by Stanley Azuakola
As expected, the ordination of Monsignor Peter Okpalaeke as the Bishop of Ahiara Diocese took place on Tuesday, amid tight security at the Seat of Wisdom Seminary in Ulakwo in Owerri North Local Government Area of Imo State.
The ordination ceremony had in attendance various dignitaries from the Catholic Church, including the Archbishop of Abuja, Cardinal John Onaiyekan.
The homily was taken by the Catholic Bishop of Umuahia, Lucius Ugorji, who insisted that the final decision on appointments of bishop was one taken by the Pope. He also reminded the congregation that the law of the Catholic Church does not have provisions for quota system in the appointment of bishops.
Ugorji added that the acceptance of the Papal’s appointment is a respect for the Pope, while condemning the rejection, protests and inflammatory statements as spiteful and disrespectful of the Papal authority. He charged members of the Ahiara Diocese to put aside their anger and work with the new bishop.
To the new bishop, Ugorji advised him to pursue peace and reconciliation in the diocese.
But as the ceremony which did not take place in the troubled Ahiara Diocese proceeded, some aggrieved youths in the Diocese, went and locked the cathedral in Ahiara Community in Aboh Mbaise Local Government where the new bishop is expected to preside from.
Bishop Okpalaeke was appointed in December by former Pope Benedict XVI last December, after the death of Bishop Victor Chikwe. However, his appointment has been rejected by priests and laymen in the Diocese for the reason that he is not a native.
As they marched to lock the cathedral on Tuesday, the youths disrupted vehicular and human movement. They vowed not to allow the bishop into the cathedral, insisting that the diocese will remain without a bishop for the 10 years that Okpalaeke’s tenure will last.
“Although the development is strange in the Catholic Church but we will not allow this injustice.
“ We don’t want a bishop who is not from our community; that is all we are saying and we are ready to confront them force with force,” one of the protesters said.