The sacred halls of papal Rome

The Cathedral building, Ahiara

Sir: The rhetoric coming out from the Ahiara Catholic Diocese in Mbaise, Imo State is to say the least, a shame. Bishop Peter Okpaleke still hasn’t been installed as Bishop of Ahiara Diocese since 2012.

According to reports, his appointment is against the wish and desire of the faithful and so they railed against the church and not against Bishop Peter Okpaleke’ appointment. I see this as a figment of Catholic fancy for some people to be claiming suzerainty over Ahiara. It was Mary, Queen of Scots who said and I believe it to be true, that, “He who does not keep faith where it is due, will hardly keep it where it is not due.”

While Pope Francis is busy engaging people and entering territories alien to his own comfort zone to promote peace, our Sacerdotal societies do not agree on anything. There is always a turf battle between them: Bishopric.‬ The action of the faithful in Ahiara makes no sense, because as Catholics, we know that a community is never consulted prior to the posting of a clergy man. You woke up to see them. Why is Ahiara different? If people go beetroot-red over an appointment then how can the church promote peace and champion the cause of justice for all? The church must have rules, if it must be taken seriously. We are one world, the body of Christ is one and there shouldn’t be nativism in the church. Pope Francis, after all is not an Italian. This attitude insults the Catholic voice, all over the world.

I wish the church can go back to its well-respected culture of old, and not fall for the cultural cringe that is tearing the church apart in Nigeria. Why allow outside influences to disorient them from their priestly calling? Since when have a laity and church members become so powerful that they are given chance to be pinioned by the limits of reason to challenge a posting all because of piquant symbolism? I can say with pride that the whole world stands to gain a lot if the church in Nigeria is organized. Aren’t we the most populous black nation on earth? And are the faithful not over a billion people?

Maybe we should give the laity, priests and the people of Ahiara the benefit of the doubt as human beings and try to learn if they were under some sort of pressure when they rejected the appointment of Bishop Okpaleke. But is five years not too long? The rejected Bishop has sacrificed a lot and given up many things just to serve the Lord and be with the people of Ahiara. Joining issues with the church therefore is counter-productive. The church needs our prayers to run the race, not condemnation to fall off course.

To the clergy men indulging the agitators: The Lord’s elected must be seen to do right and be above suspicion like Caesar’s wife. To the people of Ahiara: is there a God factor in the appointment of Bishop Peter Okpaleke? If he is then why are you selfishly anthropocentric?
• Simon Abah wrote from Port Harcourt, Rivers State.

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