Abuja (Agenzia Fides) - In a Pastoral Statement issued at the end of their second Plenary meeting, the Bishops of the Ecclesiastical Province of Owerri have called on the priests, religious and lay faithful of Ahiara Diocese to comply with the directives of the Holy Father, Pope Francis and to accept Bishop Peter Okpaleke as their local ordinary and prepare for his installation.
Pointing out that the Ahiara crisis has been a very painful experience for the Church of the Ecclesiastical Province, the Bishops declared: "We, Bishops in the Owerri Ecclesiastical Province have known and felt the scandal and pain of disunity which has attended the crisis in Ahiara Diocese. Many have been deeply wounded, and many others have felt bitter. We the Bishops and Pastors of our Province passionately plead for conversion, forgiveness and reconciliation".
Expressing satisfaction with the personal intervention of the Holy Father in the crisis (see Fides 9/6/2017), the Bishops called on all the priests and faithful of the diocese to comply with the directives of the Holy Father: "We are deeply grateful to the Holy Father for his personal intervention which has given the definitive way forward. We therefore earnestly call on all the priests, religious and laity of Ahiara Diocese to unconditionally obey the Pope, the Vicar of Christ, and to comply with all his directives, wholeheartedly accept Bishop Peter E. Okpaleke and prepare for his installation".
Speaking on the political situation of the Country, the Bishops expressed grave concern and called for concerted soul-searching as to "whether we really want to build and be an equitable, united and peaceful nation".
"We are once again at a critical cross-road. Having seen a tragic civil war in Nigeria from which we are still to recover and with small-scale wars still raging, here and there in Nigeria, our government and political leaders should embrace the path of compassion, dialogue and repentance so that Nigerians and Nigeria may be repaired, renewed and truly united. We therefore urge all Nigerians to eschew all forms of hate-speech capable of inflaming passions", conclude the Bishops. (L.M.) (Agenzia Fides, 25/8/2017)