Vatican City (Agenzia Fides) - The Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples has today released the following statement. "The Holy Father, after having accepted the resignation of His Excellency, the Most Rev. Peter Ebere Okpaleke, has relieved him of the pastoral care of the Diocese of Ahiara, and at the same time has thanked him for his love for the Church.
Following the Instructions of His Holiness Pope Francis, during the months of June and July 2017, He received 200 letters from individual priests of the Diocese of Ahiara, in which they manifested to Him obedience and fidelity.Some priests, however, pointed out their psychological difficulty in collaborating with the Bishop after years of conflict. Taking into account their repentance, the Holy Father decided not to proceed with the canonical sanctions and instructed the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples to respond to each of them. In this line, the Congregation has urged every priest to reflect on the grave damage inflicted on the Church of Christ and expressed hope that in the future they will never again repeat such unreasonable actions opposing a Bishop legitimately appointed by the Supreme Pontiff.
The Holy Father is grateful to all the faithful: priests, religious and laity, who have shown closeness to His Excellency, Msgr. Okpaleke, and have supported him with their prayers. He is also grateful to the Bishops of the Episcopal Conference of Nigeria for the support given to their Brother Bishop, to whom He sends a special Apostolic Blessing. The Holy Father thanks His Eminence John Cardinal Onaiyekan for his service as Apostolic Administrator, Archbishop Ignatius Kaigama, President of the Episcopal Conference, and the Metropolitan Archbishop of Owerri, Msgr. Anthony Obinna, for the efforts made to solve the lamentable situation. For the time being, the Holy Father does not intend to appoint a new Bishop in Ahiara, but He reserves to Himself the right to continue to have a special and particular concern for this Diocese, assigning a new Apostolic Administrator, Sede vacante et ad nutum Sanctae Sedis, in the person of His Excellency, the Most Rev. Lucius lwejuru Ugorji, Bishop of Umuahia, to whom He grants all the faculties reserved to an Ordinary.The Holy Father, who accompanies with prayer this new phase in the life of the Church in Ahiara, hopes that, with the new Apostolic Administrator, the local Church will recover its vitality and never again suffer such actions that so wound the Body of Christ". (Agenzia Fides, 19/02/2018)