diocese as Bishop.”
Father Ekechukwu “expressed optimism that Cardinal Onaiyekan would perform his assignment as directed by the Holy Father before the year runs out.”
He stressed “that the appointment of Cardinal Onaiyekan by the papacy to administer the diocese shows that the Episcopal seat in the diocese is now vacant and that the diocese is now directly under the authority of the Vatican City.”
This effectively closes the door on His Lordship the Most Rev. Dr. Peter Ebere Okpaleke, whose appointment as the new Bishop of the diocese has been vehemently rejected by Ahiara Mbaise in preference for an indigenous Bishop.
Okpaleke, who was consecrated on May 21 in nearby Owerri, capital of Imo State in South-East Nigeria, had been prevented from assuming duties, thus forcing Rome to appoint an administrator for the diocese pending the resolution of the crisis.
Cardinal Onaiyekan, who is the Catholic Archbishop of Abuja, has since started preliminary work as Administrator of Ahiara Mbaise Diocese following his appointment on July 3. He is expected to hold his inaugural Holy Mass this weekend and has vowed to resolve the bishop crisis as soon as possible.
•Photo shows Cardinal Onaiyekan.
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