Pope Francis has issued a stern warning to some Nigerian priests over the refusal of Ahiara Diocese in Imo State, South East Nigeria, to allow Bishop Peter Okpaleke to preside over the Diocese after he was appointed to do so by Pope Benedict in 2012.
Bishop Okpaleke appointment was rejected by some Mbaise priests on the grounds that a non Mbaise priest will not preside over the Ahiara Diocese.
Bishop Okpaleke is not from the Mbaise clan. The Pontiff has given 30 days for Bishop Okpaleke to be accepted.
Vatican Newspaper L’ Osservatore Romano yesterday reported that Pope Francis threatened to suspend the priests from the Ministry if they did not pledge to carry out the order by July 9.
The Pope was quoted to have said he was acting “for the good of the people of God”
The Vatican later issued a short statement on the meeting where the decision was taken on June 8, describing the situation in the Diocese as “unacceptable”
The Pontiff, according to the newspaper, said every priest of the diocese “must write a letter to him by July 9 asking for forgiveness and must clearly manifest total obedience to the Pope” or else he would be suspended and would lose his office.
The Pope said he took the tough action because “the people of God are scandalized”.
Bishop Okpaleke’s appointment as Bishop of Ahiara Diocese had sparked intense controversy within and outside the Catholic Church in Imo State and Nigeria.