by Stanley Azuakola
The Vatican has announced John Cardinal Onaiyekan as the administrator of the Ahiara diocese, following the controversies which have trailed the appointment of Bishop Peter Ebere Okpalaeke as bishop.
All hell was let loose when Okpalaeke was consecrated as Bishop of the Diocese, as priests in the diocese took to the streets in protest, because the new bishop was not an indigene of Ahiara. They locked the cathedral from where he was supposed to preside, and swore that they would have nothing to do with him. And it has been that way since then in an eerie reminder of how the ethnic divisions that gnaw away at our common bond as Nigerians continue to affect every sphere of our national life, including religion.
Things are now relatively calm as the diocese awaits the arrival of Onaiyekan.
According to the President of the Association of Ahiara Diocesan Priests, Rev. Fr. Austin Bernadine Ekechukwu, the Cardinal is due in the Diocese later this month when he will start work with a Holy Mass.
In a twist, it appears that the Vatican has bowed to the pressure from the indigenes and is now set to appoint an indigene of Ahiara as substantive bishop. That is reportedly one of the reasons why Onaiyekan was named administrator.
Rev.Fr. Ekechukwu said the interim Bishop will hold extensive discussions and consultations with Priests in the Diocese and other stakeholders on the selection of an indigene as substantive bishop.
He said: “Monsignor Okpaleke is gone and gone forever and has no business to do with us in this diocese. The appointment of John Cardinal Onaiyekan by the papacy to administer the Diocese shows that the Episcopal Seat in the diocese is vacant and that the diocese is now directly under the authorities of the Vatican city.”
Ekechukwu dismissed suggestions that priests from the diocese are threatening to resign should the Vatican city fail to meet their request.