Ahiara Catholic Diocese: Laity dares Pope, remain adamant over Okpaleke

Catholic faithful of Ahiara Diocese, Mbaise, Imo State, in a protest yesterday, against imposition of Bishop Peter Okpaleke, at the Cathedral premises. PHOTO: CHARLES OGUGBUAJA


• Says Pope Erred
• Okorocha Denies Alleged Plot To Install Embattled Bishop By Force

Hundreds of Catholic faithful and laity of Ahiara Diocese, Mbaise, Imo State, Saturday protested at the Cathedral premises, what they called ‘imposition of Bishop Peter Opkaleke.
The parishioners insisted that either a priest among the 750 from the Mbaise stock be consecrated to head the diocese or the Pope send an incardinated bishop ‘a priest or bishop with Mbaise’s spiritual affinity’ to them.

Chairman of the Laity Council of the Ahiara diocese, Gerald Anyanwu, 78, said they were merely on a prayer meeting, regretting that security officials, who were there early, prevented some of the laity from gaining access into the venue.

But Imo State Police Commissioner, Chris Ezike, had after about three hours meeting at the weekend, refused request by the parishioners to stage a peaceful rally/procession.
Ezike cited a statement by the Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO), Andrew Enwerem, detailing the likelihood of the procession degenerating into a fracas, as happened last year during a similar incident that led to the alleged shooting in the thigh of the Divisional Police Officer (DPO), of Ahiazu Mbaise Local Council, Danjuma Raga.

Imo State Governor, Rochas Okorocha, who arrived the Cathedral alongside security chiefs, dismissed allegations that he came to forcefully install Bishop Opkaleke, explaining that he was there to ensure peace.

Okorocha later held a closed-door meeting with the priests within the premises before addressing the laity and pleading that the parishioners remain calm.However, as the aggrieved laity members were prevented by police from carrying out open-air rally round the villages within the diocese, they confined themselves within the cathedral after marching round the cathedral’s premises, without the aggrieved priests participating.

Top members of the laity who spoke, included, the Diocesan President of the Catholic Men Organisation, Dr. Anthony Njoku; a monarch from the area, Eze Dominic Okoro; the Provincial Ambassador of Owerri Laity and Secretary of Laity Council, Lawrence Opera; the vice President of the Women Catholic Organisation (CWO), Leona Ohanu; and the selected member of the Laity of the diocese and Knight of St. John, Chief Sabastine Ekeanyanwu.

The only monarch, Okoro, faulted the composition of the delegation to the pontiff, accusing a monarch in the delegation of not reporting to other monarchs upon arrival, even as he reminded his audience that at 75, he noticed that the former bishop who died in 2012, Victor Chikwe, was in the habit of pre-listing three choice successors, for the number of years he presided over the affairs of the diocese.



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